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The Mamas and the Papas

by captain on October 12th, 2010

There’s a blame game going on with education.  It’s not fun to witness, let alone be a part of on a daily basis.  Let me explain…

The public, and government, it seems, always puts the blame on underachieving kids on teachers.    Teachers need to work harder, longer school years, we need more testing, merit pay, blah, blah, blah.

To an extent I agree that we need to keep higher standards for teachers.  We do.  However…what is wrong with under-performing, behaviorally challenged, and just plain out of it students is NOT a teacher problem it is a parent problem

My breakdown would look this way, when discussing the reasons behind why kids struggle in school.  Check out the breakdown.

50% Parents  ( I even think it’s closer to 70% this is conservative)

20% Teachers

20% peer groups

10% socio-economics

Let’s get this out of the way first.  I’ve BEEN in a school setting of some sort my whole life; In the Education end of it for about 17 years (counting student teaching, summer school work, etc.)

I SEE what goes on.   I also have the curse/privilege of working in a situation where I see nearly ALL of those kids who struggle with school for one reason or another.  I can look at their folders, and see their day-to-day interactions, I get the WHOLE picture.   There is a common theme to ALL of these kids….it’s a crap home life. 

I would guess 85% of the kids don’t have two parents.   When you call home…chances are there will never be someone home to answer, nor will there be a return to your phone call.  I’d say 50% or more have at least one parent in jail or have had at some point.  Many of these kids have attended school in numerous districts over the course of their lives….probably due to chasing the welfare system. 

It usually takes something as extreme as an expulsion or attendance board meeting to even get a parent to show up to a school event.  To give you an idea of how involved the parents are…we do a contest for our back to school night to see if we can get 20 parents or guardians to show up for the over 100 kids we have attending.  Over the last 5 years I think we’ve won the contest once.  We play it for open house as well as back to school night….we had to start counting kids who brought 18-year old friends as “guardians”

I’ve seen schools as well, with kids who have a very similar set of issues….the only difference is that their parents run the opposite end of the socio-economic spectrum.   The theme is the same.

If parents are not ACTIVE or at very least consistently interested in the education of their kids…the kids will suffer, and there’s a good chance that the kids will do poorly.

Here’s how I know it’s not usually the teachers fault.

By the time I get these students…they’ve h ad to have had at least 15 teachers….they ALL couldn’t be bad…there’s something deeper at the core of WHY they are where they are.

It’s the parents.

Education is a tough road.  It requires work at home…and a lot of times, kids (I know it’s shocking) would RATHER not do school related work outside of school.  I know mine would.  I have to make sure they do their homework, and check it, and then make them re-do it if it’s wrong.    They don’t like it.  I also read to my kids, and they read every day…and have since they were old enough to pay attention.

Granted, maybe my role as an educator pushes me more to work with my kids at home than the normal parent….but even my own parents still cared about my homework…checked on my grades, went to back to school nights, etc…I had expectations placed on me that corresponded with certain privileges.  Even though my parents never checked my homework nightly, or proofread it much to make sure it was right…I had expectations which forced me to deliver…and if they weren’t met, there were consequences in place to see that they were.

These kids have none.

Take this example.

Kid A starts out school in kindergarten.  His parents haven’t read to him as a child…possibly due to being strung out on meth, or maybe their own lack of education led to a feeling of inadequacy with the subject, so they opted not to.

Kid A is already behind every kid who had a parent(s) that read to them.

Maybe these parents through that first year didn’t feel comfortable working with the student on their homework so they opted not to thinking, “well the teacher will do it…it’s their job to make sure that he can read and what not”

The parent conference comes…and no parent wants to come across looking douchie so they tell the teacher, when she expresses some concern,  “yeah we work with him at home all the time…’

 Maybe the parents get their act together and help some…maybe they don’t.   The kid is behind though….and if you carry this out for several years.  The parents usually become less involved, or too wrapped up in their own dysfunction to try…and the kid gets put far behind.  In many cases the parents aren’t together so it’s hard for two separate parents to enforce any kind of regularity with homework because they’re probably not speaking…and obviously communication wasn’t their strong suit anyway….because they’re DIVORCED.

It’s not the teachers fault or else the whole entire class would be behind, and facing adversity in the classroom.    These low performing kids often get bored because they’re too far behind the class  they act out, and fall farther behind…because they’re not paying attention, or are being disciplined so regularly that they’re not in class anyway.   These kids develop a bad self-esteem in regards to school work…so they don’t try because it’s easier to say, “I don’t care…” than it is “Hey, I don’t understand…I need help”

When the kids finally reach me, they’re GONE…or very close to it.   Our goal is to still try to help get them on the right path.  We do some of the time…but largely it’s not US that is the responsible party…it’s the kids realizing that they’re adults and can’t or don’t want to spend eternity in school.  Then they jump through the hoops necessary to get out.  The problem with this is that A) they’re not really learning…because they’re just trying to get done as fast as possible.  B) Teachers usually end up molding the hoops some to fit the kid.  The kids at these schools wouldn’t pass otherwise, unless the curriculum is modified for them to some degree.

Their diplomas are a lot like Barry Bonds home run record…impressive on first examination, but should have an asterisk next to it…because there was a lot of help in getting there.  Rarely do I see a kid leave here that makes me say, “There goes one that’s going to do great things.”   I’m mostly waiting for the day they greet me in Wal-Mart.

Now brings me back to the beginning.

The public, and the Government have to blame someone.  The public while they may agree to an extent with the bad parents churn out bad kids philosophy are reluctant to blame them…because either A) it would in theory mean they had to poke the finger at themselves to some degree, and B) they pay taxes for teachers…so they feel it entitles them to complain about them…and therefore blame.

The government blames teachers because they can control them.  They have no way to make parents stop being morons…so they blame teachers.  Studies come out where they say, ”statistics show that GOOD teaching is responsible for making kids perform better.” 

Well DUH. 

So if that’s true…then BAD teaching must be the culprit for why kids don’t do well.

I heard a principal say, “We can’t blame parents.”  Then listed some statistics…and followed it with…”We have no control over that…so we can’t use it as an excuse.”

This is not good logic. 

Sure, we have no control over parents…that part is true.  However, it’s THE PRIMARY reason we have the problems we do.

When people use the logic like the principal…they avoid the issue.  It’s like ignoring the elephant in the room.

We spend millions of dollars on in-services, trainings, testing, requirements, etc. to make teachers better at what they do…and it ALWAYS falls short, and ALWAYS will because we’re not addressing the problem.

Teachers do have some pull.  I think good teachers can take ‘C’ students and push them to getting ‘B’s’ or A’s…but consistent D and F students…and just out of it.  There are other issues there.

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