Parents, Students, And Teachers…Whose Right Is It Anyway?

960108_man_having_woman_trouble.jpgRecently, I have come across a number of people writing about rights in the education sense.

Some seem to pit parents, teachers, and students all against one another. Some seem to think that parents and students gang up against the poor teachers. Still others throw the wicked old administrators into the mix. It seems most of the bloggers I’ve read seem to have the teacher as the poor, mistreated, valiant hero against whom all the evil forces of society are lashing out. And then there are those who have it out for the Conservative Republican upstate hacks who call themselves “consultants” (see the comments on Matthew’s blog).

Whatever the case, it seems the discussion of parent-teacher relationships and dynamics bring up heated discussions on all sides. It all started here.

I think parents generally want to work collaboratively with teachers and have their child’s good in mindIn my personal opinion
Where do I stand? Well, perhaps I’m a bit naïve here, but I still hold rather idealistic views on the subject. I think parents generally want to work collaboratively with teachers and have their child’s good in mind. We may come from different views, but I still believe that most parents can be reasoned with and have hopes that an agreement can generally be reached.

As I have said before, I see education as primarily a customer service industry. We provide the parents and community (our customers) with educated children. But Edna disagrees. She writes:

The model does not hold true for schools. Profits motivate business relationships, but children’s needs motivate educational relationships. At least, they should motivate educational relationships. The “profits” are measured by student success. Creating an imbalance in power, such as the one born from the customer/service provider model, does not improve student success which is the goal of both parents and students. In fact, this imbalance causes student success to diminish.

While she has some valid points, I think she misses the main emphasis. Again, my presupposition is that we are supplying the public with educated students. Students who are not “successful” (i.e. students who do not learn the information and perform well enough in their classes or on standardized examinations) generally would not be considered to be educated students.

We may come from different views, but I still believe that most parents can be reasoned with and have hopes that an agreement can generally be reachedIf we fail to provide the educated children that we purport to be providing, is there any wonder that our “customers” might be displeased? And rightfully so! Who wants to send their child out on a sinking ship? If our districts are not making positive strides toward improvement, then how can we come back and say that we are wisely spending the district’s resources?

I think that these articles have some good insight. What blows me away though, is just how much pent-up anger many of the commenters seem to have. For another example, read the rather lengthy responses to Joanne’s brief post.

On a completely unrelated note (and yet somehow related nonetheless), Mister Teacher writes and solicits responses of the most unusual parent teacher conferences. For a lighter side of the whole situation, go there.

Next, we come to a series of articles about student rights
As I wrote before, there seem to be some major underlying problems with public education.

It started with one post on Dangerously Irrelevant of 7 videos taken on cell phones by students of teachers.

Seth mentioned it on his marketing blog and said that the teachers have a marketing problem.

Cam mentioned it on his marketing blog and said the schools have a product problem.

I mentioned it on my blog and said that teachers have marketing problems, schools have product problems, and society has a value problem with public education.

Matt Johnson weighs in (pun intended) with his own thoughts on the subject over at Going to the Mat.

All in all, an interesting group of articles here. Lots of food for thought. Lots of room for agreement and disagreement. I would encourage you to share your thoughts on these articles both on the linked blogs as well as over here.

Do you have any articles on parent or student relationships and rights in the classrooms? Post them in the comments below and we’ll all collectively take a look at them and leave our own comments!

About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

10 Comments on Parents, Students, And Teachers…Whose Right Is It Anyway?

  1. I think that public education (and private schools too) should be viewed as the taxpaying public offering an opportunity to students to participate in a specific academic program; the completion of which will offer a specific credential. It should be up to the participants (students and parents) to decide if what’s being offered is worth achieving and they should decide if students will participate or instead seek a different option which they alone will pay for. I’ve got no problem with offering multiple public school models and offering choice, but the programs have to be accountable for achieving public good, not just want parents and students want.

    When we think of public education as being driven by what the participants rather than the providers want out of it, it because impossible to effectively offer a program about which anything can be guaranteed. The focus of public education should be offering what taxpayers think society needs, not what the participants enjoy doing, and focusing on customer service pushes us too close to simply offering entertainment and imaginary results to students and parents, rather than any skills the rest of us benefit from.

  2. Er, I shouldn’t have put my reference to private schools too where I did. I think private schools should offer specific programs with specific outcomes, but I don’t think they are accountable to anyone who doesn’t pay for them.

  3. Hi Joel,
    I think we fundamentally agree on many points. For arguments’ sake, let’s take this from the standpoint of the Customer Service Model. I am assuming, and please correct me if I’m wrong because this is merely an inference, that the customers in this model are the adult public in general. If that is so, I would like us to explore widening that definition to include the students we teach as customers. I would also like to explore widening the definition of success as well. Here is why:

    I teach elementary school in a low income neighborhood populated largely with immigrant families living just at or below the poverty line. For various reasons, many of which might even be justifiable, the customers in this neighborhood are largely uninvolved in the formal education of the children. The people who should act at the advocates and mouthpieces for the students cannot or will not in some cases fill that role. It is up to the teachers to be the students’ advocates. We are the ones pleading their cases to special ed when they need assistance. We are the ones tutoring them after school with homework. We are the ones ensuring they have eaten at least 2 squares a day.

