Succeeding for the Childrencomment (0)
August 22, 2002
By Bob Terry
Both women excelled as public school educators. One was selected by her peers as Outstanding Educator of the Year. Earlier students voted her the most popular teacher. The other moved from the classroom to the principal’s office. She was supportive of her teachers, involved with the students and responsive to the school board. Her university honored her with an Outstanding Educator certificate.
The two had other things in common: Both were active in their churches. They taught Sunday School, sang in the choir, wrote for the denomination, even led conferences for both the state and national conventions. Both had earned Ph.D.s from leading state universities. They were the kind of leaders every church desires, the kind every school district needs.
The two had one other thing in common. Both women left the public schools. It was not the low pay that got them. Neither was it having to buy classroom resources out of their own pockets. It was not even the ever-expanding workload as cuts were made in school staffing patterns. No. Both left because of one reason — the way they were treated by parents.
It was not parental involvement that gave them problems. It was the harassment and abuse that a growing number of parents heaped on them. It got to be more than either could handle. Their educational achievements gave them other opportunities, and they took them.
Parental involvement in a child’s education and with the child’s school is important. In fact, parental involvement is more important than the family’s income level or educational level. Parental involvement also is a critical link in having a safe, disciplined learning environment. Stated simply, children do better in school and schools improve when parents are involved.
That is one reason Alabama Parent-Teacher Association sponsors workshops on “How to Help Your Child Succeed” with parental involvement in the educational process as a cornerstone. For the same reason, the Alabama Department of Education requires schools to establish programs to increase parental involvement. Parents need to be involved in their child’s education and in their child’s school.
That idea is not new. Not many years ago communities focused on the partnership between the home, the school and the church. These were the foundational institutions, and they worked together to build up the child and to build up the community.
If one misbehaved at school, parents knew about it. If one got in trouble with the teacher, one was in trouble with the parents. Undergirding both the home and the school was the church and its moral teachings and standards. Education was important. Schools were trusted. Teachers were respected.
Not anymore. Society has changed. Too often, today’s relationship between parent and teacher is more about confrontation than cooperation.
Education has been reduced to a credential. Getting the diploma is more important than learning. Schools are viewed suspiciously. On the one hand, communities require schools to assume many of the social functions formerly performed in the home. On the other hand, society attacks the schools for doing these tasks instead of concentrating on the basics.
The esteem teachers enjoyed in prior years has given way to disdain for some. Such people view teachers as little more than “hirelings.” All of these change the nature of the education experience for the student and for the teacher. Now it is too often true that when a student misbehaves at school, parents rush to the defense of the child for the child can do no wrong. When the child fails to earn the grades expected by the parents, it is the teacher’s fault for failing to motivate the child. The child is held blameless. When the child does not get the role in extracurricular activity that the child wants, the parents publicly charge favoritism and discrimination, even sue the schools.
The stories of irate, uncivil behavior by parents abound in most every public school. Teachers and administrators sometimes get overwhelmed by the battering. They sometimes feel abandoned by the community. Like the two women described earlier, they leave the public schools with sad hearts and broken dreams.
Obviously, teachers are not perfect. No one is. Neither are children perfect, not yours or mine. All make mistakes. It is important that in the process of correcting mistakes that the importance of education be reflected, that respect for authority be modeled and that all be treated in a civil and respectful manner.
The communities where the two women worked lost great resources when they left the public schools. The students and parents lost persons who could make a positive difference in their lives. We cannot afford such losses. Public schools need all parties pulling together in order to succeed for the children. Teachers, administrators, parents, community — all must cooperate if the children are to receive the opportunities to become all that God created them to become.
Alabama’s public schools have begun a new year. Pray for the schools. Support the schools. Encourage everyone you know, especially parents of students, to be involved in the schools in positive ways. Hopefully, this year will see no teacher or principal beat down by harassing, abusive behavior of people with the greatest stake in the success of the public schools.