Early on the article points out a need for parents to trust teachers.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I tell a mom something her son did and she turns, looks at him and asks, "Is that true?" Well, of course it's true. I just told you. And please don't ask whether a classmate can confirm what happened or whether another teacher might have been present. It only demeans teachers and weakens the partnership between teacher and parent.But then at the end, Clark writes:
If your child said something happened in the classroom that concerns you, ask to meet with the teacher and approach the situation by saying, "I wanted to let you know something my child said took place in your class, because I know that children can exaggerate and that there are always two sides to every story. I was hoping you could shed some light for me."Can you see how I might be unsettled?
When it's the teacher saying something, Clark doesn't see any need for further inquiry, and yet when the student says something, the parent needs to get "both sides to the story". The best teachers know that there are "two sides to every story" even the ones teachers tell. What Clark may be missing here is that the best teachers leave their omnipotence at home.
Some of the strongest school memories any of us hold well into our adult lives are the times we were wronged by a teacher. This isn't to suggest the best teachers never wrong children -- Because they are human, despite their best efforts, they inevitably will do wrong. The best and worst educators are prone to error but the difference is that the strongest educators understand this -- the weakest ones deny it.
Next, Clark tries to tug at the heart strings of teachers by indicting a child for neglecting their summer homework:
And if you really want to help your children be successful, stop making excuses for them. I was talking with a parent and her son about his summer reading assignments. He told me he hadn't started, and I let him know I was extremely disappointed because school starts in two weeks.
His mother chimed in and told me that it had been a horrible summer for them because of family issues they'd been through in July. I said I was so sorry, but I couldn't help but point out that the assignments were given in May. She quickly added that she was allowing her child some "fun time" during the summer before getting back to work in July and that it wasn't his fault the work wasn't complete.Clark would like our first question to be: Why isn't the parent making sure this homework gets done?
Can you feel my pain?
Some parents will make excuses regardless of the situation, and they are raising children who will grow into adults who turn toward excuses and do not create a strong work ethic. If you don't want your child to end up 25 and jobless, sitting on your couch eating potato chips, then stop making excuses for why they aren't succeeding. Instead, focus on finding solutions.
But my first question is: Why is the teacher assigning homework over the summer?
Frankly, I'm skeptical of whether the teacher should have a say over what a child does during family time in the evening let alone whether the school should be allowed to dictate what a child does over the summer.
My second question is: Where's the research that shows if kids don't do their summer homework (or any homework at all) that they will end up 25, jobless, sitting on their parent's couch eating potato chips? The fact is there isn't a shred of evidence to support that there are any non-academic benefits to homework, and there isn't any evidence of to support academic benefits homework before high school.
These kinds of scare tactics do nothing but bully parents and children into doing things school forces families to do, like homework, that has no justification.
My objections to articles like this one can be summarized by Robert Fried:
Within the culture of failing schools one is likely to find that staff inertia and a penchant for victim-blaming prevail.And by Pedro Noguera:
Many schools are plagued with a culture of failure where failure is normalized and predictable, and over time the adults come to blame the kids and their families. When this is the prevailing logic in a school that school will never improve.When professionals like educators and nurses develop their beliefs based on blaming the very people they are to serve and work with, Robert Fried explains that "people stop thinking in new ways, they filter out evidence that might challenge old biases, and they stop reading in their field."
In other words, progress is plagued by a kind of professional paralysis.
The ultimate consequence of paralysis is that we spend less time focusing on meeting the needs of our students and more time complaining and feeling sorry for ourselves. Under these circumstances, the passionate educator that lies inside us all goes into hiding.
The funny thing about scapegoats is that they are always those with less power, and in education, those with the least power will always be the kids.