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Homeschooling Parent Responds to Disney’s Teacher of the Year

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Homeschooling Parent Responds to

Disney’s Teacher of the Year

By Linda Dobson

“Parents give up their rights when they drop the children off at public school.” ~Federal District Judge Melinda Harmon
(Judge Harmon made this ruling against the parents after the parents sued a Texas school district. Their son had been questioned at school without their knowledge, and strip searched by a female Texas Children’s Protective Services worker looking for signs of paddling the boy’s parents had allegedly administered. -Wall St. Journal 10/8/96)

ToySchoolBus homeschooling

Someone at CNN thought it would be a good idea to start off the new school year with an article by Disney’s Teacher of the Year, Ron Clark. Since it’s titled “What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents,” I’m sure many parent readers thought the information therein could help them help their children have a great school year. I mean this is from the man at the top, Disney’s Teacher of the Year, for crying out loud. Let’s see what he has to say!

From the perspective of a veteran homeschooling mom, Mr. Clark outlines much of what is awry in the education system and the society it mirrors. He is a shining example of the hypocrisy that permeates both, one of the cogs so invested in an infected system that those for whom the system exists aren’t well served. (Disney and Oprah, you’re fired! Oprah chose Mr. Clark as her “Phenomenal Man,” whatever the heck that is.)

New teachers have left the system at an astonishingly high rate within the first five years for as long as I’ve researched schooling. Apparently that has now dropped to 4.5 years and, parents, you are to blame. That’s why you need to be schooled by The Teacher of the Year.

“What do teachers really need parents to understand?” Clark asks himself. “For starters, we are educators, not nannies. We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and often see your child in a different light than you do. If we give you advice, don’t fight it.”

Which of course leads to “trust us (teachers).” Blindly. Ask no questions.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I tell a mom something her son did and she turns, looks at him and asks, “Is that true?” Well, of course it’s true. I just told you. And please don’t ask whether a classmate can confirm what happened or whether another teacher might have been present. It only demeans teachers and weakens the partnership between teacher and parent.

What teacher/parent partnership? The partnership where one party is supposed to take advice (shut up) and refrain from requesting confirmation of an incident (sit down)? Some partnership.

See also “School Mind and Education Mind Are Two Different Things

Parents, Are You Feelin’ the Love?

I sure hope so because next you’re told to “quit with the excuses.”

I was talking with a parent and her son about his summer reading assignments. He told me he hadn’t started, and I let him know I was extremely disappointed because school starts in two weeks.

His mother chimed in and told me that it had been a horrible summer for them because of family issues they’d been through in July. I said I was so sorry, but I couldn’t help but point out that the assignments were given in May. She quickly added that she was allowing her child some “fun time” during the summer before getting back to work in July and that it wasn’t his fault the work wasn’t complete.

Can you feel my pain?

I can feel you’re a pain in the neck, Clark. Summer reading assignments = System believer’s cure to the “summer brain drain,” a system-induced disease that doesn’t exist in homeschooling circles because parents and children realize learning happens all the time, everywhere.

And o.m.g., how dare a parent decide that family issues take priority over a summer homework assignment? And that a child should…gasp…have some summer fun, especially after family issues? By the way, have you ever done something in May because somehow you intuited challenges ahead in July? Me, neither. But then I’m just a parent, too. Worse, I was one of those homeschooling parents.

Β The Secret Behind Those All-Important Grades

In a section called “Parents, Be a Partner, Instead of a Prosecutor,” Clark’s talking about that very unequal teacher/parent partnership again while telling you to accept the grade your child received. (You weren’t expecting anything different, were you?)

Oh, but here’s the secret about grades Clark lets fly:

This one may be hard to accept, but you shouldn’t assume that because your child makes straight A’s that he/she is getting a good education. The truth is, a lot of times it’s the bad teachers who give the easiest grades, because they know by giving good grades everyone will leave them alone…

…In all honesty, it’s usually the best teachers who are giving the lowest grades, because they are raising expectations. Yet, when your children receive low scores you want to complain and head to the principal’s office.

You know those important grades that determine whether or not your child needs to stay after school for extra help, gets on the honor roll, is able to play on a sports team, and/or get into a college of choice when his sentence schooling is over? Clark tells us the grades are arbitrary, based on whether your child has a good teacher (bad grade) or bad teacher (good grade). Gosh, a child’s future is just as chancy as playing a game of craps.

