Unintended Consequences

It’s with a full cup of coffee and a defeated sigh that I sit down to write this one.  It’s been brewing for a while (the blog post, not the coffee), but the stress that bubbles up to the surface when I think about what I’m about to write has been enough to have me procrastinate (or pro-CRAFT-inate, anyone need a pair of leather moccasins?) until now.  The tipping point? The latest click-bait viral post titled “This mom e-mailed her daughter’s school to say she will no longer be doing homework.  Click to read the e-mail!”

I’m sure you’ve seen it. Maybe you’ve even commented on it, liked it, shared it. In case you missed it, here it is.

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The issue I have is not the mom’s anti-homework stance. Any parent of a child I’ve taught can attest to the fact that I am also anti-homework for elementary school. This isn’t about the homework debate, and it’s actually not about this particular woman’s facebook post at all. What this is really about is that this is just the latest drop in the bucket of the disturbing mentality; “parents vs. teachers”.

I’ll give you two different scenarios, not related to the viral post from above:

1.) An e-mail from a parent at 7:30am in red CAPITAL LETTERS, DEMANDING (and using the words “I demand”) A MEETING WITH THE TEACHER AND PRINCIPAL BEFORE SCHOOL STARTS ABOUT A CLASSROOM ISSUE. ADDITIONALLY SAYING THEIR STUDENT WILL NOT BE PARTICIPATING IN X, Y, OR Z UNTIL THE ISSUE IS RESOLVED.

2.) An e-mail from a parent requesting a meeting during a teacher’s prep period or after school, where they discuss the issue. The teacher and parents make a plan to support the student through whatever issue it may be, and plan to be in regular and frequent communication about it.

Both are real examples.

The gesture and feeling of these two scenarios is drastically different. One is stand-offish, guarded, separated, demanding. Like a stern pointed finger and a turn of the head. Number two is a coming together, a sense of community, wholeness. A bringing-in and an embrace. The gesture of the viral e-mail example from above is that of a butting of heads; the mom plus her backup (tutor and therapist) are telling the teachers how it will be, creating an “us vs. them” environment. Her actual post on Facebook that goes with this e-mail is even more direct and blunt. Using her popularity as an author to spread this message is another unfortunate reality here (when I wrote the first draft of this, her post has been shared over 12,000 times. It’s now up to over 19,000), and now she may have given hundreds or thousands of parents a nudge in the direction of approaching school situations with the attitude of “I will tell YOU how it is going to go down.” I don’t believe this is what she intended, but it’s what has transpired.

I’ve watched a parent aggressively approach a new teacher before school one day. Their flushed, red face six inches away from hers, beginning the conversation with “HOW DARE YOU…” – The other children were playing on the grass a few feet away.

I’ve watched a parent storm into a private after school faculty meeting to interrupt and demand a meeting with teachers. – Their child was waiting in the hallway.

Then there are the times when words like “discrimination” and “lawsuit” are thrown around when hundreds of hours of care, dedicated planning, and meeting after meeting has gone into one individualized education plan.

We’re talking about children. A parent’s whole world; their pride and joy. Emotions are high, and understandably so. That being said, I beg you; please try and think of the unintended consequences of these interactions with teachers.

As teachers, we rely on our relationships with parents to help us better understand your child. We want to talk to you. We want to work with you. We care about your child. We want to live and breathe a positive example of working together to solve problems. What do we do with children when there is a playground conflict or hurt feelings? We bring them together to talk about the issue and find resolution in a mutually respectful way. We teach them not to stomp their feet and point fingers of blame. How confusing must it be to be a child who is taught to resolve conflict one way, but sees and hears it being approached in a different way. Sharing examples of emails like the one above via facebook, twitter, reddit, etc. is just propagating the attitude that this is an ok way to treat teachers and schools. Are we unintentionally teaching children to shame/humiliate/dehumanize others until we get our way?

Please think about the message you are sending to the next generation when you address a child’s teacher. Education needs to be a team effort. This isn’t teachers vs. parents, this is us together. What I’m asking – pleading of you is that you bring consciousness and intention to parent and teacher interactions. Children are constantly learning from their surroundings and as we know, imitation is one of a parent or teacher’s most powerful tools. Let’s strive to be worthy of imitation.

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One thought on “Unintended Consequences

  1. Very well done Riva! Nicely thought out and expressed. Wish this could be sent home with every child at the beginning of the school year!

    Like

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