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Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Parents: How do you feel about your kids' teachers?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (38828 points ) December 1st, 2012

Basically, how much do you expect of them and do they meet your expectations? Do you ever wish smarter people taught your children, however you define smart? When you meet them in parent teacher conferences, are you satisfied or not? What do you do if you want them to do things differently but the entire system, essentially, is resistant to change, for whatever reason? Also, I speak to many parents here in NYC and everyone sort of nods in assent when someone says how weak the school system is and how teachers are weak too, in many areas. Of course, we don’t value education and don’t invest any money into it, as a society, and the most capable people don’t go into a profession that’s thankless and doesn’t pay but how do you deal with it right now as you children grow?

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22 Answers

hearkat's avatar

My son is out of school now; but yes, I was always disappointed in the vast majority of the teachers at my son’s schools. It seems that teaching has become a fall-back option for those who can’t find another vocation: “I know… I like kids. I’ll be a teacher! They get paid quite well, and have the summers off!”

My son didn’t attend Kindergarten, as it would have been too much change in the midst of his father and I divorcing. So the following year he went to first grade, and very early on, I took a red pen to a photocopied note that had been sent home from school. But I never sent it in because of the implications it would have had on how my son was treated by the teacher and other school staff.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to be a teacher myself. When my son would misbehave in school and the teachers called, I would hear such trepidation in their voices followed by a sigh of relief when I told them that I respect their need to maintain order in the classroom and that if my son was disruptive, then they were right to punish him. You couldn’t pay me enough to deal with all these over-indulged brats or neglected punks and their dysfunctional parents. (Yes, that is grossly over-generalized, but having witnessed the suburban public school masses over the past 15 years, it’s sadly more accurate than it should be)

I had a nice little Prep School nearby that I couldn’t have afforded as a single mom. In NYC, don’t you have charter school options? My son and his wife, despite being non-religious, chose a catholic school for their daughter’s elementary education. She’s now in public junior high and doing well. It just seems that of anywhere in the world, you’d find the greatest range of educational options in NYC – not to mention a great environment for home-schooling, since you have all those museums and libraries and cultural institutions close by.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@hearkat I guess there are variations in pay but many don’t get paid quite well. I don’t know, I suppose it depends on your starting economic class and what you think is ‘getting paid well.’ I don’t want my son in a charter school as I believe charter schools are a problem…not that they are a problem but chartering schools in general hurts, financially and otherwise, the public school system. I don’t mind that he’s in a public school because of the diversity of kids and prep schools here are just for white kids, mostly and that’s not the kind of crowd I want my kids running in…they’re already privileged enough…

His education is supplemented, as I like to say, by Kumon, afterschool and Russian school so it’ll prob be fine. I teach my oldest a lot myself anyway but that’s not the topic so much as the teachers. I wish his actual primary schooling did as much as his supplemental schooling does.

gailcalled's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir : I can understand your objections to private prep schools, but check out the really diverse student bodies at the Friends’ schools in the City. Friends’ Seminary and Brooklyn Friends raise huge amounts of money for financial aid and describe their communities as multi-cultural.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@gailcalled Both are god-related so no thanks. I would have to spend so much time explaining why we don’t do the same in our family. By diversity, I look for acceptance of ‘deviant’ sexualities and gender identities and I am thinking they’re probably not into that. Public schools are also bad about it but at least they’re legally prevented from some of that intolerance.

gailcalled's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: They were very evolved about treating men and women equally in the nineteenth century, about welcoming gay faculty and students, about welcoming minority faculty and students, and about discussing the AIDs issues. I have no ida about the issues of “deviant” sexualities and gender identities.

As a secular Jew, I felt very comfortable with Quaker Meeting for Worship…God was a vague term and floated around as a sense of community cohesiveness.

hearkat's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: I do recall that you have an alternate lifestyle and figured you wouldn’t want a faith-based school. I’m surprised that there aren’t more multi-cultural prep schools in NYC. Are you in one of the boroughs or in the ‘burbs? I have heard similar things about the Quaker ‘Friends’ schools around the Philly area as what @gailcalled describes. Where do same-sex couples send their kids?

