"We call these people 'helicopter parents'"
I read "Pecking Order: Parent Pressure Is Eclipsing Teacher Control" after a day of battling parents who, as author Evan Chase puts it, have an "overdeveloped sense of entitlement" and spend all day questioning decisions I have made for my classroom.
I teach at an affluent elementary school where we call these types of people "helicopter parents": They come in to rescue their children from every type of issue, problem, or difficulty. As in Chase's experience, they automatically blame the teachers for their children's difficulties -- many times wrongfully so.
Not only is this parent-teacher divide causing the loss of excellent teachers, it is allowing children to be raised with the belief that Mom and Dad will always fight their battles. What will happen when these children enter the work world? I am afraid they will lack the very important skills of problem solving, negotiation, and self-reliance.
Each day, I go above and beyond the call of duty in my job to make sure all students are learning. I have a master's degree, and a special recognition from my district for using technology in my classroom. Sadly, this is not enough for my students' parents. Until we "work together to reclaim the sanctity of the teaching profession," as Chase wrote, we will not be allowed to prepare our students to meet the challenges of the adult world.
Learning for a Lifetime
The traditional classroom as a physical space should still have a place in children's education ("The New Face of Learning: The Internet Breaks School Walls Down," October 2006). However, "traditional," meaning doing things the way they have always been done, should fade away. In my mind, lifelong learning really means learning without the boundaries set up by educational institutions, yet it may include the strategic use of these institutions. I try to prepare students to do it without me. That includes finding, planning, and implementing technologies for classroom use. If students rely on me, this class has no meaning outside of this semester. To borrow from a parable, if they can go it alone, they'll teach for a lifetime.
No Lumps, Please
Evan Chase has some valid concerns and makes some good observations about the problems with dealing with the parents and students, and may have some problems with his school administrators ("Pecking Order: Parent Pressure Is Eclipsing Teacher Control," October 2006).
I happen to know that not all administrators fit the mold he has put them into in this article. When I was a classroom teacher, I had great support, and my head principal and superintendent were and are very supportive of the teachers and the curriculum on these kinds of issues.
I don't like to see all administrators lumped into the same mold. This may be the case in his situation, but it's probably not in most schools.
The column by Evan Chase seems to focus exclusively on the downside of parent involvement, essentially ignoring the many positive results -- including increased student achievement.
Though "toxic parents" who rain disrespect, scorn, and second-guessing down on teachers exist, they are truly a minuscule number. The vast majority of parents and guardians are well meaning and supportive and understand the difficulty of coaxing and coaching students to greater learning in a high-stakes public school environment.
Chase's perspective represents one experience; it should not color the view of educators generally that parents are key tools in the quest to meet exacting academic standards and to give all children -- regardless of income, race, or other circumstance -- the high-quality education they so richly deserve.
Penned and Told
Penn Jillette is a perfect example of a self-centered, arrogant child who is convinced he knows everything better than anyone else ("Pop Quiz: Penn & Teller," October 2006). Seldom do these children consider the needs of others around them. As a consequence, they steal time from the teacher and their classmates with their sanctimonious ranting displays of their superior intelligence.
Nowhere in the article do either Penn or Teller address larger social issues concerning education for democracy and tolerance, as well as basic literacy. Not all students learn as easily that they claim to have learned.
I am a longtime performing magician (in order to supplement my miserable teacher's salary) well aware of P&T's fondness for dispute regardless of the merit of their positions. What have we really learned from this article? Only that brazenness works and that intelligent analysis is not necessary.