    We do that because THEY are our customers. The services we provide before school, during school, and after school are not for the benefit of the adult customers, but for those wonderful little kids we have in our classrooms.

    As for the definition of success, I would like for us to consider other elements in addition to standardized test scores. I value the data we gain from formal testing and I encourage our education system to continue exploring ways to assess student learning. If anything, it is a simple method to convey our progress, or lack thereof, to the public.

    But we all know that standardized tests are an imperfect gauge of student abilities. We MUST develop assessments that recognize student progress as well. My students are behind the eight ball from the moment they enter school which, for many of them, is when they enter the USA no matter what age they are. Rather than penalizing them, and us, for a student working at a below basic level, recognize that last year he was at a far below basic level and has shown acceptable growth for a years worth of work. The hard work these kids are putting in is not being recognized because they are not performing at grade level no matter where they started this race.

    I wouldn’t be asking us to look at broader definitions if I thought that my school was unique, but I know that it is not. Thousands of schools across this nation operate under similar or worse circumstances. These exact circumstances are why I suggested the Team Model as an alternative. Kids deserve advocates, be it the parents, the teachers, a neighbor, or anyone.

  4. Joel, regarding your statement that “parents generally want to work collaboratively with teachers,” I’d have to say that this is not always the case. I’ve talked with a number of teachers who have stopped bothering to make phone calls home because the parents told the teachers they did not want to be bothered. In my role, when parents sign their students up for music classes, I always ask parents who their child’s teacher is. Every year, without exception, I speak with several parents who do not know the teachers’ names, and just about as often don’t know their childs’ grade levels. (Me: “Your child can’t be in 3rd grade or she wouldn’t have received this music sign up notice.”)

    Maybe this situation is the exception rather than the rule, but maybe it isn’t. Whenever I hear news stories about low performing schools, I try to keep in mind that the school population might be made up of kids who were born out of wedlock to teenage parents who dropped out of high school and would rather be partying than attending parent conferences.

  5. I just got back from a four day stay in a hospital in Kentucky. I was visiting my daughter there. I will save the details of my visit for another time. Anyway, beside the quality of my care, I was bowled over by how all the people I met there were nice to me. At the very least I got a hello, how are you, and that from the lady who cleaned my room. Everyone took the to see how I was and what could they do for me. I live in Michigan and I want to go back to that hospital if I ever need medical care again.

    I thought to myself why couldn’t my school environment be like that. If we changed our way of thinking about kids, parents, and education , we would be beating them away from the doors.

    It’s not about power and control. There was no doubt in my mind who was the dr., nurse, cafeteria worker, and patience. It was more about the “what can we do for you”. I liked that and want to work in a place that exhibits that attitude.

    Yes, its about marketing, we as educators do a terrible job as marketers, but we have something great to share. Lets take pride in what we do and work hard to improve it.


  6. Sorry that it has taken me a while to respond. My computer pooped out on me while I was visiting my parents over spring break. I logged on from their computer and wrote this article. I finally got it up and running again on Tuesday. Still working some kinks out.

    There are a lot of comments here, and a lot of discussion going on. How exciting! This is where I wish I could get my threaded comments plugin working so I could clearly reply to each individual comment. It will be working by the end of June. :)

    In the meantime, let’s see what we can find. We’ll take them one at a time.

  7. @Betty

    I agree that most parents are generally supportive of the teachers. Most students follow directions and do their work. The concern we have is with the 20% or so of “bad apples” in every bunch. The same goes with teachers. You say that some parents are too quick to blame the teachers when their kids have problems. I think too many teachers are too quick to jump on the “blame the parent” bandwagon. Heck, most teachers are too quick to blame the students too!

    Your situation really drives that point home. Sometimes we act and make decisions based on ignorance of the complete situation. I am learning to be much more patient as I get older. Great stuff!

  8. @NDC

    I agree with your views completely. I think maybe we have a semantics misunderstanding here, or else I wasn’t very clear.

    I wrote: “Students who are not “successful” (i.e. students who do not learn the information and perform well enough in their classes or on standardized examinations) generally would not be considered to be educated students.

    Clearly I’m not seeking to provide entertainment at the expense of an education. There is a balance that must be struck if we are to reach the maximum potential of the system. We can’t play game show host all the time, but I think it’s important that we do things (from a marketing standpoint) that will maintain the interest of the student. Education is important, but education can be presented sort of like this.

    I understand that it’s not a typical classroom setting, but do you think the guy in the video has the kind of classroom management issues that the teachers in the video did? Even if he did, do you think one simple example like this could drastically transform the dynamics of the class for the rest of the year?

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