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Terri Mauro

Teacher Says, 'Most Parents Don't Give a Darn'

By August 29, 2012

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AppleLast week, I blogged about a comment from a teacher who seemed like the worst nightmare of a parent who hopes for inclusion. Another recent comment from a teacher, on a post from 2008 about failing children in special education, takes parents to task for not caring enough about what goes on at school. While I disagree that "most parents" of kids in special education fit this description -- I know too many parents who fight hard for their kids, and I think there can be complex reasons behind parents' behavior that may not fit easily into categories educators imagine -- it's worth reading the comment, here at the start of a new school year, and thinking about whether some teacher could be saying this about you, and whether there'd be any truth to it. Writes Jacob in comment #16:

"I find it comical that parents want to blame the school system. I am a special education teacher and equal rights for these students is my passion. Unfortunately, most parents don't give a darn when it comes to their kids. I cannot count the number of times I've called an IEP meeting to either have the parent no show or they just flat out say, 'Tell me about it, send the documents home, I'll sign them and send them back.' Most posts I've read, you are the exception to the rule which is great, you actually CARE!!! It's sad when parents who have no concept of how the school system works enjoy bashing public schools so much instead of helping them. I wonder, how many times have complaining parents offered to help in the classroom? This is my 6th year working as a teacher, and I've been an assistant to a special education teacher for 2 years prior to that. How many parents offered help? You guessed it, ZERO. Wouldn't it be nice if teachers and parents worked together? Instead, we get phone calls from parents pissed off because their child lied to them about something. I'm sorry, I cannot fix family issues, they need a family therapist for that. Stop complaining and do something about it, get in the classroom and see what it's really like!"

Chances are, if you're reading this site, you've got some advocacy going on already and get ticked off when teachers act like parents are the problem. But if you do find yourself avoiding IEP meetings, or ducking volunteer opportunities, or communicating with the teacher as little as possible, these articles may help you step up this time around:

Photo by Terri Mauro

August 29, 2012 at 10:26 am
(1) Sharon Sarles says:

Far from comical.

I challenge you, if you are a teacher who thinks parents don’t care, to go into the teachers’ lounge and make a silent, objective assessment of what is being talked about. Educational theory? Late breaking developments on how to help children? Noodling, conferring about what to do in specific cases? Or someone’s affair? Or snarky comments about children?

Okay, after you do that for a while, then do another experiment. Read up on some new idea on how to help children. Then just try to start a conversation about it. Try 20 times. Did you find someone willing to consider it? Or did you get rude responses? Remember, you are a colleague with whom they have an inherent interest in getting along.

Now then, how about reassessing this notion: Parents just don’t care.

August 29, 2012 at 12:17 pm
(2) sylrayj says:

Communication is a difficult prospect, regardless of the medium. I had stopped trying very much to stay in contact with my son’s teachers because they generally dismissed me quite quickly. One of his teachers, now that he’s in a program to help him with his Aspergers Syndrome, is fabulous! I’m allowed to email her, to call, to arrange to stop in, and have been included in a support group with my son to help find ways to help him more. :) I cannot say enough good things about that teacher…

My daughter’s teachers, since she’s younger, had let me cut out shapes for them, but that’s not a possibility now that they’re older and ‘should’ be able to cut their own shapes. Last year’s teacher seemed both to appreciate contact, but also to reject it, and I could never tell which she meant.

Something I would like to see is some suggestions in the school newsletter about how parents might help out. I got myself a position helping in the library, and it has been helpful for the librarian and the students she can help now that she doesn’t have to shelve books, and for me, because I sometimes get to hear about things I wouldn’t have known about if I weren’t a regular presence in the school (Thanks, Terri, for the suggestion in one of your books!).

Maybe, too, we need to find out more about how things are for each other… My son’s teachers don’t automatically know that even though he’s in high school, my girl is still in the primary grades. I can’t meet with them after school without making arrangements for her, but if I have a chance to do that, I’ll be glad to come out. Some families would prefer email, others telephone, still others a newsletter. And, I would hope that a parent volunteer or perhaps a parent council member would be willing to coordinate things so the teacher didn’t have to call everyone.

There is no accommodating everyone at once, but maybe together we can improve our connections.

August 30, 2012 at 9:12 pm
(3) Jule Dragstrem says:

I am on both sides of this unique experience. Both sides are to blame. I have seen special education teachers that think they have a better handle on their children than the parents. I have seen parents ignore, complain, and skip IEP meetings, then complain about the system. I know that as a parent of 2 special needs children, I have been angry at a teacher for not listening to me. Still, I have tried to go about solving the problem the wrong way. Sometimes I want to go to the principal and complain, when I haven’t even told the teacher I have a problem. I have wanted to email the superintendent of the school when I have an IEP in two days to discuss any issues I have. My husband, who is a teacher, has to rein me in and slow me down so I don’t do anything stupid. Sometimes, we, as parents of special needs children, get the idea that the system doesn’t care. Maybe we need to get the chip off of our shoulder and approach the situation in a cautious, logical manner.

September 7, 2012 at 10:10 am
(4) specialchildren says:

You’re welcome, sylrayj, for the library suggestion. I loved my library volunteer/intelligence gatherer days. Really missed them in high school, when they stopped using parent volunteers. I put in an application for a part-time job at the library in my kids’ community college, but no offer yet. :)

For those who want to consider library volunteering, I have an article on the benefits at http://specialchildren.about.com/od/specialeducation/qt/library.htm

October 12, 2013 at 11:29 am
(5) Diana's says:

So teachers are not supposed to have any down time? We are supposed be about and discussing educational theory during our 15 minute lunch? Yes teachers care so little about their students and their professions that all they do is make snarky comments about students. During our lunch we have made it a policy to not talk about school related matters at all – we need a break. We talk about our own children, lives, etc. yes, we do have lives. I worked as an engineer when I was younger and never was there a discussion of the latest engineering developments during our 1hour lunch. Get real and stop bashing teachers. The vast majority of us work hard every day to provide your children with the best education possible as well as tend to their emotional well being. This ridiculous blame game helps no one.

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