Lately I've been sticking my neck out farther and farther on topics ripe for controversy and maybe this will be the time I go too far and lose what's attached but with the start of the new school year I've been thinking about teachers.
When I was a child--I am the oldest of six coming from two loving but strict parents--there was always one of us that was having trouble at school. We weren't necessarily being hauled down to the principle's office or anything but there was always someone with an "issue." Falling behind in homework, not paying attention in class, getting poor grades, not liking his or her teacher, acting up in class, at any given time it was pretty much guaranteed that one of us would be in a "phase" which translated into work and attention from Mom.
While I had no doubt that my parents loved me I also had no doubt that if I ever came home with a note from my teacher ratting me out for something I'd done at school I could expect Big Trouble. If I came home looking for sympathy against a teacher who'd punished me or given me a bad grade or even just didn't like me it was guaranteed that I wouldn't find an ally at home.
This may sound heartless (and I tell you I sure thought it was at the time) but as an adult I quickly saw the wisdom of my parents' actions. If there was a conflict between me and my teacher it was a given that my parents would side with the teacher, telling me that they loved me dearly, felt very sorry for my troubles but that I'd have to deal with what was happening. In essence, "Stop whining and get past it."
And oddly enough now as a mother of my own four kids I've found myself taking the same approach.
Does this mean that my children think I don't love them? Of course not, I have many ways I show my devotion to their happiness and well-being. Does it mean I would ignore hints of abuse in the classroom? Absolutely not--such behavior is not to be tolerated and unfortunately parents must guard their children against that kind of thing all too often.
But it does mean I won't treat my children's teachers as adversaries, nor will I berate them in front of my children or take my child's side when something doesn't go their way. Why not? Well I'm glad you asked because I'll tell you.
Part of my job as a raiser of children is to train them into maturity. They come to me immature and when they go off to seek their fortunes 18 years later hopefully they've attained the ability to think for themselves, handle difficult situations and work hard to achieve goals.
If I swoop in and fight their battles for them then they'll never learn to do it for themselves and I've failed in my job. As long as they're not being threatened physically I feel it's in their best interest not to make their path in life easier and more comfortable by going to bat for them over unpleasantness with the teacher. Dealing with difficult situations and figuring how to survive things that don't go your way is how we grow and if I deny my children the experience by taking care of problems for them it's like stunting their emotional and social growth.
Promoting a Realistic View of Life
Is there anyone who has been to college who loved every one of their professors, who never had an unfair grade given to them and never had to figure out how to tolerate a boorish or irritating lecturer? I'm expecting that my children will one day enter college and if I run to the elementary school every time one of my kids has a less-than-stellar experience with a teacher what will they do when they get to college? Call me up and ask me to go talk with the dean because Professor Jones was being mean? Beg me to complain about the grade they received? Come crying that life isn't fair and they're being bullied? While we sometimes tolerate that behavior in a six year old in an adult it's debilitating.
What about the work force? Is there any office anywhere on earth where everyone lives together in perfect harmony? No matter where we go in life we bump into other people with difficult personalities and irritating behaviors--it's just life. It might even be that we're the ones who are irritating but at some point each person has to learn how to deal with people who don't like them, who are unfair or hard to work with and without this important life lesson we'd walk around whining about how unjust the world is and how people are out to get us. My kids don't need a victim mentality, I want them to be the ones in control of their lives and not at the mercy of their circumstances.
Promoting Authority in the Classroom
I'm not the only adult in my children's lives and I feel strongly that they must learn to respect other adults besides their parents. Children's television and movies seem bent on portraying adults as idiots and ineffectual leaders so that it's easy for children to go along with what they're being taught and think that the grown ups in their lives are nothing more than comic relief.
My children must learn to obey not just my rules but the rules of other adults and to treat the other authority figures in their lives--namely teachers--with respect. It may be that you get a teacher who deserves very little respect but nonetheless children need to at least respect the position if not the person. How I treat those teachers in front of my children will make a big difference in how my children respond to them and with 25 kids in a classroom the last thing a teacher needs is one more child who says, "You're not the boss of me." As far as I'm concerned, for those hours of public education the men and women behind the desks are most definitely the bosses of my child and the sooner my kids learn this the better.
There may be times in a child's life when they're struggling with learning disabilities that keep them from progressing--maybe they're not getting the proper diagnosis and help they need--I ran into something similar in a small way last year. For years David spoke with a big fat side lisp rather like Sylvester the Cat. I left things alone to see if he'd outgrow it but when it became apparent he wasn't going to I asked his teacher about my options.
Though I thought his teacher was generally a wonderful educator she did nothing. I spoke to someone else but was ignored, no one did anything and every time I brought the subject up it was forgotten as soon as I was out of the room. I'd like to think it's not because they didn't care or that they wanted to make life hard on David--I'm sure it was a matter of it being on a long list of items the teacher had to work on for the whole group, it was simply at the bottom of the list.
I finally insisted that he be evaluated and when someone finally listened and assigned David a wonderful speech therapist it was all of four months before he was speaking as correctly as the rest of us.
Now if I'd sat back and done nothing I suspect that's exactly what would have happened--nothing. Sometimes a parent needs to get involved in order to get their child the help they might need--after all, their parents do know their child the best. The trouble comes when parents go into that "Hockey Dad" mentality to treat teachers as adversaries or idiots, letting their children know that the teacher's rules are optional and that if the child misbehaves it doesn't matter what the school might say, the parent will absolve Johnny of responsibility for his actions by fighting to nullify the consequences of those actions.
When this is what a child sees they learn that they can get away with whatever they want as long as mom and dad are there to believe them and back them up. That's just not the kind of education my kids need--and it's not the kind of person the world needs. If we want better results in the classroom then we need to provide back up for those who are spending the time in the trenches. If it were me facing 25 kids every day I would be grateful for an ally or two.
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