Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Parent/Teacher Night

It's parent/teacher night tonight at my son's school. He is in grade 8. The kids all meet outside the school and play. The parents meet with the teachers and worry about the children's behaviour in class and their academic performance.

My part in this process is the same every year. I meet briefly with the teacher and tell him or her that I will support every reasonable disciplinary measure necessary and that if there is even the slightest problem, whatever its' nature, I want to be the first to know. How could I act otherwise?

As the husband of a teacher and a friend of several other teachers, I know that the biggest problem in schools is the parents of the students. Many parents seem to think that their children are perfect, incapable of causing the slightest disruption and academically brilliant too. Other parents fail to grasp the importance of learning and seem to think that hockey practice or yodeling lessons are more important than homework completion.

We live in an increasingly complex world. We need to encourage our children to learn. We must support the teachers who are struggling to manage and educate too many unruly and distracted children. If we don't, the kids are going to end up in trouble and/or flipping hamburgers as a career.

Our schools aren't perfect. They never have been, even in the 'good old days' when I went to school. Teachers aren't perfect either. They are human beings just like the rest of us, who not only have their own children to raise, but ours too. They see our children more than we do. They are charged with educating our little darlings, when the kids would much rather be playing outside. They have to teach subjects that many parents deem to be irrelevant. They have little power to discipline anyone and no power at all to get kids to do what they have no interest in doing. Parents who have the 'kids will be kids' attitude towards unruly behaviour are being irresponsible. One trouble-maker in school can keep an entire class from learning anything.

Whatever problems I might have with my son (thankfully very few, so far) now, or into the future, I don't want to pass on to anyone else. My child has no right to keep your child from learning.

Someday, our children will either run the country or pump gasoline for those who do. It is our choice, as parents. There is nothing wrong with pumping gasoline. I worked as a gas jockey myself, in my distant past. We just have to make sure that our children have the option to choose their career path. A good education is part of that.


  1. Sorry, friend...but I beg to differ.
    This lie is very popular here in the States: Study hard and work at school, get a good education so you can get a good job (working for Der Schtaat or someone else) later on.
    The only problem with this, is the truth: None of the great leaders or industrialists, men of means or real achieving producers in our history had much of an education, and certainly none of them had longsuits in the major subject of public education...Political sycophancy!
    Most "education" today teaches - at best - how to be a better socialist/collectivist by avoiding individualism at all costs. People are learning how to go from "field slave" to "house slave" on the great government plantation!

  2. Actually, Ted, I don't think we disagree at all on the fundamentals. The point I am making in this post is that many parents pass the buck about behavioural problems of their children and that the chaos that results in the classroom affects every other kid.

    I am as aware as you are that motivated kids will learn in any environment, not because of the system, but in spite of it. I am also aware that an education in itself is no guarantee of anything. There are other factors involved -- a work ethic, focus, ambition, common sense, etc. I myself dropped out of my second year of university because I was bored stiff. My brother, who is succesful by anyone's standard, dropped out of school at 14. As his older brother, I personally argued his case in front of the school board and got special dispensation for him to leave before the legal age of 16. The lack of a formal education never hurt him. He is bright and focused and school was just slowing him down.

    The major points I was trying to make here were that education can provide a bit of a head start and that the actions of our little darlings must not be disruptive. Beyond that, what we teach our kids at home is what really matters. If we teach them to be responsible and individualistic, they will become productive adults. If we teach them that no whine will go unrewarded, that it is always the other guy's fault, that it is their 'right' to expect others to take care of them, they will turn out to be useless and shiftless.