Monday, September 26, 2005

In defense (sort of)

It seems I’ve been called on something (and perhaps rightly so), and I’ve decided to defend my position, as well as amend some earlier statements. Nancy left the following comment on my post about Back to School night:

Nancy said...
I hope it's OK for me to comment on this. I'm a mom of two Catholic school students (K and 2nd Grade)and I wasn't able to attend my children's recent Back to School Night. I felt really terrible about it, but it was impossible to go. The situation was that the school doesn't allow parents to bring children (understandably), my husband was out of town, my baby-sitter had a religious meeting, and my sister, who had promised to watch the kids got sick at the last minute. In addition to being sorry about not getting to meet the 2nd Grade teacher I worried (and you've confirmed that I was right to do so) that my child would be judged as coming from a family who didn't care enough to come. By the way, I can think of a number of reasons that a concerned parent wouldn't be able to make a Back to School Night (sick children, night shift work, single parent with noone to watch the kids, etc.)You seem like a great teacher and one I'd love for my kids to have (and I'm jealous of your small class size--my children are in classes of 39 and 41 students each!), but I just wanted to point out that teachers and schools can be prone to pass judgement on parent's level of commitment without knowing all of the facts

First of all, thanks to Nancy for commenting. I always appreciate a parent’s point of view. And it definitely sounds like she made every effort to attend her children's B2S Night meetings. But I often think that some other parents don’t understand exactly how much work teachers actually do. (We’re sometimes referred to as “glorified baby-sitters,” and nothing pisses me off more than that.) So in my defense, here are some things I think need to be said about our Back to School Night fiasco:

~ The parents had plenty of notice (two weeks) about B2S Night. It was mentioned in my first day of school letter, it was in a note from the office, it was on the school calendar, it was on my weekly homework sheet. They had time to arrange for baby-sitters or work schedule changes.
~ Students are allowed to come. Several of mine did. Some teachers actually require their students to attend with their parents.
~ It wasn’t just a few parents from my class who missed B2S Night. It was about half of the parents from the entire school. Our school’s goal for the year is to increase parent involvement, and when so many parents missed the very first meeting, the teachers became very discouraged.
~ I understand scheduling conflicts. When we sat down to plan B2S Night, we had to work around the schedules of the principal, the pastor, and the parish (since other activities take place in our school hall during the week). The only night available for B2S Night was a Tuesday, which meant I had to miss a grad school class. That’s a 3 hour lecture that I can’t make up, and now I can’t afford to miss another class.
~ Each year, Principal asks us to meet with all the parents who missed the meeting. Because of the large number of parents who missed, we had to schedule a second B2S Night for this Wednesday for those parents, which means I have to stay late at work that night. (For the second week in a row.)

I understand that things come up (illness, baby-sitter cancellations, work problems). I’m sympathetic to that. But it’s not often that we hold mandatory meetings. In fact, it’s only 3 times a year: B2S Night and two parent conferences. Everything else (open house nights, family Masses, Christmas show) is optional. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for them to at least try to attend those 3 things.

But hey, this is just my opinion. I’d be interested in what everyone else has to say about this, parents and teachers alike. Comments? Opinions? The floor is yours.


Sara said...

We are all agreed that Back to School Night is important. I think there is frustration on the part of any teacher when a parent is unable to make it because it causes delays in communication and confusion regarding policies and rules in the classroom.
I would suggest to Nancy to discuss the childcare issue with her childrens' administrator. My old school offered some babysitting at the school so all parents could attend. It is her right as a parent to bring those kind of issues up.
I tried not to pass judgement on parents regarding this issue, yet I can't deny that it became frustrating when I would have a parent call and be angry or confused over something that was discussed at the meeting that they missed.

Elizabeth said...

Dree, I know exactly how you feel about the low parent turn out at B2S night. This year we had meet the teacher and parent information night in the first 2 weeks of school. We teachers did a lot of preparation for both events and sacrificed our precious family time to be there for our students' families....less than half of the parents for my class showed up for either night. On Meet the teacher night, of course, student were intended to come. On Parent information night, childcare was provided at the school if parents could not make other arrangements. It is extremely frustrating when parents don't show for these activities, and it definitely makes it harder all year long when they don't know the teacher or the workings of the classroom and school. The fewer parents who show up, the more frustrated teachers are and tend to come down hard on parents as a whole. Right or wrong, it's a natural response to a seeming waste of time and effort.

Claudia said...

Last year was my 30th year (and last) of teaching. It was one of the most difficult classes I ever had. On B2S night I had ONE parent only during the whole hour, out of a class of 20.

Nancy said...

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get back and comment. Of course it's entirely reasonable for you to feel frustrated about the fact that numerous parents aren't showing up to an event that should be important to them and that you put a lot of time into! I definitely didn't mean to imply that you shouldn't. My intent was more to point out that there may be more frustration than you're aware of on the parents side in wanting to get to an important event like this and not being able to for whatever reason.

I feel a little better about my having missed Back to School Night since I was able to meet with both kids' teachers at Parent/Teacher conferences. Both teachers seem concerned and caring. I imagine conferences for 40+ sets of parents must be a huge chore, though!

I am sorry if my comments made you feel that you had to defend your very legitimate frustration. I really value your teacher's perspective and think you sound like you're a very caring teacher.