Last week, I met with the principal at my son’s elementary school. I’m actually the third parent of a child in my son’s kindergarten class to meet with him. A fourth parent has a meeting scheduled, and those are just the parents I know about. My son’s teacher is brand new and having quite a few issues with classroom management and developmentally inappropriate expectations.
I have emailed the teacher on numerous occasions. My husband and I have had a conference with her. Instead of improving, things over the past two weeks have gotten drastically worse in the classroom and my son has come home unhappier than ever before.
We go to a neighborhood school and see many of the parents every day at pickup or drop-off. Many parents are unhappy with what their kids are reporting, or what they’ve witnessed at school, or what they’ve experienced in talking to the teacher. The largest group is unhappy. A smaller group has let the teacher know of particular concerns. And an even smaller group has finally gone to the principal for help (individually, not because we planned with each other).
Why is this?
I know many parents are unhappy. But I’ve heard varied reasons from them as to why they aren’t trying to help. One said her daughter hadn’t been affected yet by the inappropriate punishment policy, and she was too “non-confrontational” to voice her concerns in theory alone. Another said her concerns weren’t big enough to “bother the principal”. A third says her daughter just needs to get used to it, because that is how school is. And a fourth said she’d email the teachers about one particular concern, but that she also didn’t want to bother the principal because her concerns weren’t big enough, and her daughter wasn’t saying anything, so she must not be bothered.
But to me, as a parent working hard to try and work with the school to improve the situation, it feels like they are just letting other parents do the hard work for them. I understand that it can be nerve-wracking to talk to teachers and principals. It is for me as well. But it’s also important enough that I work through my discomfort.
My son does tell me a lot about what’s happening at school, as well as how he’s feeling about it. I do admit that probably makes it easier to take action. But I know that when I was a kid, I had an experience where 2 fifth grade boys followed me around the playground my entire fourth grade year. I never told anyone. I hated it more than anything and it affected everything. And I don’t know why I didn’t tell. But it also taught me that just because a child doesn’t speak up doesn’t mean that something doesn’t bother him.
Don’t rely on other parents to do the hard work
I know it’s hard. I know you want to do anything other than make those appointments and then actually go to those appointments with the teacher and principal. But your child needs you. The other students need you. And the other parents need you. I so appreciate knowing I’m not alone in my particular case. But I would feel so much better knowing that everyone who has concerns was speaking up, because it would be helping all our kids. Every parent brings a unique voice, and a unique set of concerns, because all individuals view even the same issue differently. It can only add more information, input, and ideas to the conversation about how to improve problem situations.