Hey Teachers, Parents Are Unreasonable Because They’re Parents

Maybe there’s a reason why parents can be so difficult sometimes.

There’s a CNN article making the rounds on Facebook this week, talking about what teachers would like to say to parents if they had the opportunity to be totally frank. They, apparently, are fed up with having to deal with us. The author, Ron Clark, lays out a step-by-step plan for how we, the parents, can make the teacher’s job easier.

On behalf of parents everywhere, I’d like to respond.

I have the utmost respect for the teaching profession. My mom is a teacher. So is my sister-in-law. So are several of my neighbors. My brother-in-law is a school administrator. My brother will be a teacher—and a fine one—some day.

I would entrust any of them with the education of my children—and would be very happy to do so. And I wish I felt the same way about all the teachers my kids have encountered in their school careers to this point.

But I don’t.

Now, I don’t discount the possibility that parents can be unreasonable. To be blunt… some people suck.

And so do some teachers.

We’ve been burned by lazy teachers who don’t want to deal with kids who might need extra help, or by short-timers counting the days until retirement, or by inexperienced newbies who don’t know how to handle difficult situations. And we’ve been burned by layoffs and hiring decisions that push good young teachers out the door in favor of the entrenched, the tenured, and the politically connected. And while we know that most of you are dedicated educators that go above and beyond the call of duty to help our kids learn, we’ve also seen your unions work just as hard to protect the jobs of the least-deserving among you.

So if we seem a bit eager for extra communication, or don’t necessarily take everything you say as gospel without looking for additional information, or aren’t willing to trust you right out of the gate, don’t assume we’re being unreasonable. There’s a better-than-average chance that our trust has been betrayed in the past by another member of your profession. Please take that into account if it seems like we’re being unreasonable.

Photo MJ/TR/Flickr


  1. Unbelievable says:

    “, or by inexperienced newbies who don’t know how to handle difficult situations.”

    This poster is very plain dipshit… If one never worked the job one never got the experience. How do you know that they will not get better? If one never made mistakes one would never learn from them. If you never gave your so called “inexperience newbie” the chance the gain experience then you just punched yourself in the face about
    “. And we’ve been burned by layoffs and hiring decisions that push good young teachers out the door in favor of the entrenched, the tenured, and the politically connected. ”
    because its people like you who cock block young person’s chance at being somebody.

    Parents should also be considerate as we are all human prone to mistake. Do not tell me you have never made mistakes. Due pressure is good. Unreasonable pressure is what make teachers who were great resent parents and children of those parents.

  2. Douglas Presler says:

    They employed these “right teaching methods” in Washington, DC, along with a healthy dose of teacher firing. Result: failure that was presented as success. If it hadn’t been for one concerned parent and an intrepid journalist, we never would have known that tests were literally tampered with. Incorrect answers were erased and correct ones written in. The sad thing is that I rather doubt the attack dogs will leave the teachers’ union alone. Nothing throws off a bloodhound once a scent is detected.

    There’s a world of difference between inquisitive parents and ones who won’t accept that their Billy may only ever be a ‘C’ student. Any chance the latter are going to get fired? Until there is, let’s keep in mind that teachers are only part of the educational picture and act accordingly.

    • Let me first say that I am not a Michelle Rhee fan or apologist. However, you are flat out wrong. There was no time to train all of the staff how to improve their teaching practices and then time to actually do it. That takes a good two years or more.

      Rhee did fire teachers, bad ones. Ones that probably should have been fired years before. The DC schools system was a national embarrassment despite having one of the highest per student budgets. Explain that. I have no explanation for people who think that situation should not have been changed.

      Michelle Rhee at the very least tried to change the status quo. The DC school system could not possibly have gotten worse. The classist/racist view that some kids (e.g. kids in poor black neighborhoods) simply can’t excel is not based in fact. They just need the same quality education that other kids get.

