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Letter from a teacher (Guest Post)

By Adeshola Blue

Dear Stakeholders,

People are so quick to label teachers as bad, ineffective, lazy, or just there for an easy paycheck. Believe me when I say that we are not just there for the check because there are truly easier ways to make money.

You never hear about the teacher that teaches thirty years in the inner city and she gets a class of thirty five kindergartners who are not socialized enough for school. She deals with their social issues, and maybe by the end of the year they all can sing and identify and sometimes write their alphabets. Because all her students are not proficient, people say she is a bad teacher. Did I mention that the 5 classes of teachers must share one assistant? Seriously, will the highly “qualified” teacher be able to sleep? Because she is expected to have an individualized plan for all of those students and she is going to be asked to meet their needs.

Unfortunately, she can’t take them home with her and give them the reinforcement they truly need. She can’t make the parents stop bringing in strange men into the house. She can’t make them stop allowing their children to watch Cinemax at night; she can’t keep the children off the internet watching porn. She can’t make them stop watching TV all night so that they can be awake to learn. She can’t make their parents give them their medication. She can’t make sure the lights are on or the bills are paid so the children won’t end up out in the street. She is not allowed to do any of these things, and if she does she is “unprofessional”. Or, she accused of masquerading as a teacher (pedophile), if she becomes overly involved in the children’s lives. It is tiring, and time consuming, and unfair to put the entire onus, blame, and sacrifice on the teacher. Yes she sees the children more than you do, but she can’t claim them on her taxes. She can’t overstep her bounds and try to teach the children her sense of values, because it may be in direct conflict with yours. Even though her value system may actually help your child succeed. If she does, she faces the risk at her peril.

She is usually underpaid, underappreciated, and doggedly overworked. I know for a fact she is always blamed for everything. She is looked upon as an overpaid babysitter. She is not valued, but you expect her to raise your children.

We need to ensure that the onus is put back on you, the parents and your children as well. Parents, I did not have your child. They do not belong to me. It is my job to teach them, but can you please help me out? Can you attend the parent teacher conferences, return my emails, answer my calls, and could you please make sure that your child, not you, does his homework? Thank you for putting in the effort to get the assignment turned in, but unfortunately you can’t take the state mandated test for him, and it makes me look like a horrible teacher because thanks to your help, his grades are higher than his ability.

Also parents, be realistic about your child’s ability. If he has a learning disability, please don’t pretend that he is “normal”. It’s okay if he isn’t. (None of us are really “normal”.) We will work with him. We have been mandated to do so. And if you don’t remember anything else, please remember this: we have 20+ special darlings in our class, and we are trying our hardest to give them all our undivided attention.

Now children, since we are all in this together, you are not without responsibility. Yes, you are children, but in most states if you kill someone, you can be charged as an adult. Everything we do in class will not be fun. I can only jazz up the purpose of a spreadsheet a little. Some things don’t lend themselves to all entertainment all the time. I will try hard to make your lessons more relevant and interesting, if you will at least give me the courtesy of listening to what I have to say, and I would love to have your cooperation so that we can collaborate on your educational process. All I ask is that you meet your teacher half way. It is your future you know.

We are all in this together. If you are going to cast blame…….. Please don’t forget your part in the educational travesty.

Sincerely,

Fed up technology teacher

———————-

Adeshola Blue, of Random Thoughts About Pressing Mess, is a thirty something mom and school teacher that enjoys politics, product reviews, poking fun at celebrities crocheting and searching for web freebies.

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22 thoughts on “Letter from a teacher (Guest Post)

  1. OMG … this article was spot on. We are so much alike, and I spent most of last year chronicling the mess I had to deal with in the public school system on my site. Sure, we do have a small amount of teachers that want to collect a check and give out "Mickey Mouse" assignments, but the majority of us had to go through hell just to get through the day. I was lucky enough to realize what I needed to do to maintain order and respect, but the new teachers were eaten up and spit out by the children AND their parents. Thanks for sharing.

  2. dukedraven says:

    My little pet peeve: It’s "normal." The period always goes inside the quotation mark. You did it twice and you’re excused. I make a ton of mistakes myself. Also, my second peeve. Thank God for women who like strange men or I wouldn’t have gotten any.

