10 September 2014: Parents should embrace educator role

Parents should embrace educator role

In my book Neil Zeron was one of the greats.  As a rookie teacher struggling to hold my head above water in a sea of 13-year-olds whose last desire was to sit in an eighth grade American history class, Neil was a font of wisdom.  He became my mentor, a trusted guide into and through the byzantine labyrinth of teaching.

During one conversation at happy hour which became our debriefing sessions, I reflectively mused what it would be like to see how “my kids” turned out later in their lives.

“They’re not ‘your kids,’” Neil stated unequivocally, shaking me from delusions of grandeur.  “Over the years, students can have dozens of teachers.  Consider too the portion of their lives they spend with you, usually in context of 30 others sitting in your class.  Do the math.”

I did; it was deflating but sobering.

To be sure, teachers can have a life-long impact on a student.  Many point to one or two who made a phenomenal impact upon them.  Accordingly, I’ve no doubt there are those who when asked about their most influential say, “Mr. Fabyanic or ‘Fabes.’”  But then, I’m sure there are a number that hold the completely opposite point of view.  So it goes.

Neil’s insight brought to mind the pearl dropped by my most influential professor, John Haas at the University of Colorado.

“Keep in mind,” Dr. Haas cautioned us in his methods class, “that you might be at best a child’s second or third most influential teacher.  His or her parents will always be first.”

Over the course of my time in the classroom, I came to understand the profundity of that maxim.  While there’s a clear differentiation between the skills parents and teachers help develop within the young, it’s also absolutely true teachers cannot do their jobs if the parents don’t do theirs.

Parents need to own it.  They alone should get the praise, empathy, or blame for the progress of those they procreated.  Their children reflect the values they instill in them, intentionally or by default, and the importance of learning is paramount in that pantheon, which means they are ultimately responsible for their child’s learning.  If a child isn’t performing to the level he/she is capable, in other words bombs on assessments, parents must blame themselves and not their child’s teachers’.

In her letter to the Denver Post offering insight into the latest brouhaha in Jeffco—what’s new?—over denying teachers their legally entitled pay increases, Adoree Blair succinctly summarizes the essence:

“There is no way to measure a teacher’s effectiveness without combining scores with those indicating individual students’ home lives,” Adoree writes.

“Did the parents talk to their baby and read to their baby? Did they search for a good preschool? Did they wait to have a baby until they had adequate resources? Most importantly, does their child come to school unfed, unbathed, lacking sleep from a night unsupervised or full of chaos at home? And does this child have parents who make school the priority in both the parents’ and children’s lives?

“Do the parents oversee each day’s homework and school websites/portals? If these ‘parent scores’ are not combined with achievement, then we are punishing teachers, who are working hard to overcome deficits in children’s lives, for the parents’ shortcomings.”

Amen, but what about the state’s role?  Succinctly put, chaos reigns.  When it comes to educational governance, Colorado would be found to be less-than-proficient if assessed on a rubric.

While we’re among the most educated, Colorado parents do one of the poorest jobs of sending their children to college.  Second, while we’re among the wealthiest, we’re the pits when it comes to funding, not only pre-kindergarten through high school but also higher education, which is morphing into the domain of the wealthy elite.

Third, the state tests, CSAP and TSAP, were a farce.  Now it’s apparently all about Common Core’s PARCC, Partnership of Readiness for College and Careers, that is inducing a widespread backlash—rebellion—with more districts seeking ways to opt out.

Finally, there are the deficient teacher assessments, the cause of the aforementioned circus in Jeffco schools, now counting as 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.

We’ve morphed into a culture that encourages “other-blame placement,” the refrain of which is “It’s not my fault.”

Well, the hard truth oftentimes is it is your fault.

Sorry, but if kids are blowing it, the probable cause is parents are blowing it.

And fellow voters, it’s time to ante up.  Nothing comes free.

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