17 Teachers Explain Exactly What They Think All Parents Should Stop Doing.
Everyone imagines that they would be the cool, reasonable parent on parent-teacher night. The one who calmly negotiates between the needs of their child and the advice of their child's teacher. Yet, alas, some percentage of use HAVE to become the problem parent. The one who yells, who demands that their child get better grades (rather than earn them), and who just generally feels entitled.
We've put together some of the things teachers wish their students' parent would stop doing.
For more, check out the source at the bottom of this article!
1/17. I wish parents would stop discarding their children!
This is particularly tragic and galling. I teach high school. Most of my class loads of late have been seniors. I had a student about five years ago write an almost incomprehensible essay. The writing was fine, but the formatting was so strange that I couldn't grade it. I asked her why she had turned in a paper like that, and she started crying. Apparently she had written the entire thing on her cell phone. She'd been sleeping at the homes of various friends. Her mother's new boyfriend didn't want kids, so her mother tossed her out about nine months shy of her 18th birthday.
I gather that the two just couldn't get along. I had another kid who looked positively exhausted. Why? He was in a similar boat. His father had tossed him out because they argued too much. He was 16. He was sleeping in his friend's parents' backyard. He'd been homeless for a week.
2/17. Putting all the pressure on the teacher for the student to achieve more in the classroom.
There are times I fail as a teacher and can do better. There are many more times where a student doesn't learn because they aren't making an effort. Having the attitude that your child's failure is 100% your teacher's fault interferes with your child's ability to improve where they're lacking in the class.
There are certainly times where the teacher is largely to blame, but even in these situations, you should be equipping your child with strategies to work within this suboptimal environment.
3/17. I wish parents would stop making their children take on the roles of adults too early.
I'm tired of hearing that my students don't have time to study because they have jobs outside of school which are necessary to feed the family. I'm tired of hearing that my students are late to first period because they're taking their little brothers or sisters to school. I'm seriously tired of my students being absent in excess of ten or even twenty days in a year (53 was the record) because they're babysitting one of their siblings.
Some families fall on hard times, but there are cases I've seen where the family believes that there is nothing even remotely wrong with this, as if going to school is the same as going to daycare or being part of some kind of social club. This attitude is often on display during the hours of phone calls home or parent-teacher meetings. I've had four kids from the same family over the course of ten years where the parents are fairly absentee and the eldest kid is the daycarer much of the time. The idea of alternative placement (continuation, home school, or anything similar) is apparently not worth considering.
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4/17. I wish parents would stop lying for their kids.
I've had parents tell me their kids were absent because they were sick, only to have their kids tell me to my face that they weren't sick. Where were they? Shoe shopping for prom. Staying home to make up homework from when they were absent (which is about as crazy as it gets). Playing a new video game. Visiting family. Or, my favorite, just staying home because they didn't feel like going to school that day. Some of these kids rack up a huge number of days off.
5/17. Being more concerned about their child's grade than their child's learning.
Most contact I have with parents come when they have bad grades. This is understandable, as there's not often a need to intervene when things are going well. But good parents try to figure out what the student can do to learn better. They see the grades as a symptom of a lack of learning.
Bad parents tell me, "my kid needs to pass to [do extra-curricular activity]." This type of attitude is poisonous, and I'm sure the kids pick up on it.
6/17. Expecting that your child should be perfect, when you aren't.
I have parents who expect their student to get an A in my class. One parent can't spell a paragraph without 12 horrifying typos. Like, misspelling their child's name and my name in ways that aren't understandable out of context.
7/17. Not pushing that their child meet the minimum standards.
I see every child's report card in my school for the grade levels I teach.
I don't get mad at the all-C's and D's report cards.
I don't get mad when I see that the students aren't pursuing any opportunities for academic rigor (taking all the basic, minimum-standard classes offered.)
I do get mad when perfectly capable students get 3 E's, 2D's, perhaps a C in their elective class, and the parent isn't trying to meet with us and start an intervention ASAP.
