Thursday, August 1, 2013

Talkin' 'Bout My Education: Ron Clark's "What Teachers Really Want To Say To Parents"

This is a first for this monthly feature... I'm telling about someone's experiences whom I've never met! 

Matthew Perry and the real Ron Clark
The month's educational story is from a man who has been in the classroom for almost 20 years and even has a made-for-TV movie based on his life -- Ron Clark. His story is similar to the Dangerous Minds/ Freedom Writers/Dead Poets Society genre (i.e. inspiring teacher with unique methods helps students reach their fullest potential). I haven't actually seen The Ron Clark Story, but it was well-received and Matthew Perry (of Friends fame) got a few award nominations out of the gig.      

Clark wrote an article entitled "What Teachers Really Want To Say To Parents" where he asks parents to trust and respect their children's teachers. Clark has seen it all and details all kinds of scenarios where the student-teacher relationship gets unnecessarily broken down because the parents refuse to model respect for authority. If the parent doesn't trust the teacher and is disrespectful or dismissive of him/her (especially in front of the child at a meeting), guess who else is persuaded to follow suit? The child.

If you want to play devil's advocate you could say, "But what about the really bad teachers that are just cashing paychecks and doing serious damage to our children's knowledge of a subject?" I think in those instances, if you're a parent with a child in a regular classroom you still need to expect your child to be respectfulYour child can see how you handle the situation in an appropriate way.You can talk to the school's administrator about issues with a teacher; I believe you can do that in a respectful way and they should know your concerns, but don't hang all your hopes there for educational reform. I suggest finding other ways to engage the teacher's material if possible. If the teacher is lazy, don't stoop to his level and be satisfied with a letter grade that does not reflect a mastery of the subject. Find ways for enrichment outside of the classroom where possible (and those possibilities are endless if you look for them!). You don't have to settle just because one bad educator already has. Thankfully, I know there are more of the dedicated teacher types than those teachers just cruising to retirement.

Regardless of your educational preference, I encourage you to read his article to see what today's teachers are up against. I briefly scrolled down on the comments and there were many people talking about how this article got to the heart of why, after decades of teaching, they felt they had to leave the classroom though they desperately wanted to stay for the children.  

I will leave you with a quote from Clark's article that really resonated with me (as I discussed in this post about part of my reasons for leaving teaching): 
"I feel so sorry for administrators and teachers these days whose hands are completely tied. In many ways, we live in fear of what will happen next. We walk on eggshells in a watered-down education system where teachers lack the courage to be honest and speak their minds. If they make a slight mistake, it can become a major disaster.

My mom just told me a child at a local school wrote on his face with a permanent marker. The teacher tried to get it off with a wash cloth, and it left a red mark on the side of his face. The parent called the media, and the teacher lost her job. My mom, my very own mother, said, "Can you believe that woman did that?"

I felt hit in the gut. I honestly would have probably tried to get the mark off as well. To think that we might lose our jobs over something so minor is scary. Why would anyone want to enter our profession? If our teachers continue to feel threatened and scared, you will rob our schools of our best and handcuff our efforts to recruit tomorrow's outstanding educators."

Can any of you current/former teachers relate? How about you parents out there? Feel free to share your experiences (both good and bad) here.  

And while you're at it, check out this blog post on how to pray for the new teacher in your child's life. This was a rare find. You don't see too many people saying things like this to kick off the school year! What if more parents stopped to pray for their teachers rather than criticize them? Praying allows you see your own shortcomings when you're tempted to assume the worst about others:

Every teacher is a real person who goes to the grocery store, does laundry, has dinner with friends, cries, hurts, and worries. She needs the Kleenex and the hand sanitizer, but most of all, she needs your prayers."