Saturday, February 2, 2013

# 38 On the Defensive

     So, at noon today I scheduled to meet with a student's father.  According to the email I received yesterday, he is "concerned" about his son's final mark of 63%. I'm not happy about having to attend this meeting as the course has been done for four days, and this will be the first time I ever speak with one of his parents.

    When I read the message I think, W.T.F.!  Why do you want to talk about it when the course is over?  We have had two report cards, a letter of concern, meet the creature night and you didn't respond to any of these opportunities, so, why develop a concerned position now?  

     Over the years I have heard quite a collection of excuses from parents about why they have not followed their child's progress in school. In an effort to cover their tracks they often point a finger at the teacher and express the most feeble excuses, everything from: "My kids doesn't understand you!", "Well, we did go to Florida for two weeks just before Christmas and you didn't give him enough homework.", She is very involved with hockey this year?" to "You don't spend enough individual time with my kid".... .  It usually comes down to looking for a spot to park the disappointment felt from the surprise of a child's weak performance.

    You have to remember that too often, parents see teachers as one dimensional characters with an infinite amount of individual time for their child. The fact is teachers usually have 80 or 90 kids they are trying to teach and we can't run to a phone every time the student slacks off.  Often, the scenario may unfold this way: The kid doesn't perform as is expected, parents can't or do not want to look at their role in the behaviour, and instead look for a scape goat. I find these parents tend to think of their child's education like they are buying a product from the department store and they neglect to consider their own role in the process.

   Any experienced parent will tell you that there is no manual when you are trying to raise a child, and this fact, combined with a multitude of other variables, make the job difficult on the best of days. Consequently, I am usually sympathetic toward the role parents play in a child's formative years.

   However, lets be honest here, when a kid enters into the blame game as an explanation for their own failure, that position comes with its own history. I have actually had parents come in, tell me that their kid told them the failure is my fault and then when I question there position, they reply with, "Well she never lies.  She says there is never any homework, and you are never available for extra help etc.."  Then when I explain to the parent that these are all the opportunities I provide:  I am in my classroom 45 minutes before class in the morning for extra help, they have my email address to ask for homework when away, you have my number and email address etc.  They seem to enter into a world of denial and persist in supporting they their child's position.

    In my opinion, it is difficult to fail most high school courses as long as you follow these behaviours: show up, take notes, ask questions, do the homework and study for tests etc. In an effort to accommodate as many learning styles as possible, the school system has definitely lowered bar. The result is that the curriculum has become watered down to a point where not much effort is required. Success for the majority should be a given if they follow these basic behaviours.

   As it turns out, the parent comes in, I provide him with a print out of the semester's marks and we discuss the possible reasons for his weak performance. I love the mark print out provided by my marking program.  At the bottom of the page rests the glaring truth in the form of category summaries and then the final mark. After I explain my observations of his son's performance there isn't much to say except, good bye and let me know if you have anymore questions. In retrospect, I realize that teachers spent years defending their performance instead of the other way around. Unfortunately, we are too often placed on defense because parents refuse to participate in their child's learning progress.