Friday, September 3, 2010

Who's to Blame?

Last week I was talking to my neighbor. She is an elementary school reading teacher and had only been back to school for a couple of days. I asked her how everything was going. That was probably a bad question because she started telling about all the testing she would be required to do, all the programs and initiatives she was expected to implement, all in an effort to meet standards.

She said that while teachers were expected to do all this, the students coming in are less ready than ever before. She said that children are coming to kindergarten having never held a book; not even knowing how to hold one. She said that many come to school hungry, not dressed properly, and some are not even toilet trained. The big problem here is that their parents are simply not taking the time to be with their children and prepare them for school.

I thought about these children all week and about the problems they will have throughout their school years. While a few will be able to overcome these disadvantages, most will not. They will continue to be behind and at some point, a teacher or school will be blamed for not educating these children. Teachers can lose their jobs if these children do not meet achievement levels.

I would be the first to admit that there are some bad teachers, but in my experience here in Iowa, they are few and far between. And in my opinion, I don't think good teachers should lose their jobs because parents aren't doing theirs.

Yes, I know. Teachers blame parents. Parents blame teachers. Actually, everybody blames teachers. But the truth is, there are thousands of factors that influence a student's achievement, only some of which can be attributed to the teacher. When a child starts kindergarten and is already two years behind, that is not the teachers' fault. And if this child continues to be two years behind, the teacher should not be blamed.

At some point these parents have to take responsibility if their children are not performing well. Unfortunately, there's not much that can be done about them. It's just easier to fire teachers.

But what could be done? There are people who see these children before they get to school. There are relatives, neighbors, and pediatricians who could refer these parents and their children for help. Children could be enrolled in early preschools or Head Start programs. Parents could be required to attend parenting classes. While some of this currently exists, it obviously is not getting around to all the parents and children who need help.

I know there are costs for these programs that the parents probably cannot pay. This means that, once again, taxpayers will be left to foot the bill. While that may not set well with many, I think that helping these parents and children, while the children are young, will actually save the taxpayers money in the long-run (reduced special education costs for schools, fewer families in the court system, and fewer children entering the prison system when they grow up). It's certainly something to consider.


  1. Excellent post! I am so tired of listening to parents complain and blame teachers for things they need to blame themselves for. It is my job to teach my students the curriculum, not manners, be their doctor, dentist, police officer, social worker etc etc etc....A lot of parents out there need a serious reality check...and I am a parent of many and a teacher so have seen it from both sides, but parents have to stop skirting their responsiblity and quit blaming teachers for their own parenting shortcomings.

  2. To nineosullivans: Thanks so much for your comments. I checked out your blog and found it fascinating. I don't know how you do it, seven children and teaching and blogging. Amazing. I wish for you a great school year!