"What Teachers Really Want To Tell Parents"

This essay by Ron Clark is featured on CNN's website. It's gone viral: a ton of people are reading it and recommending it via Facebook (350,000 at last count).

And if you really want to help your children be successful, stop making excuses for them. 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?

Some parents will make excuses regardless of the situation, and they are raising children who will grow into adults who turn toward excuses and do not create a strong work ethic. If you don't want your child to end up 25 and jobless, sitting on your couch eating potato chips, then stop making excuses for why they aren't succeeding. Instead, focus on finding solutions.

Some of his examples strain credibility.

My mom just told me a child at a local school wrote on his face with a permanent marker. The teacher tried to get it off with a wash cloth, and it left a red mark on the side of his face. The parent called the media, and the teacher lost her job.

Hmm. I googled "Teacher Fired Washcloth." Didn't find anything (besides links to Clark's article), but admittedly spent 10 total seconds.

I think his sentiment is right, though.

Teachers walking on eggshells

I feel so sorry for administrators and teachers these days whose hands are completely tied. In many ways, we live in fear of what will happen next. We walk on eggshells in a watered-down education system where teachers lack the courage to be honest and speak their minds. If they make a slight mistake, it can become a major disaster.

I wrote about this issue in Education Week in April. I describe it as the Parent-Teacher Berlin Wall.

The 80-20 rule. 80% of parents are great to deal with; 20% are a pain. 80% of teachers are great to deal with; 20% are a pain.

Out of 3 million teachers, 20% is a lot of negative interactions that often become lore for the parents of 70 million children, a "difficult 20% of parents" creates a stunning 14 million annoying stories at any given time.

So there is scar tissue here: parents who've been treated rudely or dismissively by teachers; teachers who have been ignored or even bullied by parents who, frankly, are doing a lousy job of raising their children and role-modeling.

I'd be interested to hear if Ron Clark's experience lines up with my 20% suggestion. Or if he thinks that more than 20% of parents are difficult in the ways he describes.

In the course we teach called "Relationships and Development," we emphasize that when teachers make a steady stream of proactive phone calls to all parents, particularly noticing the good things a kid does, it significantly increases the chances of what Clark seeks (parent-teacher alignment). We call this Sposato Method, named after teacher Charlie Sposato.

I.e., very difficult to tell which parents will "fight" a teacher until there is conflict. At that point, too late to build a trusting relationship. You can either simply accept that you'll walk on eggshells as a teacher, or do things to lessen (not eliminate by any stretch) this.

However, these proactive phone calls do cost considerable teacher time, which is a precious resource.