by blog contributor Marissa Glover
Another school year is about to start, and I want to make a deal. Let’s call it a contract—and like any contract, you’ve got your obligations and responsibilities and I’ve got mine. To keep it simple, here are three things I pledge to do and three things I’m asking from you in return.
- I will do everything on the list.
I will do everything on the list for parents to do—attend Open House, fill out the emergency contact card, and sign All. The. Forms. I will also buy everything on the supply list, even if my son swears he doesn’t need it. I will buy everything on the supply list, even if most of the items are for other students in the classroom. I realize federal and district allocations are tight, that you spend a ton of your own money on school supplies, and that some parents are absent, unable, or unwilling to provide for their kids. I get it. I will buy these supplies without complaining. A well-prepared student will do better in school, and I thank you for helping me prepare my son for your class.
- I will be an active and engaged parent.
This means I will make sure my kid goes to bed at a reasonable hour so I’m able to wake him up before the crack of dawn and get him to school on time. I will feed him breakfast so he can stay awake and alert during your class. I will make sure he wears clothes that align with the dress code so that you don’t spend valuable instruction time dealing with dress code violations. I will monitor his online student account, as you’ve asked, so that I can keep track of attendance, assignments, and discipline issues. I will expect him to work diligently in class, do his homework, and if you call home about a problem, I will not yell at you, blame you, or automatically take his side. Unlike some of the other students in your class, my kid isn’t perfect. His farts do stink. (Seriously, they do. Be ready.)
- I will believe that you are qualified to do your job and respect your work as an educator.
I don’t expect you to fill in the gaps my parenting has left over the course of my kid’s life, and I don’t expect you to work miracles. You’re going to do the best you can do, in the semester or two that you have, and I appreciate that. I know you’re not in this job for the money, and you’re probably not in it for the praise, either. You’ve got thankless students and parents and administrators all making demands on your time and patience—and you’ve probably dropped off your own child this morning and will have your own house and home to attend to when you finish your long day. There will be countless trainings to attend and assignments to grade and meetings that (if they’re anything like my work meetings) make you want to bang your head against the nearest wall. So I won’t badmouth you in front of my kid. If I have a problem with an assignment, I’ll talk to you. If I have a problem with the #@!*&^% insane amount of testing that students endure, I’ll talk to my elected officials.
I will uphold my end of the bargain, and I’m kindly asking you to uphold yours:
- You will not do everything on the list.
I don’t want you to get fired, so I’m not asking that you break the law here. I’m just asking that you be willing to leave “the list” from time to time, if it’s what’s best for students. I realize that you can’t change the school start times, even though research shows that later start times are better for adolescent learners. But do you have to use cell phones in class because that’s what earns cool points with students or earns you an “innovative” tag from your boss? Smartphones aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and studies show that low-income and low-performing students do best when phones are banned. With so many discipline problems and distractions stemming from cell phone use, why do we allow them and then try to monitor them? To avoid a fight, schools give an inch and are surprised when students take a mile. Phones are just one example. My point is this: I know “collaboration” is all the rage these days, but sometimes you have to do what you think is best for your student. Dare to be different. Most geniuses do. And please try to remember this if and when some of your students don’t like sitting at community desks or doing group work.
- You will be an active and engaged teacher.
Being active and engaged in the classroom means you will not assign busywork so that you can get some grading done or catch your breath from the last class or deal with some pressing parent emails or handle that “situation” sitting in the corner of the room on his cell phone. It means you will not ask advanced students to teach themselves or teach other students; we want you to teach our kids. It means you will prepare your lesson before the bell rings and not show videos or play Kahoot! unless it directly impacts instruction. (Even though my son says Kahoot! “is boss” and defiantly stopped reading my article at this point to show his support of the site.) I know this is a lot to ask, because you’ve got a bajillion things to do, but I also know that you are qualified to do your job—and do it well.
- You will believe that I am qualified to do my job and respect my work as a parent.
Part of my being an active and engaged parent means you’re probably going to hear from me from time to time. You might see me volunteering to do grunt work around campus or serving in the PTA or bringing you gifts during Teacher Appreciation Week. Please remember these acts of kindness when you’re tempted to call me names, like, “Helicopter Parent” or “Tiger Mom.” It’s okay if you roll your eyes when you see my email in your inbox; just try not to badmouth me in front of my kid. You get him for one year. I have him for eighteen. Ultimately, his character is my responsibility; his academic education is yours. So please keep your opinions about Trump to yourself. Instead, teach him the Miranda rights and explain the three branches of government. My son shouldn’t know what you believe about God, but he should know the different world religions, their founders, and their tenets. My son shouldn’t know if you’re gay or straight or how you feel about transgender people in the military. He should know basic biology, the difference between the Allied and Axis powers, standard arithmetic for his grade level, and how to write a complete sentence with proper grammar. Teach him how to think (how to research, how to support statements with facts, how to analyze rhetoric), and leave what to think to his parents, pastor, or—better yet—himself.
If we can agree to these three things, we will have a fantastic year. Or, because nobody’s perfect and so much is beyond our control, we won’t (but I’m staying hopeful). So here’s to student learning and safe campuses and choirs of children singing Pink Floyd’s back-to-school anthem, “Another Brick in the Wall.”