District staff, provincial Ministries of Education and parents expect a lot from public school teachers, but are those expectations always reasonable? The answer would be a resounding “no” from elementary school teachers and school administrators alike. Teachers are temporary parents, nurses, social workers, babysitters, counsellors … and teachers. They are expected to teach social responsibility programs, health care, character development, anti-bully programs, community involvement and nutrition, and create physically active lifelong learners who are ready to take on the world with twenty-first century skills. I am out of breath just trying to list it all.
But besides these programs, teachers need to cover the expected curriculum each year. Math, language arts and science are still the big three that are being evaluated and ranked at the school, district, provincial and worldwide levels. Teachers all over Canada feel the pressure to increase student achievement, but with all the other expectations you have to wonder, how much time is left to teach?
Teaching is a complex job, says educator Jamie McKenzie in his article “The Wired Classroom” published in From Now On – The Educational Technology Journal (fno.org). “The teacher is circulating, redirecting, disciplining, questioning, assessing, guiding, directing, fascinating, validating, facilitating, moving, monitoring, challenging, motivating, watching, moderating, diagnosing, troubleshooting, observing, encouraging, suggesting, watching, modeling and clarifying,” and all while using the latest in technology.
Teachers want to do the best job they can for the students sitting in front of them. They want the students to excel and learn. They want to teach reading, writing, math and science. They want to support the multiple learners who sit, waiting to be motivated and engaged. They want to spark that desire for learning in each student… but what expectations are reasonable?
Don’t get me wrong. Teachers expect parents to be their child’s advocate and they need to be. They should request meetings to discuss their child’s progress and programming. Parents should be involved in their child’s education but, what level of involvement is reasonable? When do district and school administrators need to call parents on their expectations and say, “this is unreasonable?” Here are some examples:
- insisting that your child deserves more of the teacher’s time than other children
- expecting individualized attention and programming for your child beyond other children
- showing up at the teacher’s classroom door making demands
- requesting daily updates on your child’s progress both academically and behaviourally, by email, phone calls or written notes
- expecting that ill behaviour be ignored because “that is just Johnny” or “Sarah has an identified problem, so her behaviour should be excused”
- creating such stress in the teacher’s professional life that the teacher ends up home on stress leave
- complaining about homework and school work and not holding your own child accountable for the quality of work completed, yet demanding high marks when the report card comes home.
Some schools are able to separate learners whose needs are great from learners who require enrichment. Others have total integration and the classroom teacher must meet the needs of every student regardless of their need. Put yourself in the shoes of classroom teachers who may have up to 30 students in front of them. Think about the last time you had a birthday party of your child’s 10 best friends. What was your stress level like? How easy was it to manage this little crowd without losing it? How long was your nap after every little partier left your house in
We live in a demanding, highpaced world and it doesn’t matter if you are in a small town in New Brunswick or a big city in Ontario, we expect a lot from everyone. But sometimes we lack common courtesy in our conversations. Yes, it can be as simple as that. It’s time for everyone to recognize the limitations in which public school teachers are working. I challenge you to review your own behaviour. How reasonable are you when you make requests of your child’s teachers?
Published June 2010
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