Play the Find the Hypocrisy Game

If your child said something happened in the classroom that concerns you, ask to meet with the teacher and approach the situation by saying, “I wanted to let you know something my child said took place in your class, because I know that children can exaggerate and that there are always two sides to every story. I was hoping you could shed some light for me.”

Clark previously advised that when a teacher tells you something negative about your child, don’t turn to your child for her “side.”Β  But when your child tells you something negative happened, ask the teacher for his side, for “there are always two sides to every story.” While doing so, show a total lack of respect and trust in your child by noting “children can exaggerate.” What the heck does this mean – adults can’t exaggerate? Parents are supposed to be their children’s advocates because the system doesn’t respect its “products,” either.

We know you love your children. We love them, too.

Sorry, Mr. Clark. Next year you’ll be loving a new bunch. Mom and Dad love them forever, whether or not they complete their summer homework. (Haven’t you read the new thinking on homework? It doesn’t do anything except further impinge on family time together.)

We just ask — and beg of you — to trust us, support us and work with the system, not against it. We need you to have our backs, and we need you to give us the respect we deserve.

There it is again front and center – the system; the system that functions in a way that allows the teacher of the year to not even notice in his writing the double standard by which he functions. Mr. Clark, parents need you to give their children the respect they deserve. They need you to give them respect because no matter how much time you spend with their children, the parents are at the helm, as they should be.

This essay doesn’t exactly drip with respect for parents. Granted, there are bad parents out there, just as there are bad teachers. Our society has grown so narcissistic the personality disorder has been removed from the psychiatry manual; it’s no longer a disorder now that it’s been mainstreamed. I wouldn’t want to be a teacher in a classroom today for all the yuan in China.

It’s for all these reasons I didn’t want the children I love in a classroom, either.

Parents give up their rights when they drop the children off at public school.” ~Federal District Judge Melinda Harmon

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Reader Feedback

37 Responses to “Homeschooling Parent Responds to Disney’s Teacher of the Year”

  1. Kristen says:

    Funny how he only points out what he thinks parents should do differently. I know that is the point of the essay, but as a professional, it seems to me that the appropriate response to a tide of "parent issues" would be an introspective look. What can teachers do differently to avoid these issues in the first place?

    As a former teacher (now unschooling parent,) I experienced my share of questions and concerns from parents. At first I was a bit intimidated, but I was fortunate to have a wise and understanding principal who mentored and taught her teachers to create actual partnerships with the parents. Respect is earned when it is given. Trust is earned when trust is given.

    I only made it 4 years, not due to "parent issues," but rather due to what I viewed as a repressive system. Even in the well run schools, educators and parents feel like they have to constantly fight the system to be "allowed" to give children the time and attention needed to thrive. Seems to me that the complaint of teachers leaving the system due to the parents is a convenient rationalization and one accepted by educators in an effort to not have to look inward or take a long hard look at the system as a whole.

    • Linda says:

      Kristen, What fantastic insights…thank you so much for sharing them. You have a perspective on all of this that not a whole lot of people do. I'm so glad you're unschooling…how many and how old are your children? Much love, Linda

  2. John Hancock says:

    Linda- Why are you filled with such anger and hate toward teachers and schools? Did you not have a positive experience in schools yourself? It's Ron Clark who actually has a great deal of insight and YOUR response which is filled with emotional bashing. Why do many homeschooling parents continue to insist that they can do no wrong…. Very interesting and dangerous perspective.
    A professional educator

    • grandma_linda says:

      Hi, John, I had a terrific school experience. I didn't see the harm of schooling until I was an adult, and a parent. I know thousands of homeschooling parents and don't know a single one who has ever insisted s/he can do no wrong. The system is broken; the chasm between teachers and parents is but one symptom. Fortunately, many are working hard to replace the existing one-size-fits-all program with the customized learning all children deserve. Interesting you saw emotional bashing in requesting that children be treated with respect as individuals. Thank you for sharing!

    • Ann says:

      I am not a homeschooling parent, and indeed think that for my children, they are better off in our local public schools (although I think all good parents 'homeschool', just some supplement with the local schools as well). I am in agreement with this article. In fact, those who HAVE positive school experiences would be very much in agreement with this article, because it is insulting to the good relationships that the family built with the schools and teachers in them. I would be furious if a teacher treated me like that, and consider them a poor candidate to educate my child.

