We Get What We Get
The Bottom Line On Parent Accountability
by Bill Page
Following is a somewhat blunt, but quite definitive answer to the questions so often asked by frustrated teachers:
- What should be the parent's level of accountability in their children's education?
- What do classroom teachers have the right to require and/or expect from parents in the way of cooperation, involvement and participation in their child's learning?
- If the parents won't see that they get their assignments done and won't come to conferences, what can I do?
Whether students have four, two, one or no parents;
Whether they are reared by grandparents, relatives, siblings or others;
Whether they have 16 brothers and sisters, plus halves and live-in cousins;
Whether they live in a house, apartment, project, shelter or station wagon;
Whether they have clean clothes, good hygienic habits, and good manners;
Whether they speak English, sign language, foreign language, or no language;
Whether they are challenged visually, physically, socially, or mentally;
Whether they have good interpersonal skills, social skills or study skills;
Whether they are underachievers, over achievers or non-achievers;
Whether their personality, character, religious beliefs are to our liking;
Whether their parents are literate, retarded or English speaking;
Makes no difference to educators.
Given laws of the universe (over which we have no control);
Given their inalienable rights (after all, you can't shoot them);
Given a hierarchy of government -- from federal to local;
Given the laws and bureaucracies governing education;
Given rules, policies, procedures, traditions, history, etc.;
It can all be summed up in five words:
We get what we get!
Parents get the kids they get.
Kids get the parents they get (or the life they get without parents.)
School districts get the families they get.
Individual schools get the families they get.
Teachers get the students they get. And,
Students get the teachers they get.
The way it is, is the way it is.
Everyone involved works within the parameters of the laws, rules, and responsibilities, and even within what happens outside of those parameters. Indeed, "We do get what we get."
We accept our kids. We accept the responsibility.
We take them as we find them and develop their potential.
We teach them what they need --
What we want them to have and to know.
We use whatever resources we have or can find.
We develop or create what we need.
If the parents are good resources, we use them.
If they are not, we do it without them.
Within the politics, mandates, mission, goals, strategic planning, curriculum, and educational policies, we take kids where they are and we teach them. We teach them whatever is required by those rules and within that structure.
We Teach Unconditionally -- no excuses, no exceptions!
If they lack manners we teach them manners;
If they lack study skills and prerequisite knowledge, or
Interpersonal skills, we teach them what they lack.
If they lack home resources, materials or breakfast, we provide it.
If they lack adequate visual and auditory or physical capability;
If they don't fit our structure; we change to accommodate them.
We offer alternative methods and procedures.
Our job is to teach the kids we have!
Our job is to teach the kids we have.
Not the kids we used to have,
Not the kids we would like to have,
Not the kids we dream about,
Not the kids who were like us when we were students,
Not the kids who wear clean clothes,
Not the kids who speak English.
Our job is to teach the kids we have -- each and every one.
Not just the kids who have responsible parents.
The bottom line: We get what we get!
And An Afterword…
It is natural for teachers (who themselves have probably had parental support in school all the way through college) to see that their students would learn if they had parents to help, to supervise and to tutor their own kids. But to force the issue of parental help after a certain point is futile. Our energies should be spent helping kids, rather than worrying about parents who have shown they are of little help.
Actually, if you are still with me, there is a bottom line to the bottom line:
Each kid is living the only life s/he has -- the only life s/he will ever have.
The least we can do is not demean it or diminish it with our evaluations, actions and attitudes; not relegate him/her to marginal status; not beat him/her over the head with his/her weaknesses and past history. We can accept him/her unconditionally and teach him/her whatever s/he lacks. Is there any viable alternative?
By Bill Page, teacher, parent, and realist.
Visit Bill Page's Web Site: www.teacherteacher.com for articles that can be downloaded free. Bill enjoys answering questions by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Page is available as a staff development program leader and he has audio and video tapes available for teachers, administrators, and parents:
For information or brochures, check his web site or call toll free: 1-888-471-4385
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