Is there anything we can do? | Mark’s Remarks


I have one more year to teach and I will then end my 34-year career. 

It absolutely blows my mind, because I still feel much like I did when I started teaching. I’m still learning, I’m still feeling there are things I don’t know, and I’m still trying to manage time well.  

I’ve learned a few things over the years and a lot of things are a heck of a lot easier. Still, it seems I just got started and now it’s time to move on to something else.

Parents haven’t changed a lot. But, I will tell you I understand them a lot better than I used to. Plus, I can sympathize and I empathize with them a lot more than I did at the beginning of my career. 

No matter how much I got mad, the people who said “You will understand it better when you have kids of your own” were so right.

Parents still don’t have time and in some cases, take the time to read things that are sent home from school. I have often told some younger teachers that they need to include, as Joe Friday said, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Most of the young teachers do not know who Joe Friday is, but I digress.

If you send something home that is short and to the point, parents might end up reading it. I have learned from sending two-page newsletters and long texts that much of it is not read. I will still get questions from parents that were clearly talked about in a text, email, or printed document.

Some don’t have time.  Some don’t take time. Neither are bad parents because of this.

Another thing that hasn’t changed about some parents is the fact many of them are, like their children, ready to rush in at the 11th hour. 

Instead of maintaining and checking work or grades on a daily or weekly basis, many parents wait until the last minute or until a grade falls below a certain standard. In our district, that is often a “B” or lower.  We’ve watered  down education so much that getting a “B” on an assignment is sometimes a cardinal sin to some parents and students.

Let’s not even talk about (gasp) a “C.” Heavens to Betsy!

Note the sarcasm in my writing?

Any time a kid starts heading south in the grade department, I contact the parents and let them know.  Heck, I almost always contact parents if I’m missing even one assignment.

But invariably, even after contacting parents, sending graded papers, and/or communicating to the nth degree, I have still gotten the same response at the last minute.

“What can we do to help at home?”

Now, this is a valid question. Many parents really DO want to know how they can help.

I am one of those parents. As long as things are going OK, I sort of just handle things as they come along. Many parents will say the same. Then, when you hear of a problem, you rush in and try to help or fix it.

Because I’m both a parent and teacher, I see both sides. 

As parents, we should be checking in at least weekly.  We need to be talking to our kids daily. We need to know how things are going, what they’ve been working on, and so on. If we can check online grades, we need to do it, as I said, on a weekly basis. If there is evidence that our children aren’t doing well or have a pattern of issues, we need to be checking in frequently until things improve.

We also need to admit to ourselves that all children, even our precious own, will lie. Our precious little ones will have their own perspectives.  They will sometimes slack off on things and try to take the easy way out. They will blame their teachers, parents and anyone else in order to save their own patooties.

This does not make them horrible little people, nor does your child’s teacher think so.

Most teachers do the right thing. We encourage and we gently keep our thumbs on your kids until they turn in work. We pull them aside and go over directions or have them correct things. We take it personally when a kid isn’t getting something, and we try to make sure kids experience a degree of success.  Or, we at least try to make them feel good about what is their best effort.  

My advice to parents is usually the same: check over graded work, read directions more than once, ask kids to explain an assignment to you after they read the directions, study,  practice those math facts, and read a little every day.  It’s pretty much the same strategy to get kids back on track.

There are a lot of things I’d like to say to parents and kids, point blank. But, teachers are in that bunch of people who aren’t supposed to step on toes or ruffle feathers.

When I retire, I will give point blank advice to parents and teachers alike; if they ask, and they probably won’t.

In any case, my  first bit of advice will be to remember that blaming one another is not going to help a soul. Sure, it’s someone’s fault most likely. But let’s look at the situation and see not only what part we play, but also what we can do moving forward.

That’s what we can all do to help.

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