    • Chris says:

      "…insist that thy can do no wrong" is just as interesting and dangerous perspective from professional educators…. and probably why some kids were taken away from your classroom and kept at home instead.

  3. Shanna says:

    I wish you would share how you think he should handle a parent contacting a lawyer when their child is caught cheating, or the teacher who was fired after cleaning the marker off the child's face. I think your post is extreme to the opposite of the original author. I hope that when your time homeschooling is done you might consider volunteering at your local public school. Sadly I imagine you will see (lots) of children who's parents never read to or with them in the summer or any other time. You might see students who lie and steal from other children in the classroom but who's parents constantly make excuses and believe their child's "side" over the teacher or the evidence (or other students who often see even more). I'm often think I'm "spoiled" with well behaved children who have virtually zero conflict in school or with teachers, but I also have great empathy for the teachers who see and deal with children and parents that come from a very very different place then I do. I've sat next to Mother's ranting about how a teacher is handling their child and how many times their child has been to the principal's office, and marveling to myself that in all the times I've volunteered in this classroom I've never seen this Mom there helping… ever. Never seen her name on the check in/out list. I've personally watched the teacher handle her child with a patience I'm not sure I could muster with my own child. And yet I listen to her talk about her other, older child going to the principal's office that same week and wonder if she sees any kind of pattern at all, or if it's always going to be the teacher's fault. Parents *should* be strong, fair advocates for their children, but not to the extent that they are seeing their behavior through rose colored glasses b/c that is *not* doing their child a service.

    • grandma_linda says:

      Hi, Shanna, I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, so he'd have to seek legal counsel elsewhere. My post recognized that there are problems with "bad" parenting just as with "bad" teachers. However, because they exist, doesn't mean ANY parent need feed their children to a system that is broken, harmful, institutionalized, failing, and refuses to enter the 21st century because of it. A parent can't save the world, but s/he CAN exercise parental responsibility to do what is best for their own offspring. Thanks for reading and responding.

      • Danielle says:

        I actually felt a lot of hatred in your article too. I agree that there should be mutual respect, but as a teacher, I’ve actually watched a parent allow their child to curse them out, and then deny to the teacher’s face that their child would ever curse the teacher out and that the teacher is simply making this up. I think that’s what he meant by that. Those kinds of things happen ALL THE TIME. I think public schools are good for the kids in that they expose children to other kids from a variety of backgrounds on a daily basis. I do also believe you can do this with homeschooling, I’m just saying public schools are not all bad…. and as far as discounting the love teachers have for their kids, I believe you are sadly mistaken. We may not see our kids every day after they are out of our class, but we do still love them. I regularly meet with former students, and have maintained relationships with their families. I still think of them every day, and keep pictures of my students handy so I can be reminded to check up on them and pray for them all the time. I also have teachers who did the same for me. Interesting how some peopel who taught me over twenty years ago are still in contact with me, checking up on me on a regular basis. I do believe teachers love their children for a lifetime.

  4. Bob Collier says:

    I'm not going to comment on how Mr. Clark's views ought to be interpreted but I do know from the personal experience of having a daughter in school for 13 years and being closely involved in her schooling as the at-home parent that, whilst I was generally happy enough with her schools and with most of her teachers (many of whom were excellent) and we all got along just fine, attempts by the schools to dictate how my wife and I should arrange our home lives to suit them were an irritating feature. The school our son attended for two years was especially intrusive and had to be formally reminded on several occasions of where we believed its jurisdiction ended. It's now almost nine years since our son was removed from school and I don't miss one little bit having to deal with the constant expectation that we should always defer to What Schools Want. Who knew living as if schools don't exist could be such a liberating experience? Perhaps every parent should try it at least once.

  5. grandma_linda says:

    John Hancock, Here's a response to Ron Clark on teacher Joe Bower's blog: http://www.joebower.org/2011/09/my-response-to-ro….

  6. dinonum says:

    The issue that I saw with this is simply that Ron Clark seems to be insinuating that parents should just trust all teachers, as though they are without fault. I knew many teachers who exaggerated far worse than students, and whom punished kids simply because they didn't PREFER the way they were.