  3. c says:

    great post! I admire teachers sooo much for what they put with on a day-to-day basis. "No, your little Johnny is NOT the angel you portray him to be when he’s in class. FIX IT!" Ugh, this is why I only have four-legged kids. Not all kids are cretins, but some of them…wooo…you just wanna…mmm…*starts rubbing ears* woo-sah, woo-sah I agree that personal responsibility is important. Parent involvement is essential. I remember many a day when I felt like "just getting by" on my homework assignments or projects. Thankfully, the fear of my mother kept me from going down that road. lol

  4. politicallyincorrect says:

    Not all of us blame teachers. These kids aren’t being raised to be a part of a civilized society. Personally I think these kids need to be taken out of the household and placed in boarding schools. Some of these parents are a mess and some of these mothers want a medal for laying on their back and bringing a kid into this world who is even less productive than them. We can sit around try to be all politically correct all we want on this issue but we are in a global society, some company owner in China or India don’t care about inner city sob stories.

  5. Anonymous says:

    What a dead on post. I quit teaching cause frankly my life is worth more than being continually underpaid and under-appreciated. I suspect that’s why in some inner cities the teacher atrition After taxes I earned about 30,000 in take home pay and that’s with a Massa’s Degree. All of that education + student loans all to deal with uncommitted parents, limited resources, and low morality was enough for me to realize that teaching in the classroom was not for me. There are some selflessly committed teachers out there; but most teacher either want out or either complacent.Teachers have in many ways become an easy scapegoat because everyone thinks that having summers off is the be all end all. And quite honestly the profession is not respected because its considered a woman’s job. Trust if the ration were 90% men; teacher pay and respect would be commiserated.

  6. renee says:

    I returned to teaching after 8 years in retail management in the ’80’s. Best decision I’ve made in my working life. Despite the many challenges, coming from all sides, I wouldn’t trade my teaching career for anything.

  7. Absolutely awesome! I think that a lot of people either don’t respect teachers enough or see them as save-all entities. I was watching a documentary today that talked about how the teachers at the school were going to be reprimanded if their students did not show improvement (aka No Child Left Behind). This is ridiculous. There are so many circumstances that exist that keep students from performing better — and a lot of times, it is not the teachers fault. There are at home issues, peer pressure issues, relationship issues, mental problems, cell phone texting distractions, trying to finish another class’ homework during your class issues, etc.I sometimes wonder why I continue to teach… is caring a lot about these kids enough to keep us in the profession with all the daily stresses?

  8. I agree with the author of this post. The blame does not go on the teacher. But the blame does not go toward the parent either. Blaming parents is just like what some pundits do when they blame blacks and latinos for having the highest unemployment rates: Their are conditions and policies set up to make them fail.I for one believe that teachers are set up to fail in the current system as much as the students are set up to fail. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you want to, but their is a method behind the madness. The design, for children of color and children in low socioeconomic areas for them to fail. These kids will fill the prisons, and work in the jobs that pay minimum wage, thus recreating the same socioeconomic situations that they come from. This is not an exact science, meaning that everybody from da hood or bad schools will end up in jail or work minimum wage, it is just the hope of the elite who make policies to maintain their comfortable lifestyles and grow their business.Check out Behold a Pale Horse and also Stephen Kleinberg’s work at Rice University.Measuring teachers based on factors beyond their control is ridiculous. The problem starts before the student shows up to school and when the final bell rings. It starts at home. But home has problems that government has allowed to persist by instituting policies that have an adverse impact on urban areas.There are some corporations that determine where prison will be located based on third grade test scores Third grade is the year in Texas where students begin taking standardized test.’Here is the design: poor people will probably not own their homes/apartments, therefore they will not pay property taxes that help fund schools. They will probably work hourly jobs and be underpaid and overworked. They will probably be headed by single mothers with no positive male influences. These parents will probably self medicate themselves due to the persistent and present nihilism of da hood through sex, drugs, alcohol, or da club. Skills like conflict management, parenting, money management, stress and depression management will not be very high because these skills cost money to acquire, therefore kids will be exposed to adult issues with no one to shield them from that. and these kids willl bring that to school. the parents are probably unavailble for school programs because they work hourly jobs where they are penalized financially for taking off work. parents probably can’t help with home work, because they probably don’t know how to help and pride will not allow them to ask for help. and finally parents will be hostile towards the school if the school reports that lil marcus has a problem, because the parent may act out their own past feelings towards teachers becasue they probably had a problem in school when they were young. on and on.We are getting pimped, because instead of blaming the government, we blame parents, students, and teachers. The government is very well aware of the situation. The Kerner Report in 1968 outlined the problems, but not much has happened, and in some places the situation is worse.As long as we fight each other we cant fight the policy makers, who probably send their kids to private school because they know how horrible public education can be.my people, it is called MISDIRECTION.