Teachers in NJ have a strong union and are paid quite well for having just a bachelor’s degree, and their state benefits and pensions are better than most private-sector jobs get. Drive through the faculty parking lot and see what kind of fancy wheels they’re driving to get an idea. There were many luxury cars in the lot of my son’s Middle and High School lots.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@gailcalled Yeah, like I said, I’m just guessing. Sometimes the reality differs from missions written on a website so I should check them out. I’m sure they cost a penny and I don’t want to pay. But I guess I pay for all the additional stuff so knows anyway?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I have to run now so I’ll get back to everyone later but this q isn’t about me solving my problem. If I wasn’t actually okay with this public school, he wouldn’t be in it. I’m managing it. I wanted to know about other people’s experiences.

gailcalled's avatar

When I was involved in a Quaker school (from 1972 to 1986), several Lesbian couples sent their kids to us starting in the early eighties. It was a non-issue. There were no, as yet, gay male couples, but I bet that there are plenty now.

Here, where I live, there is a large, energetic, and well-organized home schooling community. They are answerable to the state in terms of quality and curriculum.

Another thought is to start a little charter school, sponsored by your dept., on one of the Cuny campuses.

To answer the specific question, I loved the education my kids (two of my own and three of my ex-husband’s) got. Sex ed was taught in the ninth grade by an old, gray Quake. In the late seventies, he brought in the gay ninth-grade math teacher for a unit. Some parents got mad, but everyone listened to them politely and respectfully and changed nothing.

Simone; I am not advocating…simply reporting on my experiences.

hearkat's avatar

As sometimes happens in my life, an interesting coincidence just occurred in that a FB friend just mentioned the Quakers and their Friends’ Schools when discussing politics and economics. He said: ”As a patriotic American, I give wide lattitude to peoples’ religious beliefs… As long as they don’t fly jetliners into our skyscrapers. I guess that goes with growing up here in the Delaware Valley: Philadelphia was founded by William Penn, who was a Quaker who created the Keystone State as a place of religious tolerance, far away from the Brits who persecuted him and his cohorts. You can still find the Quakers active as the “American Friends Select Committee” in their “Friends” schools and meeting houses: They are very anti-war; but their beliefs are sincere.

SuperMouse's avatar

I expect a lot of out of my children’s teachers and to this point they have all met my expectations. My children have been in public schools their entire school careers in three different districts in two different states. They are currently in eighth, seventh, and fifth grade. They began in California and I was happy with the schools and the curriculum. Now that we are in the mid-west, the schools are much better funded then California schools, and the curriculum is much more expansive with art several times a week, library skills, music, and even Spanish being the norm starting in elementary school.

I have typically been happy with parent teacher conferences. They have become more of a challenge now that I have two in middle school because there are so many parents wanting to meet the teachers and they are organized differently then the one-on-one times in elementary school. My husband and I keep very close tabs on our children’s school work and know where they are in most subjects at pretty much any given time, so we are able to attend conferences prepared. Every teacher I have met with – including middle school teachers – has been familiar with my kid, their work habits, their social habits, and their success (or failure) in the class. When my student has done well, teachers have offered extra and more challenging learning opportunities, when they have struggled teachers have made suggestions to help improve their performance.

I am a strong believer in public education, but I by no means think the system is perfect. I believe teachers should be paid much more than they are right now and that teachers should be thought of as professionals in the same way as doctors, attorneys and accountants. No Child Left Behind has hurt the system more than it has helped by forcing schools and educators to “teach to the test” and forcing under-funded facilities to focus on the areas of testing so they can hold onto what little funding they actually receive. There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way this country as a whole views the education system. Until that happens and faux fixes such as NCLB are in place, we are never going to fix the systemic problems in education.

In the meantime I deal with the way the system is by getting to know my kid’s teachers, the principal, and the curriculum. I know the secretaries in the office. I know how my kids are doing in every one of their classes. I attend all the parent teacher conferences and ask all kinds of questions. I monitor the work that comes home, their homework, and the school as a whole. I ask how my kid is doing socially. I get to know their friends and friend’s families. I remain a vocal advocate for public schools, school teachers, and students.

