Years ago when my first child was around four, I was having a “where will he go to preschool?” conversation with some coworkers. This was back when I only had one child and had nothing better to do than to over-analyze my every parenting dilemma (and then consult the internet to evaluate my decision). I was bemoaning the fact that the elementary school he would be attending only went on one field trip a year and snobbishly suggesting I might drive him to a different district if it fit my fancy. One of my coworkers (with adult children) said, “Look, the school isn’t everything. YOU are the parent. If you want your kid to have certain experiences, then YOU need to provide them.” She pitched to me this novel idea that school was only supplemental to my parenting. She suggested that, wait for it, IT WAS MY JOB!
What’s ironic about this is that I am a teacher. I have found myself infuriated by memes such as these on social media
And I often comment, “I thought that’s what parents are for!” (I’d also like to point out that whoever made the meme in orange can add “use of commas” to the list of things he/she never learned in high school… but I digress). Once I saw a version of this that included “how to do laundry.” And yet, I sat in the lounge with my peers and found myself, as a parent, expecting from the school, the very things I loathe as a teacher!
Never mind the fact that many social studies classes probably do explain taxes and the voting process and many schools do offer personal finance classes, but teenagers don’t want to take them, the reality is, little-by-little, we are expecting schools to raise our children.
I’m a teacher and even I am guilty of it when I have my parent hat on.
Here’s another fun one that’s floating around:
Sure people forget things. We all make mistakes – this is how we learn. All day long I have kids asking to call home because they forgot their lunch money, or their lunch, or their iPad, or their homework. Once a kid was furious because I wouldn’t let him call his mom so she could bring him Subway for lunch. You see, he didn’t want to eat cafeteria food that day. But I digress.
I see memes like this and I think, on the one hand, this is America and if you want to raise a lazy, spoiled brat, you have the right to do that. But on the other hand, my teaching experience tells me that this sense of entitlement is getting worse and could use a fair amount of tightening up.
Over the 12 years I’ve been teaching I am constantly being asked to implement more and more strategies and interventions that fall firmly in the “parents’ job” category. My grade book is entirely online and parents as well as students have access to it 24 hours a day, and yet, I am now asked to call or email parents of students who are missing assignments. Certainly this is part of my job, but a weekly call? When the parent can go right on the website and check on their own?
Additionally I am now able to upload nearly every assignment thanks to websites like Google classroom or Schoology and, even though I send out emails, I have yet to have a parent login to see what we are doing and rarely do students take advantage of such resources before tests or during absences.
On the flip side, my son will be entering 2nd grade in the fall and when the school has an event (big or small) I am bombarded with automated phone reminders the week of. In addition, the event is listed on the school website, it comes home in his weekly paperwork from the teacher, and sometimes I even get an email. Can adults not even remember a date without 25 reminders?
I hate arguments that suggest we need to get back to the “good old days,” but I certainly think our kids today could use a tad more personal responsibility. Increasingly parents are calling me to excuse missing homework, argue about lost textbooks, or accuse me of not making deadlines clear enough on projects we’ve worked on for a week or more.
It’s as if the more connected we become, the less connected we actually are.
So now, Mom and Dad, I’m looking at you.
You gotta step up, man.
I know weeknights are hard and crazy and made even more so when parents are parenting alone or working crazy hours, but we all have to start holding these kids accountable, and it doesn’t have to be all rules and discipline. It can start with conversation.
You can ask your kids how school was. You can create routines (car rides, dinners, evening walks) where you get one-on-one time with your child so that the conversation flows a bit more naturally. You can take advantage of online grade books and school websites.
And you can let them fail. Oh my gosh it’s hard. Like the meme above says, you can let them miss their show and tell day because they forgot to carry it in from the car. You can let them buy hot lunch because they forgot their own. I know it’s hard to do, especially if you have the time and the means to make things right. But sometimes, as parents, we have to let them fail. We must let our children learn the difficult lesson that actions have consequences when they are young because, if we don’t, life will teach it to them when they are older and the consequences may be much worse.
I often wonder how I’ll handle the high school years. I am frustrated when parents come to me at the end of the trimester, after ignoring my calls and emails, and now want to help their child pass. Or the week of the big game, they suddenly need their daughter to be eligible. It’s easy for me to say, as the teacher, let them suffer the consequences of their actions, but I know as a parent that is SO hard to do. I hope I am strong enough to let my children fail. I challenge you to let your own children fail from time to time.
And when they do, talk about it, cry about it, yell about it, write an action plan – do whatever you have to do to help them take action so that it doesn’t happen again.
Finally, evaluate your own expectations of your child’s education. Be honest with yourself. Are the things that you label as lacking from your child’s teacher or education things that you can offer as a parent?
I continue to be infuriated over the lack of recess children in elementary schools get these days, however, in the meantime, I try to make sure that I plan for or allow a solid hour or more of good physical activity when we get home. Sure this doesn’t work out somedays, but as often as I can, I’m forcing that kid outside. Because, after all, I am the parent and complaining about the failings of schools or the shortcomings of teachers is not going to raise my children. Sharing a meme on social media is not going to change policy, but conversation and action might.
So step up, parents. Run for school board, or even write to your school board. Tell them you want more recess or more math or more art, or whatever it is that is academic that will benefit your child. Volunteer to come into the classroom, engage with your child after school and find out what’s going on in his or her world.
Because sending your child to school is hugely important, but it is only a supplement to the parenting YOU are required to do.
And if you find yourself offended by this or still angry that your high school experience didn’t teach you how to do laundry, then I suggest you get up right now, find your kids, and start with a lesson about sorting.