  9. Duke Draven, you are so correct. I should know better. I was an English major earlier in life. Now I can’t spell and I currently need to take up a grammar class. I wasn’t offended. You are absolutely correct.

  10. MrsT says:

    @Maco FanielWhile government action (and in-action) and systemic and institutional "holding down" do certainly exist, there is a such thing as personal responsibility. Which needs to be taken by parents and students, there are plenty of people who come from poor and depressed situations that are able to over come because they refused to blame all of their problems on "the man" and decided to work hard(er) to change their circumstances. I agree with the author that teachers are usually just doing the best they can with what they have to work with–I know I couldn’t handle that job and I applaud them.

  11. Sabrina says:

    Wow I am so grateful for your candor and honesty. My husband teaches junior high in NYC and I can’t tell you how many horror stories I hear about what he and his colleagues go through and the lack of support they receive from their incompetent principal. If kids don’t learn it’s your fault. If kids don’t show up to school it’s your fault. How in the hell can you control what children do before and after school? Why isn’t it illegal to be a shitty ass parent? Well it’s not. You don’t have to make your kids go to bed at a certain hour or help with their homework or feed them nutritious foods so their brains grow at critical phases in their development. I mean that would be too much work. I had a friend that said "Parenting is not for weak." But it’s the weak, weak minded and disenfranchised that are popping them out like pez. Parenting is a sport, a popularity contest.But parents like that don’t see anything wrong with it because that’s how they were raised. For those of us lucky enough to get a great education it’s because our parents fought for us. My mother lived in the segregated south and she was surrounded by a community where everyone had your upbringing at stake. Now it’s like girls want to have babies and raise their children without expectations. This generation is being raised without hope, accountability, hell without manners. But with all this complaining what are we really going to do about it. Do we march on city hall? Should teachers strike? I think there should be a Million Teacher March.Tell these half ass parents to get it together or their children will be left behind. We could learn alot from other countries that deal with this situation differently. We are too liberal here.

  12. Scott says:

    Yes it is a sad story but there are bad teachers. Sometimes you also hear about the local teachers union protecting their own as well. So let’s not too self righteous.

  13. Stella says:

    Frankly as a parent who is a volunteer at school three times a week, sitting on school board committees and still scrapping for grades for a student who is an "A" student – I resent your snide comments towards parents.All parents don’t know how to be vocal in their child’s education. It is jaded teachers like you with a condesending attitude that is dragging the schools down.Sounds like you need to take your pension and your tenure and move on. Let younger, more dynamic, hopeful teachers have a chance at teaching.I’m going to stop here – because you pissed me off.

