Friday, August 10, 2012

What can we do to rebuild a broken relationship?

I've been laminating about the broken relationship between parents and the school system last week, asking for opinions on how we can reach out to parents who absolutely do not trust us. Yet I forgot to ask the very people who are the key piece to that relationship- the parents. A few days ago anonymous kindly took the time to type her frustrations with the public schools. Her concerns are valid and are an excellent reminder of what we need to be mindful of as we go back to school. She (I'm assuming it's a she but I could be wrong) stated that schools should be transparent and make information readily available to parents, be mindful of parents' time, minimize the hoops parents have to jump through to get information on what is going on in school, and to not use children as a way to fundraise for the school. Take time to read her comments, my summary isn't doing them justice.

As a teacher without a school age child of my own I really appreciate this perspective. We need to know where the problems are before we can fix them. Little things like working on consistent communication may make a big difference.

 There are places where the relationship between the school and the parents is completely broken. If we are going to improve education for our students it is essential that we repair this relationship. We must operate as a team with parents and we have to figure out a way to do that.

So I'm asking you to take the same time that anonymous did and let me know-

What did a school do that caused you to lose trust that the school was looking out for your child's best interest?

What do schools do that let you know your child is in good hands?

What do you want to see out of your schools?

What can schools do to rebuild your trust?


Anonymous said...

Twice, the schools (K-8) flunked my child in Reading even though he tested at least four graders above grade level, because he would not do worksheets of stuff he had known for years. I can see grading him lower on seat work, but flunking him? when he was severely depressed? what a travesty.

organized chaos said...

That's horrifying. I'm really sorry that happened- and that the school didn't appreciate the situation. My current district is moving toward a more meaningful report card (which I love) that doesn't grade effort, but instead what the student actually knows.

Anonymous said...

My child's elementary school report card is awful. The grades range from 1 - 5. 1 is far below basic, 5 is passing the next year's grade level in that subject. The grades in the report card are better correlated with the calendar than the child's actual skill level. A child cannot get higher than a 3 the first marking period, no higher than a 4 the second marking period and can get a 5 only if the teacher feels like at the end of school.

One year, my daughter's reading scores steadily declined throughout the school year. Her grades, went from 3 to 4 to 5.

The report cards not only provided no meainingful information, but we had to figure out a way to finesse our discussion with her about what they might mean.

Anonymous said...

It is important to be both honest and transparent with parents. There should be a reason that is both in existence and available for parents to find out regarding how children are placed in specific classrooms.

Secret policies and/or "this is the way we do things" engender suspicion and ill will.

Never lie. Even if the parent does not call the school on the lie, they will remember and share with their friends and acquaitances. At my children's elementary school, the principal has a reputation of lying when the truth would serve her equally well. I don't know how many times I have heard "well, the school says this, but what really happens is that."

organized chaos said...

Anonymous re: grades- oh wow. I'm very curious to hear your perspective because that sounds a lot like what our district is moving toward. How did the school communicate that report card shift to you? Can you be more specific about how it didn't carry any meaningful information?

organized chaos said...

Anonymous re: lies- I'm willing to bet that's an environment where the teachers are equally frustrated with the lies- if the principal is lying to parents she's probably lying to the teachers as well. That's a really frustrating culture to be trying to get information from. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Re grades: A little more succintly this time. I want a report card to tell me what my child is learning and how well she is doing. The standards based report cards we get tend to show what time of year it is and what the teacher has gone over in class.

Since my kids are in heterogenously grouped classes, they often repeat the same material ad naseum and learn nothing knew for months on end. Even if the teacher hasn't gone over the material in class that year, they are likely to have already mastered it in previous years, however, this cannot be made evident on the report card, because then it would be clear that the school has no intention of teaching them anything that year.

Happy Elf Mom said...

Hello! Was browsing through blogs and hope you don't mind my commenting on an old post.

Reading your blog, it strikes me that you were trained that locking kids into closets is not even an option. Nor yet is paddling. But in our district? It's happened and is probably happening still. What to do to pass good laws and re-educate a huge bunch of teachers in 21 states that this-all is not even remotely ok?

I live in Missouri, just outside Kansas City. My son was kept in a "safe room" after refusing to come out from cowering under desks (he's autistic; he's not trying to be a discipline problem) and whatnot as a first grader and he is severely traumatized. And I'm NOT talking about a "sensory room" or a time-out room with things to do. I'm talking about four feet by six, cement walls, locked in with a little window in the door. My son has been homeschooled almost five years and yet returning to public school is still a scary process.

I do see some things changing slowly in our district but it seems teachers' unions should be the first people speaking out not only "for the kids" (yeah, right, like that happens), but also for the teachers who are woefully underprepared to deal with the difficulties special-needs children often present.

We spend so much money to ensure children test at a given (albeit arbitrary) level, but little to none on ensuring they are respected and valued as people and treated humanely.

I don't know. I shudder to think of what could have happened had I not homeschooled. My son is a poor speller, but otherwise, I've done a great job with him, he tests average in state assessments, and most importantly? I feel I have saved him and given him a good childhood.

Now that my son is in school, I am working on *my* attitude that teachers cannot be trusted. I am trying to be more of a "you can trust, but only this far" sort of a practical person.

But I think this is a biiiig elephant in the room when it comes to "trusting" educators. It seems teachers don't really want to talk about it, or when they do, are quick to say it doesn't happen in THEIR school...

organized chaos said...

Happy Elf Mom- I am horrified about your son's experience in school! I can't imagine that happening, but I know it does. A "safe" room? I am speechless. Wow.
I think you are right about the elephant in the room, which is part of why I wrote this post and asked for feedback. Clearly we have to do something to earn back the trust, even if we were not the ones to personally lose your trust. The only way to do that will be to identify where the problems are and work to fix them.
Thanks for taking the time to share your story.