Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Does an Education Degree Come With Super Powers?

According to Ron Clark, in this CNN story called What teachers really want parents to know, an education degree does, in fact, come with at least one super power. He writes:
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.
See? Apparently, teachers are gifted with infallibility. We should believe everything they tell us about our children. He continues:
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.
What about demeaning the child by not asking for his side of the story? What about the partnership between parent and child? Should we worry about weakening that? Clark says later in the article:
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."
I cannot believe the double standard that is so casually displayed here. Let me summarize:
  • If any teacher tells you your child did something wrong, just believe it. The teacher would never lie or exaggerate.
  • If your own child tells you the teacher did something wrong, make sure to get the teacher's side. Children can't be trusted.
But these pesky parents just don't get it, according to Clark:
They are ready to fight and defend their child, and it is exhausting.
He's right about one thing, it would be a lot more convenient if parents just believed everything teachers said. Convenient for the teachers. Not so much for the students, or for the parent-child relationships, which will last a lot longer than the parent-teacher relationships, if the parents are lucky.

I choose this relationship.

I have some questions for Ron Clark: Should everyone have trusted the teachers who recently cheated on standardized tests? Should parents trust the teachers who sexually assault children? The ones who harass and demean and emotionally abuse children?

Of course, not all teachers do these things, but at least some of them do. Teachers are people too. They make mistakes. They can be intentionally dishonest, just like doctors, lawyers, priests, CEOs, mechanics, and anyone else with or without a job or a fancy education can. A teacher should be subject to just as much scrutiny as anyone else.

Clark goes on to admit something kind of embarrassing about the grading system:
This one may be hard to accept, but you shouldn't assume that because your child makes straight A's that he/she is getting a good education. The truth is, a lot of times it's the bad teachers who give the easiest grades, because they know by giving good grades everyone will leave them alone.
And he says:

Wow. Come on now. In all honesty, it's usually the best teachers who are giving the lowest grades, because they are raising expectations.
What exactly are grades good for? If the bad teachers are giving good grades, and the good teachers are giving bad grades (Clark's words), then do we know anything about a student by his grades, besides what kind of teacher he has? Also, Clark just admitted that there are some "bad teachers," but doesn't mention this inconvenient fact in the part where he tells us to trust all teachers.

And here Clark describes the "pain" he feels when parents "make excuses" for their children:
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.
Can you feel my pain?
Seriously? The child and his mother should have predicted that family issues would come up in July, and gotten a head start on that important summer work the minute school let out? It's wrong for a parent to allow her child any sort of break from the rigors of schoolwork? Can this teacher feel the student's pain? In my opinion, summer should be a sacred time, completely free of schoolwork. That would solve this problem for parents, students, and teachers.

The most disturbing thing in this article is this phrase:
Trust us [teachers].
This is very bad advice. I'm not saying teachers should never be trusted. I know many teachers who I like and trust. But teachers, as a group, don't deserve any special amount of trust just because of their job titles. Each teacher should be prepared to earn the trust of his own students and their parents. Parents do not owe it to teachers to trust them immediately. If teachers want to be trusted, they should prove they are worthy. Does that make their jobs more difficult? Maybe. But they should know what they are signing themselves up for. And they are free to choose different jobs if this becomes too much.