Dear Public School Parents:
We know that you are out there. We see you at the preseason practices before your kids step into our classrooms for the new school year. We see you at the scrimmages and on the sidelines for parent/coach meetings. We know you love and support your children. But, we don’t see you in such numbers at back-to-school night, orientation, or open house. We don’t get as many replies to our parent letters and parent information questionnaires as the coaches get to their playbooks and first-string selections.
We know some of you may have a bad taste in your mouth about education. That may be due to your nightmares from your own time in high school, your confusion about all of the jargon being tossed around about learning, or your frustration with the current trends in education. Or, maybe you are just fed up with the negativity being perpetuated by the media, government, and education reform groups.
Regardless of the reason for your absence, we are begging you to come in and meet us. When this school year starts, pledge to get informed and involved. Ask how many times he is taking a standardized practice test in his math and English classes. Find out how many times she has been told she needs to take a tutorial class instead of her art class that she loves, because she is “at risk” of not being proficient on the upcoming high-stakes test. We bet you’ll be surprised.
The problem is, we can’t tell you these things when you do come in and meet us and see the classroom where your child is spending so much time. We can’t impart our own frustration and disgust to you, for fear of being reprimanded, suspended, or worse. We can’t even tell you about where to find help in opting your child out of the testing madness.
We need you. We need you to see the TRUTH in Teaching today. We need you to get as fired up about your kids’ assessment practices as you do their athletic practices. We need you to stand up and cry foul about the current system of testing as loudly as you do for a late hit or a bad call at those sporting events. You see, when we teachers complain, we don’t just fear for our jobs. We fear the backlash from the media, and yes, from you parents because we are “complaining” about our jobs. The media often paints us as excuse makers because, as they put it, our scores aren’t up to par and we aren’t doing our jobs. The administrators and policymakers and politicians don’t want to hear from teachers because they don’t view us as experts in our field. We are just the lowly teachers in the trenches. But, parents can stand together and start to stand up for kids. At the end of the day, they are the ones who are suffering the most from this era of assessment and “reform.”
Please, ask your children about us. Ask them how many of us go above and beyond to help them learn. Ask them how many of us give them our home email addresses, our after-hour appointment times, and our early mornings to help them learn and achieve. Ask them how many of us cheer them on every day in the academic setting and then attend their sporting events, often with our laptops and school bags in tow, so we can work while we cheer them on in their extracurricular activities, too. Ask them how many of us take the time to listen to their fears and frustrations. Ask them.
As this year begins, read those parent letters your children begrudgingly hand you from all of us as they mumble, “You need to fill these out.” Find out who is spending hours with your child this year. Find out how many of us have been doing this for so long that we know how to motivate and inspire your child, even though the current culture of education makes it difficult for us to break out of the testing mold and involve your kids in anything other than test prep. Read those letters and discover that we are humans (no matter what your kid tells you about us later in the year when we are challenging them and pushing them to meet our own high expectations, and not just those of the test makers) and that we are just as passionate about your child as you are.
Then, get to know us yourselves. Email us when your child is struggling and needs extra help but is hesitant to ask. Ask us what you can do to support your child and his learning at home. Find out what you can do to spread the word about TRUTH in Teaching.
Until you lend your voices to get the TRUTH out there, your kids cannot win this “game” of education. We need you.
Teachers for TRUTH