. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: A Different Angle

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Different Angle

In general, my objective for this blog is to focus on the humorous aspects of being a teacher. As my college writing professor told me after critiquing a particularly disasterous attempt at writing a serious piece, "Stick with the funny, Edna. Serious is not your thing."

But, as of late, a serious topic of conversation out there in educational blogland has me thinking. A discussion has begun about Parent/Teacher relationships. I was pulled into the conversation when a reporter from Education Week magazine contacted me to get my thoughts on the topic since my posting about my relationship with a parent had been quoted by Joanne Jacobs on her blog. I read Joanne's posting and the comments that followed and then followed her link to Matthew Tabor's site and his thoughts on a posting he had read about a new teacher's experiences with parent conferences. It was enlightening.

Many commenters on each site I visited appeared to take an adversarial stance on the issue of parents' rights versus teachers' rights and the roles said rights play in our interactions with each other. Feeling particularly attacked (as a teacher) by one commenter, I too found myself on the defensive in my comments.

I suppose what I take issue with is the notion that parents are "customers" and teachers are providing them a "service." On the surface, such an analogy makes pretty good sense, but it still did not sit well with me.

The argument was made by a few that parents are paying for their children's educations through their taxes and are therefore entitled to certain rights and choices. It is true they are paying with their taxes. Additionally, I certainly agree they are entitled to rights and choices, but not because they pay taxes. We are all paying taxes, even those of us who do not have children and those who have grown children no longer in the public school systems.

Another problem with customer/service provider model is the tendency for the "customer" to quote the age-old adage, "The Customer is Always Right." This commmonly accepted, but often misunderstood, mentality creates an imbalance in the relationship between customer and service provider which is acceptable in the business world. Customers require businesses to provide them services and can make certain demands of said business because they understand the business' profits depend on their patronage. Businesses require customers to remain profitable and will do whatever they deem acceptable to maintain a customer's patronage. It is acceptable for the scales to be tipped in the favor of the customer because both parties get what they need; services for the customer and profits for the business.

The model does not hold true for schools. Profits motivate business relationships, but children's needs motivate educational relationships. At least, they should motivate educational relationships. The "profits" are measured by student success. Creating an imbalance in power, such as the one born from the customer/service provider model, does not improve student success which is the goal of both parents and students. In fact, this imbalance causes student success to diminish.

Since parents and teachers both share the same goal, I would like to suggest an alternative to the customer/service provider model. I feel a more apt analogy for the relationship between parents and teachers should be as people playing for the same team. Like a team, we share the same objective: Student success. Like a team, we need to communicate our thoughts openly, fairly, and respectfully. Like a team, recognition for the expertise all team members bring to the playing field should be given and an open dialogue maintained. Like a team, disagreements must be handled with everyone's dignity still intact in the end.

Parents and teachers must stop bickering like bitterly divorced parents because, like bitterly divorced parents, we are only hurting the children and making the unnecessary rift between us wider.

Let's all start acting like grownups.

While mulling over the various avenues I could take in this post, I pondered asking you readers to share items you thought should be included in a Parent's Bill of Rights. Consequently, that would then require a Teacher's Bill of Rights. Ultimately though, I found I was missing my own point. So I ask you:

What do you feel should be included in a Student's Bill of Rights.

Allow me to suggest a few items:

The right to have more than one caring adult in their lives.

The right to have their physical, educational, and emotional needs recognized and addressed.

I will not post anymore of my own ideas because I am really more interested in yours. Please continue my Student Bill of Rights in the comments section. I look forward to reading your thoughts on this topic.


Update: I altered some of the text regarding taxes. I did not change my position on that topic, but found it was driving the conversation towards money and not students. I would like to focus on students for this discussion. Thank you all for your spirited comments!


Mister Teacher said...

Since your comment appeared on Joanne Jacob's blog via MY blog, I feel I should apologize for getting you dragged into this. ;)
Though I've found a few commenters quite annoying on the topic as well...

Edna Lee said...

No apology necessary. I dragged myself into it. Besides, you're the one taking the most heat for it. You seem to have more than your fair share of crazies on your tail.

Joel said...

I don't know how it works in others parts of the nation, but in Texas where we have no state income tax, the schools are funded primarily by property taxes. So the taxes that run the schools have nothing to do with income...

Again, I'm not sure how it works in other states. I'm just adding some to the conversation. Thanks for participating in the discussion!

Anonymous said...

There already is a compiled Parent Rights and Their Children's Education statement, existing since the 70's. We found it very useful in empowering parents to stand up for their rights to advocate for their children's education needs. I think it is a very sensible statement. See:

Edna Lee said...

In California, funding schools via propery taxes was outlawed in the 1970's BECAUSE those have everything to do with income. Property taxes are based on the value of your propery, therefore wealthier areas have higher PT's and had nicer schools.

Our schools are largely funded by the state (avout 80%), but that hasn't changed the fact that wealthier areas have nicer schools.

Edna Lee said...

I have read similar documents written by other organizations in the past and I agree that they could be a valuable tool for parents if widely used.

For the purposes of my posting here, I am looking specifically at what students should be guaranteed. It is our obligation as the adults to ensure their rights are protected. But what are their rights?

Thank you for sharing and participating the in the discussion.

Wamblings said...

Students should have the right to learn in the way they learn best. This doesn't always mean sitting at a desk though it certainly makes things easier on the teacher if the will just sit down and shut up for awhile. I think we need alternative classrooms so that the children who don't do well at with the desk scenario can have their learning needs met and won't be disturbing the children who do well with the desk scenario. Working in a Montessori school I've seen kids who do well in an open class room. I also watched one child flounder in that same setting. He is now doing fine in a traditional classroom. As a violin instructor, I really have to pay attention to learning styles. The violin is difficult enough without beating your head against the wall of mismatched teaching/learning styles. OK so you probably didn't want me to write a book here. *grins*

Edna Lee said...

Wamblings - I couldn't agree more! Thank you