I come from a family full of teachers. My dad taught middle school his entire career, two of my brothers teach college, my sister is a middle school teacher, my uncle is principal at an elementary school, and I start student teaching myself in about six weeks. All by way of saying I have met and known lots and lots of teachers (mostly public school teachers) and not a single one chose the career because of the pay or summers off. Being a teacher is a calling for pretty much all of the teachers I know and it is doing a disservice to teachers saying they only chose the profession because of the money and the hours. Until this type of myth is dispelled once and for all and teachers are given the respect (and pay) they deserve, the system will remain stagnant and our kids will pay the price.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It depended on the teacher. There were a couple that I went head-to-head with. One teacher was so bad I pulled my oldest completely out of public schools, in 2nd grade, and she went to a private school until 6th.
I tried to give them all the benefit of the doubt though (because, as a teacher, I knew the kind of s..t they had to deal with) but sometimes there WAS no doubt.
Many of the teachers were great.
You can find fault with anyone if you look hard enough.

augustlan's avatar

I loved/love some of them, particularly the teachers in the elementary school magnet program for G & T kids. Those folks had to take a lot of extra training to teach in that program, and they were passionate about it, for the most part. They loved the kids, loved what they were doing, and most of them were extremely smart, too.

In middle and high school, it was/is a much more mixed bag. There are a few excellent teachers, and many more who just don’t seem to care all that much. A few even seemed hostile to their students, and really shouldn’t be teaching at all. Overall, though, I’m pretty happy with the education my kids receive/d.

I hate when school communications are filled with typos.

hearkat's avatar

@SuperMouse: I certainly didn’t mean to imply that the majority of teachers chose that career for the pay and hours, and I know that during the school year, they are putting in many hours outside of the classroom in preparing and grading. However, I’ve encountered few for whom teaching was a “calling” where they seemed naturally gifted at teaching. I would have liked my child’s teachers to be able to write to the standards that we have here on Fluther, for example, and there were sadly few that could. The system was teaching to the test long before NCLB (I was appalled when one of the earliest first-grade assignments involved filling in the ovals and not going outside the lines. Ugh.), and I can only imagine that it is worse now because of it.

I completely agree that the whole US Education system is a mess and the cultural attitudes toward education need to change. I am also sure that every teacher wishes the parents of all the kids were as involved as you are… but on the other hand, it just isn’t always possible as my experience as a single mother taught me. It didn’t seem fair to me that kids should be graded on projects done at home (like the ubiquitous volcano) since I am neither a crafty person, nor did I have time or money to invest in helping build the projects, either. Also as a single mom, I sure would have preferred year-round schooling, too.

If I had my way, Education and Health Care would be socialized, because I believe that good health and education shouldn’t be limited to the privileged few, and that many of society’s problems would be reduced if we were better educated and healthier as a nation. I don’t understand why people are opposed to having nationwide standards and curriculum guidelines for all our citizens. Sure there would need to be wiggle room for regional variations, but standardizing the academic basics would likely save time and money for school systems, as well. I would also like to see children grouped by how they learn, because my experience is that we do have sensory strengths and weaknesses and presenting the material geared to the modality in which the kids ‘get it’ would be a benefit for everyone.

wundayatta's avatar

Public school teachers are so different from private school teachers in the school system my kids are in. My daughter spent her first 8 years in private school. Now she’s in public high school. Classes are larger. Teachers don’t seem to care like they did in the private school. They are hard to talk to and their quality is wildly varying.

Private school teachers were always available. We could talk to them on phone or email them or meet with them in school and they made themselves available. They loved the kids. Totally loved the kids.

Public school is the opposite in pretty much all ways, I think. And the irony is that private school teachers get about two-thirds the pay of public school teachers. But of course, public school is paid for by taxes. If you go to private school, you are wasting your tax dollars. You pay twice.

My feeling is that it is my job as a parent to prepare my kids for the world. I do not rely on the school to do the job. I don’t rely on the teachers. Better teachers are great and make things a lot easier, but in the end, it is my responsibility, and if the teachers are weak, I have to make up the difference.

