Teach­ers de­serve par­ents’ pa­tience and re­spect

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - Annie Lane

DEAR ANNIE >> I am a teacher in a small town in New Eng­land. When I be­gan my job, I thought it was the best job in the world. I spent a lot of time, money and ef­fort to learn the skills to be­come an ef­fec­tive teacher, and I couldn’t think of a bet­ter way to give back to my com­mu­nity.

Fast-for­ward a few years. Most teach­ers work very hard to plan qual­ity lessons and to make sure that students are mak­ing progress in school, but the lack of ba­sic re­spect in re­turn is se­verely lack­ing. The worst of it doesn’t come from students. It’s hard to be­lieve the ap­palling be­hav­ior from par­ents that school staff is ex­pected to tol­er­ate.

One re­cent in­ci­dent re­ally both­ered me. A parent was up­set be­cause her child was not get­ting an A in a cer­tain class. She named the teacher on a pub­lic chatroom and in­vited neg­a­tive com­ments! For­tu­nately for the bril­liant, won­der­ful and re­spected teacher, sev­eral com­mu­nity mem­bers came to their de­fense and let the poster know that her post was in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

Par­ents who post such neg­a­tive com­ments never tell the other side of the story: that their child has many miss­ing as­sign­ments, poor be­hav­ior or poor at­ten­dance. Of­ten, the in­for­ma­tion they post is com­pletely false. This type of be­hav­ior seems to be get­ting worse ev­ery year.

If par­ents have a le­git­i­mate con­cern about their child, they should call or email the teacher and have a con­ver­sa­tion. If they want more in­for­ma­tion or fur­ther dis­cus­sion, they should ask for a meet­ing and dis­cuss their con­cerns civilly.

Yelling at school staff, de­fend­ing your child’s dis­re­spect­ful or un­safe be­hav­ior, mak­ing threats and pub­licly post­ing your dis­plea­sure about school staff on­line is in­ap­pro­pri­ate and un­ac­cept­able. I can’t imag­ine how these par­ents would feel if some­one posted pub­licly about their child like this.

— A Lit­tle Re­spect, Please

DEAR A LIT­TLE RE­SPECT >> You de­serve a lot of re­spect for your pro­fes­sion. Teach­ing is one of the most im­por­tant jobs in our na­tion, so thank you for your ser­vice. You are shap­ing our youth and pre­par­ing them for the real world. These par­ents are way out of line and should know they are po­ten­tially hurt­ing their chil­dren.

One of the most im­por­tant lessons a parent and teacher can im­part to their chil­dren and students is that mis­takes are op­por­tu­ni­ties to try bet­ter the next time. This teaches kids re­silience and helps them de­velop their self-es­teem.

The goal is for ev­ery stu­dent to de­velop a growth mind­set as op­posed to a fixed mind­set. These terms are from Stan­ford psy­chol­o­gist Carol Dweck, who says that when a stu­dent has a fixed mind­set, they be­lieve that their ba­sic abil­i­ties, in­tel­li­gence and tal­ents are fixed traits, while students with a growth mind­set be­lieve their abil­i­ties and in­tel­li­gence can be de­vel­oped with ef­fort, learn­ing and per­sis­tence.

In a growth mind­set, you be­lieve a last­ing re­la­tion­ship comes from ef­fort and work­ing through in­evitable dif­fer­ences. In a fixed mind­set, it’s all about the out­come. If you fail, you think all ef­fort was wasted. Those with a growth mind­set know it’s all about the process, so the out­come hardly mat­ters.

If the par­ents try to res­cue their chil­dren ev­ery time they don’t get an A or don’t make the team, they aren’t help­ing their child. In fact, they’re send­ing their chil­dren the mes­sage that they aren’t ca­pa­ble of suc­ceed­ing on their own.

Bad­mouthing a teacher on a pub­lic fo­rum is one of the most taste­less and harm­ful things I have ever heard about. I am very sorry for your friend and glad that other peo­ple came to their de­fense. I hope this let­ter helps par­ents think twice be­fore they swoop in to try to fix their chil­dren’s in­evitable im­per­fec­tions.

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