Friday, September 24, 2010

An Open Letter on Bad Parenting

First of all, don't show up to Back-to-School Night.  Don't show your child that his or her learning is important.  Don't provide any support to your child's teacher by reinforcing the message that education is important and that you are going to work as a partner with your child's teacher in making sure your child has a quality educational experience.  When asked about why you didn't attend Back-to-School Night, make excuses that are about you and how busy you are; this gives permission to teachers to make the same excuses to you about how busy they are and why they're not providing your child with a quality education.  Or, make the excuse that you didn't attend Back-to-School Night because you already know everything because the same teacher taught your child's older sibling.  Teachers like this excuse too because then they can give it as a rationale for why they haven't changed anything at all in their teaching; they can use the same old books, techniques, lessons, etc. that they used for your older child.  Teachers don't want to innovate or improve their learning; they much prefer being lazy and just going through the same tired motions year after year.

Second, don't respond to notes that the teacher writes home to you about how your child is doing in school.  All teachers operate under the lawyerly "silence equals assent" assumption.  This just makes it easier for us to send notes home, knowing that you agree wholeheartedly with what we have written.  It isn't necessary to respond and let us know that you too are concerned, or that you've spoken with your child about the problem and you've given them some help and advice on how to correct it.  Also, it's even more helpful to send the note back offering excuses about why your child isn't doing well.  Some blanket statement about how responsible they are even though the note was about how they're not handling their responsibilities as a student is most helpful to the teacher.  Obviously, we were just mistaken and didn't have that crucial knowledge. What we were seeing firsthand in the classroom is superseded by your statement about how responsible they are.  We are sorry for bothering you to get this important information and we can now rest assured that the problem will correct itself.

Third, go directly to the principal with your concerns about your child's teacher.  We teachers don't want to be bothered by pesky parents and their petty concerns.  Show your child that it's best to go over someone's head to get what you want.  Dealing fairly and respectfully with the person that you have an issue with is a waste of time, especially if it's a teacher, because they are notorious for not listening to you, being unfair, and generally being difficult and confrontational.  We understand that you are just saving us all a great deal of precious time by not speaking with us first.  We actually enjoy getting called into the principal's office to deal with parent concerns.  We are especially delighted when this occurs with parents who didn't show up to Back-to-School Night, who have not contacted the teacher at all in any positive way so far this year, including not returning the note sent home the second week of school asking your preferences for teacher-parent communication, who have not responded to notes sent home, and who have responded to other notes with rationalizations and excuses about their child's problems.

[I'll just apologize now for the sarcasm, before anyone writes me any comments.  Please understand that all this comes from a place of hurt, which has turned to anger, thus the sarcasm.  I'm not proud of it, but I had to get this off my chest.]


  1. (((hugs)))

    Sometimes we forget to acknowledge all of the incredible educators in the world! So, thank you for all of your hard work, in spite of all of those rude parents.

  2. Jules, thank you for your comments. I feel now like I have to write something about how much I appreciate supportive parents. I do the work that I do because of the children, not the parents. I just wish everyone understood that it works best when we work together. Thanks for the hugs.

  3. Our school is eliminating Open House this year in favor of student-led conferences. On Dec. 10th, the kids have no school but teachers will be there overseeing these conferences. All students will invite important people in their lives to attend. They'll showcase everything they've done in high school so far and talk about their plans for the future.

    This is our first year doing this so there'll be some glitches but we are hoping to encourage more parent participation this way.

    BTW, love your sarcasm!

  4. Linda, that sounds like a great idea. I always love hearing about teachers and schools trying something new. We so often keep doing the same old thing without ever thinking about whether it's working or not - or whether something else might be better. I'm willing to try something new, even knowing it might not work or might be difficult, instead of doing the same old thing.

    I wish you the best of luck - and I hope it does encourage more parent participation. That communication part is key. We know parents are doing what they can at home, but to make that home-school connection, it's so important.

    Glad you liked the sarcasm; I was a little worried about how I came across. I generally try not to be too sarcastic, but it comes naturally to me. And, in this case, it was the voice I needed to use.

  5. So enjoy the Jonathon Swiftian humour and satire, with mucho irony. As ex-active teacher I get this post and you did something I should have done in the 1980s to release the frustration, angst and anger. Bravo you did. I found more satire than sarcasm. I think you are doing an amazing job teacher.

  6. Happy Flower Word Zoo, thank you for such high praise. I never would have called my little rant Swiftian, but thanks - thanks a lot. I'm glad that the writing came across more as satire than sarcasm.