We often hear that teachers lament the lack of parental involvement in their classrooms, and I know that is true, parents do too often leave it up to the professionals.
But there are reasons for this that are not about the failures of the parents, but about the failures of the system. My primary experience with public school, beyond the fact that I am a public school grad, is that our our oldest was in public school kindergarten many moons ago, and I have had a few conversations with the LIttle Boys’ teachers, who have been understandably frustrated by their mother’s lack of consistency with classroom activities. The HM and I both have also been the representative grandparents for the Little Boys sometimes for school functions.
I wanted to be very, very involved with my daughter’s class, but my experience was that the desire for parental involvement was not really a partnership of equals. The only involvement *really* desired was for parents to spend money on supplies for the classroom and to do what we were told by the teacher. I know I am not the only parent who has received this message from my kid’s teacher.
Quite often parental involvement goals result inteachers who treat parents like students in their own classes- actually ‘assigning’ homework to the parents, subjects for them to study. Not asking, mind you, not encouraging interest, not merely suggesting resources if parents are interested in pursuing a topic further- just sending home a letter assigning homework to the parents and directing the parents to complete it. This would put my back up, and I’m sure it does others, too.
When parents really get involved in their children’s education, acting like the adults they are who have more invested in their children’s lives than any teacher who only has them for nine months, then that’s interference, overbearing, and unacceptable. Otherwise, why all the complaints we hear from teachers about parents who actually want to have some influence on the materials their tax dollars purchase for their children to use in school?
Then there’s the issue that the parents today are the natural product of the schools they graduated from. Back when I was in school teachers actually told their students not to report back at home what was going on in the classroom- that it was not our parents’ business. We were told that our values were not our parents and should not be and we had the right to make our own values. Now those kids are grown up and parents, and some of them really learned that message- and the new crop of teachers are upset about it.
A generation further back- here in my town my mother tells me that when she was in school there was a command decision made by a principal in one town that a busload of farm kids in the county ought not to be going to his school- so he called the school in a nearby town, made arrangements for the kids to transfer and ordered the bus to take those kids to the other school- all in one morning. He never called the parents at all. The kids found out they’d been transferred when the bus went to the new school. The parents found out when their kids came home and told them. Nobody questioned the principal’s authority to do this, because everybody believed (after years of school indoctrination) that he had that authority.
About ten years ago a friend of mine got in trouble because her son’s school was teaching whole language and creative spelling. They told her son to spell rabbit however he wanted, for instance, and told his mother he’d learn it right later. She taught him phonics at home and taught him how to read and spell. Her son’s teacher did not appreciate this kind of parental involvement and told her, and I am quoting, that she had _no right to interfere._
I agree that parents need to be more involved (so involved that more of them homeschool ). But I think in some cases teachers are reaping what the educational establishment ahead of them sowed. And in most cases the desire for parental involvement is lip service- what they do not desire is parental involvement on an _equal_ basis-
they want parents to be involved at a menial, ‘you do what I want you to do to make my life easier’ basis, and they are not really interested in disagreement or being challenged in any way, or having the parents act like mature adult people with a huge stake in what happens to their children. I get that, I really do. I understand how frustrating it would be to have to deal with 20 different sets of parents (or more, with two parent households going by the wayside), each with different ideas, clamouring to be heard. It’s not efficient, and no human being could possibly meet all those demands. But then, we can’t really complain when parents aren’t interested in being dutiful little teacher’s helpers who don’t want to do homework, either.
Just one more brief comment: One other indication of exactly what footing the public school wishes this parental involvement to be on- the school now decides whether to approve or disapprove children’s absences, not the parents.
If a parent decides a child may legitimately miss a day of school for whatever reason, it doesn’t matter. The school will approve or disapprove the parent’s decision. That is clearly not a partnership of equals, and it is a circumstance indicating that the school has removed authority from the parents’ hands, but still wants to absolve itself of all responsibility for the outcome.