    • grandma_linda says:

      Hi, I'm sure you'll find many who went through the system that agree with you! Bottom line is there is no group of professionals, never has been and never will be, that should be blindly trusted and respected. It's interesting, though, how the demand from schoolers is so high. Thanks for being here and taking the time to communicate.

  7. Michelle says:

    Shanna,I am a sub and worked full time as an ed tech.I can tell you that the traditional authoritarian so called discipline and punishment persists as a model. Children are to walk in a straight line with no talking, sit for more than an hour at a time,not speak until called on bathroom and drink privileges are often refused,eating at unscheduled times is out of the question. Children are spoken too roughly and often are yelled at Class punishments such as staying in from recess or putting their heads down because the teacher doesn’t approve of behavior from a single to just a few children. Children who are violators of rules have names on the board in public view.

    Children are often not listened to by various teachers.One teacher may use active listening. However there are many teachers that children interact with from K on up.Here is one example of which I witnessed while at an assemble while subbing.A child was struck by another student. The hit child told the other not to do that, which is what he ought to have done,then tell a trusted adult.Well, two nearby teachers heard the boy defend himself. A teacher reprimanded him! When the child tried to explain, he was threatened to love “privileges. These are not exceptions but are daily occurrences within the traditional school model, in which children suffer. That does not count the 19 states in which the govt allows school personal to children which tools such as boards.

    • Linda says:

      Michelle, How heartbreaking. You've been there…can you explain to me how others who are "there" don't see what happens to children in this setting? Thank you so very much for sharing here…it is much appreciated.

      • Laura says:

        I'm not a teacher, but my mom is. She was always involved in our schools, even before she started teaching. My personal take is that they do "see" these actions, but because of their own beliefs on the 'place' children should have, the incident passes under their radar.

        If I could compare it to driving – I rode with a friend once who cut someone off and was clearly, to me and the other driver, in the wrong. She flipped *them* off and complained about *their* driving. Her memory of the incident was that the other driver was at fault.

        I think some parents and educators are looking through the lens of children not being whole people with actual rights. Given that, the child is wrong, the actions taken against them are justified, and so they don't recall any incidents where adults were out of line, only the children.

        I think it fundamentally comes down to how you view children.

        • grandma_linda says:

          Right, Laura…respect for the child is essential. Sadly, society collectively worships at the altar of the system…kids don't come first. GREAT analogy, btw; do you mind if I use that in writing some time?

      • Michelle says:

        In the example, there was one other teacher talking to the one who reprimanded the child for defending himself. She said nothing. It is not an isolated incident that for children to to disciplined unfairly but rather commonplace.
        Another common punishment doled out to children during their recess time is to stand towards a wall while other are playing.

    • grandma_linda says:

      Michelle…THANK YOU.

  8. Lisa Wood says:

    What a great blog post and information about teaching! I was training to be a teacher when I was pregnant with my first baby. I never finished and never went back to uni. I would not be a teacher in this day and age for anything πŸ™‚

    There needs to be more respect all round – teachers need to respect Parents, children and then the reverse. I am been on the end of the teachers/principals information session with one of my boys. Not a great situation to be in.

    Great infromation here
    Cheers
    Lisa

    • grandma_linda says:

      Hi, Lisa, I agree mutual respect is vital. The problem, though, is inherent in the system and its hierarchy and classroom management as a large part of training. Homeschoolers put the child first; schools, the system. Thanks for communicating – hope all is well with you and yours!

  9. sarajschmidt says:

    Why isn't Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto being heard rather than Ron Clark? πŸ™

  10. WVMOM says:

    LOOOVVEEED the post!

  11. Shane says:

    Linda,
    Clark's school is a private school. Therefore, his school is not part of the "system." I saw the article as one who is simply telling the teacher's side of the perspective. Although in education today, we are simply supposed to shut-up and take whatever is coming to us by the parent. You pay our salary and who are we to disagree? Parents are saying let me have it my way or I will take my kid out and "homeschool" them. Parents want to bring their child to school late with no consequences. Parents do not want a deadline for class projects or homework. Parents do not want their child to be penalized if they take their child from school for 2 weeks to go skiing in Colorado. And by no means punish my child for any wrong-doing that may have occurred at school. If the "system" is broken in your perspective, I have a feeling I know why you feel that way.

    • Anna says:

      All traditional schools are part of the "system". They all run by the same basic rules. You come drop off your kids for 6+ hours a day and you completely hand over the raising of your child to someone who may or may not care.

