Thursday, November 08, 2012

The national PTA is advocating to receive 5 Billion dollars from the federal government and predicts doom and gloom if they don't receive it. In reply to an email they sent out today, I sent this email to the national PTA.

Re: Stop Sequestration ( )

I'm a husband of an elementary school teacher, and a father of four kids who are in K-12 schools. I've experienced about 9 different schools, a dozen principals or administrators, dozens of teachers in schools in 2 states in places as different as California and Utah. My wife teaches 2nd grade at a normal public school, but has also taught 6th grade, home school, preschool, and has been a Parent Organization president at a charter school. We've had our kids in schools where our kids were minorities and schools where they were not. They've been in Title 1 schools, a charter school, home school and are all currently in normal public school, have been for 3 years and probably will until they all graduate. We have schools in our district, and have lived in districts where the majority of kids have only one parent or who are being raised by a grandparent because both parents aren't around or are in jail. We've seen curriculum from the school district, from the state, common core, online, offline, etc. We've seen the spectrum of what schools have to offer; but shockingly there are similarities in them all. In every school and following every curriculum type, there are still kids who excel, some who float along with the masses, and some who 'fail'.

What is the one common factor that plays the largest role in the educational success of the students? It isn't the teachers, although we've seen some great, and some not so good teachers, in every school and school type. It isn't the type of school or the method of instruction. It isn't the class size. It isn't even only about economics, although that can be an indicator of the real problem.

The parents are the real problem and the real answer, the elephant in the room that is never discussed when the conversation turns to why 'education' is failing. It isn't education that is failing, it is the parents.

America is way too in debt, it is a bad idea to seek 5 Billion dollars from the federal government for schools. A fundamental shift in perspective needs to take place in our nation in order for there to be any money for anything. It isn't the nation's job to educate its children, it is the parent's responsibility. I'm not talking about home schooling, I'm talking about taking responsibility.
The P in PTA still stands for parents. Please don't take away my parental responsibility and try to give it to the government.

Of course we need teachers who take up the responsibility to educate when that trust is placed in them. That trust comes from the parents, not from the government. We need excellent teachers, but it is an unrealistic task for even a good teacher to always overcome a home environment that deters or even impedes a child's education. For a teacher to overcome every child's poor upbringing is impossible. You can't legislate desire by force.

We need teachers, principals, districts, boards and the nation as a whole to recognize and promote that children's schooling is primarily a parental responsibility. Parents need to be held partially accountable for their kids' performance. Good teachers want the parents to be involved. Excellent teachers help parents be involved, and think of a bigger picture than just the curriculum they are supposed to teach. The best teachers know that teaching math and reading is only a small part of how to change lives for the better, and that there are more lives that can be improved than just the kids in their class that year; they think of the future, and help parents know how best to help their children to learn going forward. The teachers are in the trenches; they see what the children need, but far too often they see that there isn't much they or any other teacher will be able to do. They can sometimes already predict in Kindergarten and 1st grade which kids will likely drop out of school, or who are likely to become teen mothers. The teachers see and experience it all, and if they were allowed or expected to, they could help parents know what to do to make a difference.

Merit pay is most likely coming to a school district near you; it is already being tested and legislated in various forms all around the country. But it is being implemented poorly in most circumstances because it is not the teacher's fault when a kid can't learn all that is legislated for them to learn; more frequently there are kids who won't learn, simply because they don't want to or sometimes because they don't have the support they need at home. Kids need more than one model (the teacher) of success, educators should push parents to be role models in their own homes. Parents should be given a report card; school PTAs could perhaps find ways to reward parents and their kids if the parents have a good report card. If a teacher isn't modeling success, they should be held accountable, but if the parents aren't modeling success, why are they not being held accountable, when it is truly their involvement that is the largest factor in the child's success? How likely is it for the child to even know they can become successful if it isn't modeled to them and explained to them? Teachers and parents should both be expected to be the example.

In what mentality is it fine for teachers to be required to spend more time with the kids than the parents do, but it isn't fine for teachers to require something from the parents? With responsibility comes privileges, without responsibility there are no privileges. Parents cannot abdicate their responsibility to teachers, and then blame the teacher without again taking the responsibility back to themselves. Parents can't choose when they will have responsibility and when they won't, and still always expect the privileges of being a parent. Of course I'm not arguing for less parental privileges, I'm saying parents should expect to have final responsibility. Parents realize deep down they are responsible for their children. When they perceive something wrong at the school, they take charge and demand what is theirs. If parents can demand what is theirs, it needs to be clear that the responsibility is theirs, and that the teacher is there to help them, not the other way around.

Teacher merit pay formulas need to take individual students' history and performance into account, along with how involved their parents are in their education. To completely blame the teacher is wrong, but they should be held accountable if the students and parents also are. Alternatively, if merit pay is about rewarding good teachers, don't reward them just because they are lucky enough to work at a school where the kids have involved parents, while another teacher works a much harder job to literally raise the kids in their low-income school where the majority of the parents are not involved. The teacher that has to give breakfast, lunch and dinner to the kids is no longer the teacher, they are basically the parent, but without any of the rights. Think how unreasonable it is to expect someone to parent 20 kids who are all the same age! Teaching a curriculum to dozens of kids is doable, but teachers have been filling in the gap and doing much more than that.

Parents should be invested in their kids education, they should step up and get their local community and governments to do something about it.
Since there are many localities where the parents have almost completely abdicated their responsibility, then the local school boards and the states should figure out how to help the parents take the responsibility back. It would be more effective to pay an additional teacher to teach the parents in a school district how to help their kids than it would be to hire ten teachers to teach the kids of the failing parents.

Getting more money from the federal government will only perpetuate the problem of kids having lesser desire to be educated than in times past. To truly care for the kids, and to help government to have money at all for education, help build a country where our children's future isn't enslaved to debt.

Kids will be more driven to learn when they are driven to want to work hard. How can you teach a kid to want to work hard? By showing them an example of how it makes their life better, by loving them no matter what, and by helping them see that life is hard, but they have the ability to make a difference for themselves and for those around them. They will only be driven to want to work hard when they know that it is expected of them, and they see how it will benefit them.

These things aren't taught in any school subjects I know of; they should be taught by the parents, but if they aren't, the school should focus on helping the children become future parents who will take responsibility.

Please focus on different solutions to help students and their families, don't look for money from the federal government, or from any government for that matter, as the solution to fixing education. Every 'little' 5 Billion dollars here and there is what is driving our country into financial ruin. The fall will be a lot harder in the future if everyone doesn't take responsibility now. If larger class sizes are inevitable, find a way to engage parents to make up the difference. Be an advocate for the future of the children by being an advocate for parents and families and the solidarity of our nation.

Ask not what federal money can be given to you, ask what you can do to lighten the government's burden.

Remember the P in PTA, and put responsibility where it ultimately is due.