  3. Anyone who doesn’t want to be bothered with nosy, inquisitive, complainting parents should pick a different profession. That is part of being a teacher. You are dealing with people’s CHILDREN. It’s silly to think they aren’t going to ask, question, and challenge if something is not going right with their kids. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do as parent? What kind of parent says nothing if things aren’t going well from their perspective.

    Parents who know what’s going on, and raise their hand to try to work collaboratively with the school and teacher get better results. Low expectations yield poor results. We arranged for my wife to be a school volunteer so that she has ready access to the teachers, knows them, and can quickly assess if a problem exists, but also help to resolve it.

    Just because a person is a teacher, or has been teaching for years, doesn’t mean they are a good and effective educator. I have learned the difference from a relative who teaches Teaching Best Practices for school systems around the country.

    I now agree with firing (yes, firing) poor performing teachers, but only after they have been given at least 2 years to apply best teaching practices and improve their performance. Remarkably, some teachers simply don’t care to improve.

    I say, get ’em out of there. Sorry, our children’s futures are far too important. They can get an office job where their lack of willingness to improve won’t matter much. They may just be better suited to creating MS Excel macros than teaching 3rd graders.

    • Henry Vandenburgh says:

      I’ve never taught K-12, but I think that there may be some fallacies here. If you peg teacher performance to tests, you need to take into account the homes and neighborhoods from which the students come. So teacher performance needs to be pegged to progress, not global scores. I’ve heard, also, that at the salaries we pay teachers, we’re lucky to have the ones we do have, even when they’re not so good. Simply saying that there are “better” potential teachers out there whom we could hire as replacements if we got rid of the bad ones is probably not true.

      The argument that Teach for America or other programs to bring in young, enthusiastic teachers can serve to take care of this “replacement” function is likely wrong. I’ve read that most of these green teachers exit teaching quickly when they see how tough it is.

      I’m crabby, but I tend to believe that “best practices” vary from teacher to teacher and classroom to classroom. So I don’t put much stock in this. These practices are often the fuel for bureaucracies and consultants who profit from trumpeting about them. Cookie cutter is not the way to go.

      I’d tend to fault culture, electronic media, and family and neighborhood dynamics as much as teachers. I like the cradle to college global approach Geoffrey Canada uses in New York City, however.

      • “I tend to believe that “best practices” vary from teacher to teacher and classroom to classroom.”

        Disagree. That would mean that there is no such thing as good teaching and bad teaching. That would mean that good teaching is up to each individual to figure out. How could there ever be improvement if there is no right way to do it?

        Evidence has shown that if teachers use the right teaching methods, they will get good and predictable results. If done right, there would be no such thing as a failing school. The proof of this is that there are schools in very poor neighborhoods that are now excelling.

        However, it is true that rich kids whose parents can afford relentless private tutoring, SAT prep classes, etc. will likely score higher on tests, but not because the quality of teaching is any better. Those same parents demand higher quality education, which requires proper teaching methods and close administration QA supervision.

        Well educated people often don’t realize that there are specific teaching methods that have been shown to be universally more effective. So, it goes without saying that parents in poor neighborhoods are often even less aware of that fact, and that they can and should demand better quality teaching but often don’t even realize what that means – and so don’t know what to even ask for.

        • Henry Vandenburgh says:

          “Good teaching” may vary with the teacher. I doubt that there’s a style that works better than another style for every teacher and classroom. I also have heard (it’s not my research area) that much educational research is flawed. One thing that’s probable is that researched classrooms benefit from the “Hawthorne Effect” (i.e. any change gives positive results,) and then researchers claim that they’ve found the silver bullet.

          • It”s not a teaching “style”; they are teaching “methods”, “practices.” Teachers can still be individual and have their own styles, as long as they use correct methods.

  4. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    As a professor, I have nothing against parents directly. I do have something against whomever’s been teaching students ethics and responsibility. Many students want to avoid as much work as possible. They also are far too grade-centric. The object of the course is to become enthusiastic and learn, not to get a grade.

