Monday, February 02, 2004

Parents, Teachers, Students

Now, I read a lot of rants about how terrible our public school teachers are. Granted, a lot of them are tired, worn out, fed up, insecure, etc. But not all of them are.

With the increased regulations and "core curriculum" and "national standards" that have to be met, teachers have less and less control over what material they teach and how they teach it. I say, anyone who has shit to say about teachers should take a good look at what hoops are being thrown in front of the education system these days. And I won't even go into funding.

But, starting my student teaching, I'm seeing another angle that most people don't ever get to observe.

I'm working with students who are predominantly white, middle to upper-middle class, and about 98% LDS. (That's Mormon, to you non-Utah people.) I really don't think these kids have ever been told "No" in their lives. I don't think they see their parents often enough to be told much, actually. Some of the students are so obviously desperate for attention -- any attention -- that they keep a running commentary going the whole class. The idea that they need to learn material in class so that they can perform well on quizzes and tests is beyond their understanding or caring.

Parents... well, parents at this school seem to care more for grades than for actual learning. The PTA has even created these vouchers that students can turn in to one teacher per grading period and that teacher is supposed to give them the next highest grade. No concept of earning grades here, eh? One parent called the principal repeatedly regarding her daughter's grade (an F), demanding that she be given a D- so that she didn't fail the year. The teacher refused to change the grade because the student had done no work. The principal caved to the parent's demands and changed the grade himself.

Not all parents are like this. Not all students are either. But I would estimate that this is common behavior for about 75% of the students in this school.

So why do we have problems with public education in this country? I'd say we can't lay all the blame on teachers, can we.

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