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Sunday, January 13, 2013

And Could I Get Little Johnny a Comfier Chair? Or Perhaps a Beverage?

"[P]arents have no idea whether it’s better to be a squeaky wheel, or avoid rocking the boat lest they irritate a teacher who will subsequently take his or her annoyance out on the child, a common parental fear, according to Ms. Lee, and one that’s almost always unwarranted."
--Sara Mosle, "The Dicey Parent-Teacher Duet" (New York Times, January 13, 2013)
Yeah. Sure. "Unwarranted."  Because why on earth would a teacher react poorly to being told how to do his or her job by a "well-meaning" parent who only wants to "help" and do what's best for his or her "child."  Like all professionals, teachers appreciate nothing so much as unsolicited advice about how best to do the job they've been trained for and to which they've devoted their entire educational and professional lives.  I myself always make a point of visiting burning buildings and telling firefighters where their hoses should go--advice to which they generally respond with rather personal and painful-sounding suggestions of their own--so I can fully understand the parental impulses discussed in this article.

Still, I feel it my duty to warn parents that not all teachers are as enlightened as I--hence the significant "almost" in the above quote.  Not that teachers will FAIL a child in response to a parent's interventions.  But some teachers might, for example, respond to a mother's suggestion that little Johnny was receiving too much homework by, say, explaining to the class that--since little Johnny's mommy doesn't want him to work too hard--a series of high-stakes pop quizzes will be given to ensure that the students are "getting it" despite the reduced homework load.  Or, a teacher might explain that everyone ELSE will need to do an additional 10 pages of homework per night to make up little Johnny's share of the class's "Mandated Homework Minimum." (Yes, I--or whatever unscrupulous teacher might do such a thing--know there's no such thing, but the students don't!)  Then, I--or, y'know, WHOEVER--might leave the classroom for a few moments so that the rest of the class might thank little Johnny for his mother's valuable suggestions.

So, parents of school-age children, be cautious before approaching your child's teacher with critiques or suggestions.  Make sure the teacher is part of the "vast majority" that values your input, rather than part of the petty and spiteful minority. 

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