  14. Jaddadalos says:

    @ Stella (and everyone else)It is wonderful that you are an advocate for your child, and it is correct that not everyone knows how to do that. Heck, some schools would rather not be "badgered" by parents, but that is exactly the type of accountability that schools need – the fire under the school needs to come from the community the school says it serves.With that said, I can definitely say that younger does not equal dynamic or "hopeful" in its most productive forms. I am a young teacher who grew up in inner city schools and is now serving the inner city population in Philadelphia. I WISH we had older teachers here as mentors and guides. I also wish we had more Black teachers/teachers of color. Those serving here can be as well meaning as they want, but there is a discomfort among this young staff even (and older staff at my mother’s school in Inglewood, California) to have dialogue around those underlying issues that affect schooling. Maybe not in all teaching staffs, but it is definitely overwhelming to consider the issues we have to deal with outside of the curriculum.It is not the jaded teacher bringing the system down, but the lack of support from administrators (who are working just to keep the doors open in this No Child Left Behind climate) and policies imposed upon schools created by people who haven’t seen a grade school classroom since they graduated from 12th grade. Our education system is HORRIBLE and, honestly, teachers get the blame the majority of the time. On top of that, we can expect all type of people to consider going into the classroom soon (private, charter, independent schools probably because of NCLB requirements for certification) precisely because in our American culture we have come to believe that teaching is easy enough (and recession proof). Teaching fellowship programs draw from Ivy League schools and other top tier institutions because they think these are the best minds to be teaching, whether or not they connect culturally to the population they send them in to teach (inner city!). The people who go to these programs more often than not are seeking a cultural experience, a resume booster, or a "Freedom Writer" reality. A generalization, yes, but based on observations and conversations with professors who have opted to give these potential teachers instruction rather than send them into public schools to sink or swim.It is a complex situation that I believe stems from social inequities and a lack of respect for (or knowledge of) what teachers really do. Youth has nothing to do with it. It is the purpose you see for education as you enter the classroom, the expectations you have of the population you serve, and being realistic about the circumstances surrounding education today in general. Be it lack of parent support, administrative neglect/incompetence, the overwhelmed/apathetic/self-interested teacher, or sucky policy, something is wrong and we need to consider all these and extensive social factors in order to begin to address it.

  15. Stella says:

    My apologies to Ms. Adeshola Blue if I came off to harsh – you touched my sore spot. I agree with you that "We are all in this together. If you are going to cast blame…….. Please don’t forget your part in the educational travesty."@ JaddadalosI see first hand all of the programs teachers are dealing with. A parent who is not involved can’t begin to understand all that is happening in the classroom and the child can’t convey it when they get home. I consider myself an advocate for parent involvement in their child’s education. I just have to ask, do teachers really want parents on the team, are they ready to have the real talks and give the information each parent needs to help their student be successful. What if every parent of a "problem child" showed up tomorrow – would you be ready to receive? Or would you run from the room to get the Principal because you are afraid to talk with the parent (yes, this happens you are black, even when you are a professional wearing a business suit and carrying an expensive purse).Can you give them something to do in the classroom if they want to volunteer? Can you give them the information they need in a way they understand so they can help their student succeed, without stepping on their toes? Tenuous yes…Well, it can be just as tenuous for the parent who doesn’t want to get on the teacher’s bad side, by constantly asking for information that is not coming home; wanting to talk to the teacher, but afraid they might see through you and think you are stupid or a bad parent; wanting to help their student be a good student, but they had such a bad experience in school with teachers – they never learned, so they can’t help.Parents don’t have all the answers – neither do teachers. However, we have to be open to finding the answers together without passing judgment on each other. Teachers will need to be open to teaching parents how to help their students. Those parents should be encouraged to become mentors and advocates. Perhaps there should be a component to educating teachers that show you how to work with parents, because I’m here to tell you, few teachers do. Sounds like college is not preparing teachers for what it takes to teach in the 21st Century.

  16. Jaddadalos says:

    @ Stella (and y’all)"Perhaps there should be a component to educating teachers that show you how to work with parents, because I’m here to tell you, few teachers do. Sounds like college is not preparing teachers for what it takes to teach in the 21st Century."There are so many things college and even teaching programs (Masters Programs in teaching) do not teach teachers. Student teaching is meant to have that classroom experience with seasoned teacher mentors in the room and constant observations for the benefit of the student teacher. Sure, there are some teachers who do not like being observed or questioned by administrators or parents. But there are many teachers (myself included) who welcome the presence of parents and would love to be in dialogue about their student. There are many teachers that put in long hours before and after school to provide the extra help for students. It is often not a question of willingness, but access to resources and other supports that allow teachers to teach in a way that is effecting (Difficult when there are 32 students on 7 different grade levels and there are not enough supports for these situations). Lets deal in reality."I just have to ask, do teachers really want parents on the team, are they ready to have the real talks and give the information each parent needs to help their student be successful. What if every parent of a "problem child" showed up tomorrow – would you be ready to receive? Or would you run from the room to get the Principal because you are afraid to talk with the parent"Please do not generalize about what teachers are and are not willing to do. It seems you are painting the teacher as the unwilling party in all this. You ask the questions and I say YES, teachers want parents on the team in a real and PRODUCTIVE way – one that is a partnership and not a "you help my kid and Ill just email/call you to see if he/she came." Let’s all claim responsibility in this advocacy, not just for the student but for the teacher to have time and access to what he/she needs to make his/her time in and out of the classroom efficient. Teachers are BURNED OUT by the end of the day. PLEASE send me a parent to be an extra set of eyes, to help give some one-on-one assistance to students, and to help me grade/check these notebooks and homework assignments! I personally am not afraid of parents. I have had the hostile to the ones who know that their student is screwing up. On both ends of that negative encounter, the teacher (in my experience) is willing to sit down and work out what the problems are. Let’s all get out of the habit of painting the teacher as lazy, unapproachable, and unwilling to go the extra mile. THAT characterization is beyond upsetting and is a hindrance to the type of collaboration that is needed in a state of education where 50% of freshmen do not graduate (this is the situation in Philly). By the way, in MY experience it has been the principal who has run to get ME to calm a parent down… can we talk about support?