      To some extent you are right though Shane. If a parent is going to hand over their child, they need to expect to follow the rules of that institution. The rules of school say, that the parent has no right to interfere with the school. Good reason never to put them there to begin with. And you act like the school is a victim. Those darn parents with their "let me have control over my own child or I am going to leave" threats. Good on them! I hope they actually get the courage to follow through!

      I would continue but I am busy packing for our trip to Disney World, right in the middle of Sept. Oh that's right, I dont have to explain to you why I am taking MY kids somewhere during the school year.

    • Chris says:

      You make an excellent point, Shane. I've been contemplating the implications of tax payers and compulsory education. Since it is compulsory, then it would be much more logical to do things the way the parents prefer for their children, right? If the parent brings the child to school late, so what? You get paid anyway. Why penalize the child with demerits? If the parents feel it's ok for their child to forego a homework assignment or go past a deadline, so what? You get paid anyway, Why penalize the child with bad grades? When it comes to bad behavior, each and every incident should be treated specifically and no child should be punished summarily just because they are in an inferior position at school. Sometimes children "misbehave" only because school has pathologized many normal childhood behaviors, trying to find expression in an unnaturally stifling environment for that child.

      If it sounds like I'm trying to make compulsory schooling be more like a fancy baby sitting service, it's because it is so much more logical to approach the system this way. I'd love to be able to send my child to public school knowing that he would be treated just as lovingly and democratically as we treat him at home. I'd be a very happy tax payer then!

  12. Aadel says:

    Hmm- the old responsibility/blame conundrum. Parents don't want the responsibility of education their children but still want the credit for anything they perceive to be good parenting. Institutions want the responsibility and authority over children but want to blame parents for behavior and conflicts.

    I think in philosophy you might call that a prisoner's dilemma or the prevention paradox.

  13. Marlis says:

    Excellent Post and EXCELLENT POINTS!!!!!!!! I am posting a link to your post on my blog. Even if I can get five more people to read it, they should.

  14. momto4 says:

    In his defense, Ron Clark has an amazing story, and run his own private school, because he saw that "regular" public and private schools were not working. He has excellent rules for the classroom that are all about creating respect and expectations. Not easy to do in a classroom
    While I agree with many of your comments, Linda, (I have been homeschooling for 9 years), I also have read enough about Ron Clark over the past few years to know that he is not the ogre you painted him to be.

  15. Sorry for the long post, but I had to respond. I’ve taught in public school & private school, my two children began their education in a small Christian school, and then I homeschooled them for 3 years until they entered the 7th grade in public school. I was a public library director for 9 years, and am now in my 7th year as a school librarian. I believe I have a well-rounded perspective when it comes to education. I’ve seen the positives and the negatives in each of those learning environments. My favorite by far was home schooling, and I’m grateful we lived in a place that allowed us the freedom to do so. I even served as the public school district’s PTA president one of the years my kids were home-schooled. I knew they would eventually enter public school, and I wanted to maintain a good relationship with the school– especially during a time when home-schooling was considered crazy radical and the enemy of public education. I think it’s important to remember that as wonderful as homeschooling is, not every parent can homeschool, and not every parent would do a good job homeschooling. So I’m thankful that other people are willing to teach the non-homeschooled children, which happens to be the majority of children in our communities. I agree that our public education system is flawed, and I’ve seen some bad apples in the “system,” but I’ve also seen even more teachers and administrators working so hard in one of the most difficult professions there is, especially since the recent budget cuts in Texas have put an unbelievable strain on educators this year & will drive good people out of the field. I’ve witnessed outstanding parents and nightmare parents in the public school as well as the homeschool environments. So I think we need to be careful to not condemn one or the other or try to persuade folks to choose one side over the other– intentionally or not, and sarcasm tends to do that. I believe we all want every child to be successful and well-prepared for life, no matter what education environment they are in. And I appreciate anyone who’s willing to do be a part of that, and especially those who are making the extra effort to improve any learning environment, and I believe Ron Clark is in that category.

  16. Truth Freedom Love - kids deserve respect and courtesy too says:

    […] Laurie Couture wrote up What Teachers Really Need to Hear From Parents and Sandra Dobson wrote up Homeschooling Parent Responds to Disneys Teacher of the Year […]

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