8/17. Rewarding the Student For Everything
This is my biggest pet peeve. I'm okay with rich families giving their children nice belongings. I had a student fly to Europe for two weeks, as she does annually, and I'm 100% happy for her. I'm sure she will drive a nicer car than me, and she's a 12-year-old who has had LASIK. Totally fine - life isn't fair and I'm happily jealous for her.
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9/17. Skipping parent-teacher nights.
After I discovered that about half of Berkeley High parents didn't attend parent-teaching night, I asked several people at my workplace. Those who didn't go gave answers typified by my administrative assistant: "Oh no!" she told me. "I'm not going to spy on my son!" She felt that attending parent-teacher night was interfering; it was going behind his back.
10/17. Stop reinforcing the myth that if you aren't born with a natural talent for things like math and science you can't be successful in those areas.
I'd like parents to stop discouraging their children from trying very hard in math, science, etc. because they, "just aren't good at math." I'm a high school math teacher and I often hear that sentiment from people. It is a symptom of what's called a "fixed mindset."
There has been research about a "growth mindset" vs. the fixed mindset. I frequently remind my students that if they work at learning, even if it's learning something they think they have no talent for, they can get more intelligent - this is at the core of what it means to have a growth mindset. They CAN be successful in math or any other subject, for that matter. It's a matter of effort.
11/17. Quit punishing your kids every time I make contact with you.
When you first start teaching, everyone always says "if anything goes wrong, just call the parents. They'll fix everything." What you find is that 50% of those calls result in beaten kids who never even find out why you called, just that you're mad and they're bad. The other 50% still end up with parents who turn every concern into punishment, and still kids who feel betrayed because the parents didn't effectively try to convey my concern.
Even when it's the parents' fault--you may call to say "Johnny's been coming to school without any fruits or vegetables in his lunch, and I wanted to remind you that even though he doesn't get a free lunch, he can still go to the counter and take an apple or a milk or something to supplement," and the next day Johnny comes back and says "I'm sorry I offended you. My mom made me write this card." No! I want to fix the problem. I'm not here to assert my control and power!
12/17. Stop treating school like a daycare service.
When I was teaching every parent teacher conference always came down to the parent wondering what else were they going to do with the child if they weren't in school. The emphasis not being on learning or even grades but simply about someone being around to watch their child.
13/17. Stop being more concerned with test scores than actual learning.
You want your child to do well on a test? Instead of studying for a test why not instill curiosity so that child becomes a life long learner instead a of a test cramming learner.
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14/17. Stop expecting the teacher to teach their child the difference between right and wrong.
While what is right and wrong can be taken from some humanities, the basis of what is right and wrong comes from the child watching the adult.
15/17. Stop expecting the teacher to be anything other than a teacher.
The teacher is not your child's babysitter, your child's guidance and career counselor, your child's friend or your child's priest. The teacher's job is simply to instruct your child in a specific subject matter.
16/17. Stigmatizing Failure
We need to know how to fail. More than that, we need to fail, learn from our mistakes, and do better.
I encounter many parents who intervene so their child always encounters success. I have parents who are furious that their child does not immediately grasp a new concept and think I am out of bounds for pointing out that, with practice, the kid gets there. There are parents who loudly and aggressively dispute grades and sports scores and if their child should get an award by pointing out why their child deserves it (or deserves it more than another child).
17. I wish parents would stop doing things for their kids that the kids can do themselves.
Me, to kindergarten child: Hello, what's your name?
Parent: Her name is Bella, short for Isabella.
Me: Hi Bella, I'm Ms. Kennedy. What color name tag do you want?
Parent: She likes purple.
Me: Ok, why don't you write your name here, Bella. What is your favorite animal?
Parent, writing child's name: Her favorite animal is a Dalmatian, like our dog. She likes to count his spots, right Bella?
Me: Here Bella, why don't you show your mom where your desk is?
Parent: C'mon Bella, I'll show you. Here's your name on the desk, right there.
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