  17. isobel says:

    @StellaI agree with part of what you have said. My younger sister had a horrible teacher who 1) tried to have her dropped down into a lower grade for ‘not being bright enough’ (despite getting straight As), 2) claimed that my sister had a mental disorder, and 3) called the principal when my mother ‘got in her face’ during a parent teacher conference (luckily, another parent waiting outside saw the entire incident and stood up for my mom. On the flip side, my best friend is a teacher. She has a bachelors and a masters in teaching, and loved the idea of teaching. She ended up taking a pay cut when switching from her part time data entry job to her full time, 32 student class 4th grade teaching job. Even when I helped her grade papers, she was usually up till 10 pm each night working. A particularly difficult parent responded to her calls and emails with some variation of, "I’m too busy to deal with your problems"… which included his son not having his insulin available at the nurses office. What little money she had left over from her salary went to buying school supplies which weren’t provided by the school district. That includes pens, pencils and paper that should be provided by parents (and sometimes isn’t). Some teachers have either been driven mad by stress or were jerks to begin with, but most of them deserve our support and respect. I’m going back to school to get a teaching degree, not because I want money, but because I feel as though it is a civic responsibility to give back. I’m looking forward to the work, the kids, the budget constraints, even the long hours, but disinterested parents are going to be my biggest challenge to deal with (and the pay cut is going to hurt).

  18. renee says:

    This is a question my prof posed to us this week-<<Describe to Duncan some of the effects of NCLB on your class, your school, your district and/or you.>>What say you?I’ve already got plenty to say!

  19. Zarabeth says:

    Well, I think a big part of the trouble is that 8th-grade or "junior high" transition.These kids are getting all sorts of creative options and validation of effort through elementary school. Then when, as adolescents, they really need both more monitoring and more of a say in their own educational style, schools drag them away from a learning orientation, tell them their abilities have crystallized and won’t ever change, and drill them on performance standards "to prepare them for the real world." Gah.Trouble is, there just aren’t enough hours in a day for your friendly neighborhood teacher to address each child’s native intelligence and validate their own learning style, as well as sending all her students doing back-flips through all the bureaucratic hoops set down from on high.Or are there? Maybe we should be rethinking the nature of middle and high school education? Hmmmm…pax ZB

  20. Urban Teacher- Denver says:

    This is just scratching the surface. I find myself in an Title I, ELA-Spanish/English, 4th/5th spit classroom with 31 students. 1/3 of whom read at K level, and the rest below 3rd grade. I have no Spanish curriculum or books to teach with. My hands are utterly tied to do the good I had intended to do when I signed on; this is not work that can be done for pay. Parents of any color, culture, language, or financial status are invited to come and bring their skills to this broken system, and classroom. But, they trust me so completely that they never feel they need to come. They do not know what a 'red' school is and they are satisfied to know that it's a clean, safe place where their kids are truly cared for. It seems that with all the good intention, training, and education, I am inevitably the bad teacher. This is a broken system and I find it disheartening that it has become a battle field instead of a place for true social change and democracy to find a footing. I don't know what the future holds for these kids, but it's not what it could and should be.

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