Right, rights, wrong and totally wrong!


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.


A Mid-Term Parental Assessment


While this blog is addressing the article noted above, the reality is something like this needs to be done within the first two weeks of school and again at the mid-term assessment for students.  We are not, as a state or nation throwing everything we have at the educational dilemma in this country. Until parents are completely on board and accountable, we will continue to obtain, at best, mediocre outcomes as that is what lack of parental involvement produces.

The DATA would really be an eye opener for parents, teachers and students. Imagine if you could actually  be conversing with parents that were involved and in some way accountable……..not sure what accountability would look like other  then good student grades,  however, something like tax credits for B and above grades should not be out of the question (wink, wink, nudge, nudge Governor Brown, President Obama, Congress, etc.)  It is also possible that any parent collecting unemployment, food stamps, etc. be required to fill this type of questionnaire out monthly or every two months to demonstrate they are doing more than being at home.

In my very perfect world, mid-term assessment has to involve parents. The parents could use a #2 pencil, an app on a smart phone or an e-mail. The parent could do their assessment at school or have it completed by a particular date much like taxes.   While some questions may appear cynical or a form of entrapment, the reality is all parents should be able to answer each and every question on this assessment.  A parent who can not answer clearly has some room for improvement and this can be addressed in question 19.  This is not an exclusive list, it is a starting point. I believe that 25 questions would not be unreasonable.  I can not wait to see which school district and what Silicon Valley company will take this challenge on.

The assessment for parents would look like this:

(1) What is your library card number? Please write it down.

(2) What was the last book you read? Please write a two paragraph summary.

(3) What is your child’s library card number? Please write it down.

(4) Please write the date of the last time you went to the library with your child.

(5) What is the last book your child read? Please write the title and a brief two paragraph ummary.

(6) What is your favorite TV show?

(7) What is the last movie you watched?

(8) How much time (hours and minutes) does your child spend each day  (a) doing homework    and    (b) studying

(9) How much time (hours and minutes) does your child spend on  (a) the computer (non-academic) (b) TV

(10) What subject does your child have the best grade in?

(11) what subject does your child have a weak grade in?

(12) What was the approximate date of last parent/teacher conference?

(13) When was the last time you reviewed your childs work (homework, quizzes and tests) for completeness and grade achievement?

(14) When was the last time you had contact with your child’s school?

(15) What is the name of your child’s teacher (K-6) or home room and last class teacher?

(16) Describe the cover of your child’s agenda book.

(17) When was the last time you signed your child’s agenda book?

(18) Make a list of three things you will do this semester to help your child improve at school:

Be prepared to do a self assessment regarding your parent goals below for any class in which your child receives a grade of C or less.

(a)  I will __________________________ with my child so that they will _________________ in  (subject).

(b) I will __________________________ with my child so that they will _________________ in  (subject).

(c) I will __________________________ with my child so that they will _________________ in  (subject).

(19) Please list any information/resources we can provide to you to help you assist your child in outstanding academic achievement.

(20) Attached please find a calendar for the rest of the school year including PTA meetings, school board meetings and other major events which have effects on your child’s educational success.

What am I missing with the headlines?


Los Angeles Times 27 January 2010 Wednesday A10/Howard Blume Making their pitch for schools

All over California, superintendents of school districts are decrying the sad state of the California budget and the effect it will have on their districts.  Nowhere have I seen equal clamor from the charter school sector, which, too my knowledge gets school monies from the same trough of funds. 

Either charter schools are not complaining as they have figured out how to drum up money via grants and donations to cover the shortfall or there must be some programs/services which charter schools do not provide with categorical funds so they are not feeling as much of a squeeze.

My experience has been that charter schools are schools of  ‘choice’ so they skirt the funding issue by not having to provide the myriad services of regular school districts as parents ‘waive’ their rights to needing such things at the far superior charter schools.  In addition, parents at charter schools tend to put more out of pocket money into the various school programs.  Donations from various groups flood into charter schools as everyone wants their name or their company associated with the do goodness of charter schools.  In essence, charter schools ‘manage’ their money situtation differently.

Due to the strictures of regular public school budgets, public schools can not pull the same smooth moves without raising the ire of parents who expect the school to do everything for their child.   It would seem appropriate that since charter schools have long stated they can teach everyone a thing or two about running a school, they should be out there offering their services or at least sharing their ideas.

There surely seems to be something amiss from my view. Are public, non-charter schools really doing something so drastically different that we all need to jump on the train before it passes or are charter schools skirting issues and this will be when we find out how economics of scale work OR is then when we find out what charter schools don’t do?

For all intents and purposes, it would seem that SFUSD would want to bring in as many charter schools as possible to solve their problem, which is not enrollment issues.  Why are charter schools not gaming up for the big take over opportunity?

All of these unanswered questions make me wonder what is really going on, beyond the money issues. I doubt it there is some scary cabal, however there is definitely a difference in the two types of public schools.