    I also don’t like students who try to negotiate their way to a higher grade, rather than simply buckle down and do the work. Their legalism is incredible– and I can’t help wondering from whom they got it…

  5. Another retired teacher weighing in. Sure, there are some bad teachers, just like there are bad policemen, bad doctors and bad apples in every profession that is supposed to serve the public. We even end up with bad Presidents, despite the rigorous process they have to survive to be elected. It’s tragic when a kid has a bad teacher, but it’s also tragic when a policemen subverts justice or a doctor misses a diagnosis and a kid dies. So why do teachers get so much criticism? I think it’s because everyone believes in their heart that teaching can’t be that hard. Trust me, it is hard. It’s not even the grading that everyone always talks about. Good teachers spend just as much time in preparation as in grading. And administrators and politicians throw every obstacle possible in their way. If the United States is serious about better teachers, it can get them the same way other countries do. Recruit top students, pay them well and get out of their way. We also need to stop blaming teachers’ unions. The states with strong teachers’ unions consistently outperform those without unions, even when demographic factors are removed from the mix. See this Harvard study:

  6. Rosemary Davidson says:

    Your last statement above nullified your professional credibility. As a retired educator, I agree that there needs to be accountability in the education system. Add up your benefits and the non-worry you have from being paid a salary without having to worry about an overhead that comes with working in the private sector. I am an educator but saw first hand how teachers do not appreciate the dollars they receive. My husband had to work so hard for every dollar and out of that dollar came so many expenses in owning his own business. Educators get grant money and don’t even think of where it came from but rather how they can spend it and fill a supply closet. There is a lot of waste in schools, lack of dynamic personnel. I loved being an educator and would do it for nothing if I had to although that isn’t reality because the Unions would never allow it!

  7. Nice. You’ve essentially said, “Pardon my abuse, but here’s why you deserve it.”

    It sounds like you a) watch too much hyped-up political TV; and b) didn’t bother to spend as much time thinking about your issues as he did writing about them.

    I’m not a teacher, but I work with them. Beyond being overworked and underpaid, teachers are browbeaten. And more than anything, they work in fear of people like you. Every parent is a critic, and they have to deal with about sixty of them per class. Teachers spend a typical day providing ~6 hours of content, trying to cover the required content, trying to make said content interesting, trying to inspire students, THEN going to staff meetings, THEN going home, THEN grading papers, THEN planning the next days and weeks… THEN they have to worry: What parent is going to complain? Which parent is going to complain the loudest? Oh, and also: How do I get better at my profession with no professional development time/opportunity/budget? How can I afford to take a sick day when my school forces me to buy my own $90/day substitute?

    It’s a crappy system and you’re not helping.

    We abuse teachers like we abuse people in no other profession. And yet, we expect more of them than we do of any other professional.

    Basically, that’s my long way of telling you you’re a dick.

    • I’m sorry, but you could change the word teacher to my profession (designer) and it would be the same. I have had to work every weekend for a year or more, work 60-90 hour weeks, deal with abusive clients and bosses, I paid for an MBA with no assistance from my company after they told me it would help my prospects, then when I got it nothing changed, I can’t take sick days because the job market is so tight I could be laid off and not find another job, etc.

      Teachers have all those problems, true, but so does nearly every other profession. And how often have the teachers you know been told to f-off by a boss or client? I have, by both. People abuse other people, it sucks, but it’s true. In fact, you proved my point by ending your relatively rational comment by calling the author a dick for stating his opinion. And he didn’t call any teachers names, just asked them to try to see it from the parents point of view.

      • Douglas Presler says:

        I have teacher friends who’ve been threatened with physical harm by students and their parents. Not to mention being threatened with complaints for misbehavior. Thank God these guys have a union.

        We need to face the fact that, to be candid about it, far too many of us are not very smart and never will be very smart. It’s the model of universal college-prep that is at fault in American education, not the the teachers. We need to put our hopes, resources and votes into alternatives to the treadmill of continual “re-invention” and the vaporous promise that lots of high-end will come our way if we just dump lots of money into college-track education, break the teachers’ union and fire any teacher who can’t get a kid’s nose out of a manga book.

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