Sunday, May 14, 2006

teacher stuff

I was talking to #1 the other day about teaching. She is musing about leaving the classroom and doing something else - or at the very least going part time. She's had enough of dealing with the constant negativity she gets from the parents. I know exactly where she's coming from. It's not like the parents are the only people you deal with all day - they are one of many and usually they're the ones that will push the knife in and twist. Not all, mind you - some parents are awesome and you know..normal! I would like to clarify that #1 is an amazing teacher. I know that she inspires the children in her classroom and that they adore her. I've seen it for myself. The negativity is the constant everyday pressure of dealing with bullshit problems that get blown out of proportion by the parents. As a teacher you get blamed for stuff that isn't even your own fault.

typical exchange

9am - children seated on floor, ready to start the lesson
..parent rushes in at the last minute
Parent: can I see you outside?
teacher: *about to call the roll, knowing that 2 minutes outside means chaos inside* can we make an appointment for after school please, we're about to start our lessons.
Parent: .....well..it's very important.
teacher: okay then sure.. *can see children already beginning to wiggle around on floor*
Parent: I just wanted to ask you about *** and why she didn't bring home her jumper yesterday.
teacher: ....*??*. No, I wasn't aware she had lost it. She never told me about it - but I'll make sure to talk to her about it today.
Parent: ...can you look for it?
teacher: well, I will certainly ask *** to check in the usual places today and ask other teachers to keep an eye out for it.
Parent: can you check each child's jumper to make sure that they are wearing the right one.
teacher: yes.. *there goes my maths lesson*. Have you checked lost property?
Parent: ...no.
teacher: *inward sigh*.. it's near the office, if something is ever left outside or unattended it usually gets sent straight there.
Parent: I'll go do that now.
teacher: let me know if it turns up.
Parent: *storming off, no goodbye, no sorry for interrupting your lesson, no thanks for checking it out even though it's the responsibility of my own child to look after her belongings*
teacher: *looking in the classroom, some child is biting another child's ear off and the rest are cheering him on* ...bye.

things that are wrong about this
* innapropriate time to have this conversation
* implication that teacher is somehow responsible for belongings of student when in fact student is responsible for own belongings.
* no niceties

okay, not exactly negative but when you have 15 of those kinds of exchanges every single day then it really gets on your nerves.

Here's another one: very popular in the younger years - challenging your professionalism. Love it when that happens!

9am students seated ready to work.
parent storms in

Parent: can I speak with you regarding ***'s reader.
teacher: (this is original, here we go) of course, are you free after school today?
Parent: no - can I see you now?
teacher: I'm about to begin a lesson can I make an appointment with you tomorrow instead or ring you at recess?
Parent: it'll just take a moment.
teacher: ...okay then.
Parent: I was wonder what is going on with ***'s reader. The books she is taking home are way too easy! She's been on the same level for a while now. I was speaking to ****'s mum and he's on a (much higher level!).
teacher: try not to compare ***'s progress with that of ****. They are two different children! I tested ***'s reading (insert date) and found the level she is on to be at an adequate take home level for her. The books she reads in class with me are a couple of levels above her comfort zone and that's okay because it's a more intesive working environment - at home the books should be a more easy pace. The level she is taking home at the moment is the right level for her.
parent: She reads perfectly at home and flys through her words. It's way too easy.
teacher: I'll show you her progress, let me just get my folder (children at this point climbing the walls).
parent: hm..
teacher: as you can see she has made steady progress on her reading throughout the year and at the moment she is reading at this level. Judging by this record sheet these are the words she missed when she was reading the text (outlines all the words she got wrong). Then according to the questions I asked afterwards her meaning comprehension was lacking a little. If I put her up a level she will continue to struggle with these aspects but it will be even more frustrating for her.
parent: but she knows those words AT HOME.
teacher: In a testing environment we don't prompt any words... But in a learning environment we teach reading cues.
parent: ...okay...
teacher: it's okay to do so at home. It's a good way for children to learn how to read. Perhaps guide her towards looking at the picture instead though, or to read ahead and then go back and get the word then, or perhaps to use sounding out etc etc etc....
parent: I never knew that? Why don't you tell parents about this kind of thing? How are we supposed to know?
teacher: I'm sorry, I wasn't aware that you didn't know. I gave an extensive talk about our reading groups and literacy block and how to help children read at home at the information night at the beginning of the year.
parent: oh, I didn't come to that!!
teacher: (of course you didn't even though it was recommended), There should be a copy of it at the front of ***'s reader. I always include a sheet of tips for parents at the beginning of the year. It can be hard to remember all the cues sometimes. Didn't you get the copy? :)
parent: ...ohhhh, I'll be sure to check there.
teacher: anyway with the testing procedure... then we work out from all the missed words the types of mistakes she is making. ***'s are meaning cues so perhaps getting her to look at pictures and discussing the book afterwards would be a good way to improve her comprehension. We work on it in class as well.
parent: I wasn't aware that you tested for comprehension..
teacher: oh? I'm glad we had this talk then. I always test for comprehension as well as word knowledge. Both are so important to reading. I don't want *** to simply be reading words when she is struggling to retain any kind of meaning. Not understanding what she's reading will put her off trying.
parent: I agree.
teacher: So, that's why she's still taking home that level. But please by all means do read a wide range of books at home. Encourage her to borrow from the local library and then sit with her while she reads them - or read to her. The reader is only a school guide - the other books she chooses will be more important for her enjoyment and that is paramount. Do you read the reader with *** every night?
Parent: we really don't have time to read with her every night...
teacher: that's okay if she reads by herself for pure enjoyment but the reader really should be done every single night with somebody who can help her when she gets stuck. Her progress will be much faster if she is reading for 10 minutes a night with you or your husband. I understand how hectic it can be though. I'll retest her as soon as I have a moment to do so. It's possible that she has made gains since her last testing. That would be great. She's working well in class.
parent: ...can I take home the next level up and have a go?
teacher: (sigh).

things that are wrong with this exchange:
* I am right and you are wrong attitude of parent. Outwardly rude!
* innapropriate timing and not compromising on time to have the conversation in a more private environment.
* I do not trust your professional judgement - on part of parent - and thus implication that teacher is not doing their job properly.
* teacher gets back up about parent being so rude and begins asking questions they already know the answer to (do you do the reader with your child every night..if you get asked this rest assured the teacher already knows the answer is 'no' because the student has actually already told the teacher that they don't do the reader every night) - never a good thing.
* parent assuming that teacher has withheld information about the child, and/or is holding them back purposely. Yeah, we really love keeping those 6 year olds down don't we?
* parents ignoring all information given to them by the teacher about their child's progress

If parents share their knowledge of their child with their child's teacher this is a good thing. Sometimes it's hard to know exactly every nuance about every child. If a parent comes in and says that they've noticed their child learns better in a certain environment or doing things a certain way - this is an excellent heads up. I wish more parents would share that kind of thing. It makes a big difference when teaching and learning to know that *** is visual and **** is auditory. The thing is that parent's don't really do this - parents come in with guns blazing and when you deal with that from 24 sets of parents it gets a real old real quick.

You go through that kind of exchange a few times a week as well.
So yeah, #1 - sick of the shit and I don't blame her really.

Yesterday I spend the whole day in a class about teaching clay to students. I was on the 'silly table' with the other teachers who make funny comments and end up in hysterics. Why do I always end up on the silly table? It was a lot of fun. I am crap at clay, but I pick that over the 'my kid lost her lunchbox what are you going to do about it? DO SOMETHING NOW' conversation anyday.