If parents graded their children’s teachers

When my son takes standardized tests

Image by bionicteaching via Flickr

We are coming up on spring school conferences for our kids.  The idea behind the conference is to find out how your child is progressing in school.  Usually the teacher pulls out examples of your child’s work and then talks about your child’s performance, attitude and behavior in class.

I used to be the mom who took everything at face value.  If a teacher said *x* about my child I typically didn’t question it.   I immediately would reply,  “we need to work on that.  Or what we can we do to help?”

However lately, I feel like a few of the teachers are letting me down with their performance.  Maybe the reason my child is bored at school and not interested in certain subjects has something to do with how these particular teachers are relating to the students and engaging them.

I don’t want to be a helicopter mom, but I do feel like teachers need to be accountable too. And measuring teachers with standardized tests is a joke.  I believe that’s part of the problem.

Since my kids started public school 8 years ago, I have slowly seen a deterioration in the student/teacher relationship.   It’s not across the board.  Some teachers continue to hit it out of the ballpark with their methods and approach.  However, more and more teachers, in my opinion, are falling short of expectations.  And teachers who were student favorites just a few short years ago seem to have lost their zest for making the classroom fun and engaging.

There are several factors, I believe that contribute to this, and I’m sure it’s not just limited to our small suburban school district in Minnesota.

  • Smaller budgets-bigger class sizes
  • Standardized Testing which is geared toward the under-achievers
  • Teachers who are frustrated with added administrative work and red tape.

Some teachers are great at pushing their frustrations aside and focusing on what’s best for the kids.  They are naturally warm and caring. But I think more and more are getting burned-out by all of the new mandates. And they are teaching what they are forced to teach, not what they are naturally interested in.

I had an interesting talk with a girlfriend whose son, like my son is having trouble staying focused and interested in school this year.  I think our impulse is to get frustrated with our kids.  Why aren’t you trying harder? Why aren’t you studying more?

But I have reflected more on this.   While teachers are quick to blame the kids for poor performance, do they ever turn the microscope on themselves and ask if they could be doing anything better or differently?

Last fall, I met with my son’s 5th grade science teacher after she mentioned that he was struggling with science.   My son, who has always been described as a dream student, told us this particular teacher was not nice to him.  When I met with her, I explained that this was his perception.  And although it may not be true, it was how he felt.    I asked her to try to reach out to him and try to connect with him.  For weeks after, I asked my son if she ever said anything.  According to him, she never did.

When my older son was in 5th grade, just a couple of years ago, he had the best year ever.  He was genuinely interested in the subjects at school.  But a lot changed since my son was in 5th grade.  Just last year the 6th grade moved to the junior high and teachers were switched around.  This meant they were asked to teach different subjects than they are accustomed to.   Teachers are faced with more hurdles than ever.  They’re dealing with budget issues, no child left behind issues.   It’s not easy to be a teacher nowadays.   I get that.  It’s probably one of the most challenging jobs around.  But you still have to find a way to connect with kids!!

When you can connect with a child, you motivate and inspire them.  Achievement and success become easier for all parties.

I am a firm believer just about anything can be interesting, if you figure out a way to present that information, as it relates to your audience.  And in this case, your audience is children.

And you have to ask yourself, if *x* amount of kids are not able to focus, maybe you, as the teacher, aren’t making the grade.

I am going into my school conferences this week with an open mind.   I am going to listen.  But I also plan to ask questions.  Just as the teachers have expectations of our children, we need to have expectations of our teachers.