Right, rights, wrong and totally wrong!

http://blog.sfgate.com/cityinsider/2012/04/06/sf-high-school-to-suspended-students-oops-our-bad/?tsp=1&plckItemsPerPage=10&plckSort=TimeStampDescending&plckFindCommentKey=CommentKey:68aaf244-d68d-48e3-813f-b4dcc02ea69c

I could not help but read this piece, sigh in dismay and then realize, alas, it was a teachable moment – for parents and for the children they raise.

I have rights. My rights include working in a safe place and being treated professionally.  I have the right to free speech and expression of my views, within reason – I may not incite a riot.  I have the right to teach in a classroom, at a school where students are desirous of learning.   I have a right to work with principals, students and  parents who treat me professionally and with respect/dignity.

There are countless times when I may wish to demonstrate  what ‘stupid’ looks like in action, but I do not attach a name to it as the participants know who(m) they are.  Stupid in action is instructional.  I talk to people who practice ‘stupid’ and point it out and discuss alternatives as frankly, it is embarrassing enough to be an American, I don’t need people doing stupid here and abroad. I complain when I have an alternative way to solve something – not because I need to complain. Complaining is easy and everyone/anyone can do it. Not every one is smart enough to address the issue and create a solution.

My students and their parents have rights. My students have the right to an education in an environment worthy of learning.  Since all my students have this right, there are times when I need to ask students to leave until they can get their behavior in order to be in an environment of studiousness-for themselves and classmates.   My students have a right to question how I grade, what the purpose/rationale of an assignment is, due dates, books we read and so on.  Fortunately for me I am not a neurosurgeon or ER doctor and so I can CHANGE something if it is not working and no one dies (they may feel sick inside but no one dies from an education).

The parents of my students have rights. They have a right to meet with me at a scheduled time and I expect them to exercise that right. Parents have a right to meet with me when it will not effect my other students, which is why I schedule appointments.   They have a right to question grades, the purpose/rationale of an assignment, due dates, books and so on.  Parents and students have these rights as long as they use them in a reasonable amount of time.  It is not considered an emergency for me  two weeks after the fact (assignment turned in, grades went out, etc.) that a student is failing and I have done due diligence in written notices, phone calls and multiple forms of contact. It may feel like an emergency to the parent and the student, but again, it is not as I am not a neurosurgeon or ER doctor.  Parents have the right to attend my class/school with their child if their child is expressing untoward behavior and not able to productively participate in a quality learning environment.  Parents have the right to parent their children and not expect me, the teacher to do their job.

Since my students and their parents have rights, I do not appreciate or like when issues are not addressed with me. In fact, I find it immature and an abuse of power when a student/parent goes above me – because they can.  It does not inspire respect when people do things because they feel they have ‘power’ to laud over me as opposed to real power in which they can have a conversation and deal with solutions.  It makes me feel disrespected (dissed is the street term) and unappreciated as I put extensive time and effort into my practice as an educator.

When students (in the case in the article above) and parents do things which are inherently mean, I do not find the humor.  It is called bullying.  When parents teach children this skill, they open their children up to a very undignified way to go through life as their child does not become a problem solver.  Children need to learn that the world is filled with adversity and one way around it is to talk about it and work for alternate outcomes.   When students use a power play/grab as noted in the article above – because they can, they lose sight of the true issue and again do not become problem solvers.

By Grade 4, students should have the ability to state an opinion, ask a question and think about a potential alternative outcome to a problem.   Not everything in life makes us happy but we can discuss it.  After Grade 4, when parents are still  the ones coming to the teacher, the student is prevented from developing self efficacy and advocacy throughout their lives.

When parents work with students to intentionally create problems at school, it is unacceptable. It is disruptive to everyone and does not demonstrate the skills necessary to function in the real world for very long.  When principals and other administrators support intentional bad behavior (from parents and students) at school, it diminishes the professionalism of education.

It is wrong for bad behavior to go unpunished – this does not mean something which physically hurts, rather something which emotionally hurts. It is okay for students and parents to apologize, in writing, and explain what they learned.  I apologize to my students and their parents often as I know I am only human and can not do the Sisyphean task of teaching 150%, even though I would love to.

Words carry power – they carry the most power when we use words with meaning, purpose and good intentions.

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