Research apparently shows that children’s educational attainment is strongly correlated with father’s educational attainment. I don’t know why. I don’t know if there is any causal relationship. It’s not as if I can sit here and do nothing and my kids will do fine simply because I have a lot of education. But we don’t know the mechanism of the correlation, so maybe I need to nothing. My kids will do fine because I did fine. No one knows.

We like to blame teachers or schools, but I think we really need to look at ourselves. Education is a very complex structure, and there are many moving parts. The only thing we have much control over is ourselves. We can barely have much influence on the kids. But we have to use what we have.

I’m grateful for the teachers. I try not to complain. If there’s a problem, I try to solve it or work around it. That’s what my children are learning, and they are doing fine.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@augustlan Yeah, I don’t want them in that program. I don’t want them in the special ‘gifted’ class. Both Alex and I went through some of those experiences and it just feels weird in the school and with other kids.

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augustlan's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Interesting. My kids absolutely loved it, and really thrived in that environment.

Dutchess_III's avatar

To respond to @wundayatta….Yeah Large classrooms are hard on teacher’s too. We want to give as much one-on-one as we can, but with 31 kids in a class it makes it really hard. On top of that, you’re going to have at least 1 kid who is a serious wild child…disrupts class, is rude and disrespectful…and our system is such that we have to keep them in a class room.

A lot of times the teachers have the principal working against them too. I remember one time I set a kid to writing something 100 times…“I will not yell in the middle of class…” or something. Principal saw it before he was done with 20 and told the kid to stop, and told me, in front of the kids that we don’t do sentences. Needless to say, everything got worse from then on.

Another time a kid was SOOOO bad I could NOT teach. I sent him to the principal’s office…who promptly sent him back. Principal told me I had to “learn” to handle kids like that. Well, hell. One on one, no problem. But trying to “handle” him on top of trying to give 30 other kids my best….just impossible.

That’s what I liked about private schools. They didn’t have to put up with that shit. They could just kick a kid out for a few days or a week or forever, unlike public schools, who are dealing with the law that says every kid is entitled to an education. I think that should be changed, honestly. If we could kick kids out for a while, let the parents deal with the monster they created, with the understanding that once they get their S$$T together the kid can come back, I think we’d see better kids.

There is just a lot to take in to consideration before you criticize a teacher. I’d say out of all the teachers my kids had, I was very unhappy with 4 of them.

wundayatta's avatar

I think it’s far too easy to criticize teachers, @Dutchess_III. We can always point fingers at them. But then I think we shirk our responsibility as parents and as responsible adults.

We need to work these things through instead of complaining. And if we are unwilling to work them through, we don’t get to complain. But, of course, in our society, complaining seems to work. It gets you attention.

We’ve tried to deal with our daughter’s teachers one on one. I don’t think we’ve ever gone above their heads. Our daughter doesn’t want us to. She wants to try to take care of things herself, even when the teachers are totally unreasonable. She was given the wrong course schedule this year, and when they finally fixed it, three weeks had gone by. Her English teacher held her responsible for everything she taught during the three weeks my daughter hadn’t been there, saying she should make it up, even though she’d been doing the coursework for the other English course. AP, I think. So she got a zero for the first three weeks. I think she’s managed to pull it up to a B for the term.

She hates to tell me about Bs.

But she also got into the musical for next semester, and it’s a speaking role this time. So she’s very excited about that, I think.

The school system isn’t fair. But then, life isn’t fair. Will this keep her out of her college of choice? I hope not. But wherever she goes, even if it isn’t her favorite, it should be good. We have to try not to get all hung up about one thing leading to another, and if it doesn’t go right, then everything is ruined. Her life shouldn’t be ruined by an English teacher, but if it is, that would be horrible.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I agree @wundayatta. It’s far too easy to criticize teachers when we really have no idea what they go through in a day.

I can’t imagine that one snaffu keeping her out of the college of her choice! Hang in there!

gailcalled's avatar

@wundayatta: Suggest to your daughter that she keep notes and use the experience with the schedule snafu and the English teacher’s demands to her advantage. It will make a really nice short essay on a college application.

Anyone reading applications at 3:00 AM might really enjoy this story if your daughter keeps it factual and objective and self-deprecating.

And what a way to sock it to the English teacher.

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