Friday, October 9, 2015

Cut us some slack, alright?

I'm getting to the age where many of my friends and old classmates have school-aged children.  One thing that always grinds my gears is when parents vent about their child's teacher on social media.  One because it's a very public call-out (even if names aren't given.. enough people know who you are talking about) and two because parents generally don't "get" it.

I had a colleague last year who dealt with this.  The student in question was a student who was caught cheating on their test.  Not only that, but the parents refused to acknowledge it despite the student admitting it.  The student was failing because they did not understand the material and was spending zero time studying at home.  Yet somehow, because "this student is an A/B student", the parents felt it was the teacher's fault for not teaching the student properly.  Said parents decided to blast this teacher all over facebook (of course leaving out the teacher's side of the story) and many parents got upset at this teacher.

A friend of mine on facebook was similarly (and vaguely) saying horrible things about her daughter's teacher last year.  Based on what she was saying and based on what I knew about teaching, there was easily a misunderstanding going on there.  When I asked her if she had talked to the teacher to clarify she said she hadn't because she was too mad.  I sent her a private message urging her to talk to the teacher before saying things all over the internet.  Sure enough, there had been a misunderstanding.

I got an e-mail from a parent last week whose daughter (we will call her A) came home crying because of my class.  She was upset because she thought I didn't want to help her figure out what her missing assignments were and that she would be stuck with them as zeroes in the grade book.  On the surface, it had appeared that I brushed her off.  But the story went much deeper.

As a traveling teacher, I arrive at my second school right before noon.  Just enough time to take 20 minutes to eat my lunch and take a quick mental break.  The bell for my next class rings at 12:23.  That day I had a fun activity planned that required me to do some setup in the room.  However, right as I was heating up my lunch, a student came to get some help on her lunch time.  So not only did I barely get to eat my lunch during my lunch time, I also didn't get a chance to set up for that class.  Once the bell rang for passing time, I quick went to my room and was scurrying around trying to set up.  As I'm setting up, A came up to me and said, "I have a few missing assignments and I don't know what they are."  I told her that I needed to set up and that wasn't the best time to be asking me.

The problem with this scenario was A didn't know that I had just spend the last 20 minutes trying to eat lunch and tutor a student at the same time.  She didn't know that I had to get stuff set up before the bell rang so I really couldn't help her with her assignment before then.  So she could only assume the worst.  As did her parents.  And this all wouldn't have happened if I hadn't given up my lunch break to help another student.

Thankfully I explained a little further what had happened and everything is fine.  If that parent had just assumed I was brushing her daughter off instead of clarifying with me, this poor student would still be sitting in my class thinking I had no desire to help her.

In this day and age of professional development requirements, technology requirements, extra duties, and more... not to mention personal lives like spouses, children, parents and hobbies.. the life of a teacher is hectic.  It's chaotic.  It's disorganized and messy. 

We are getting to the point where teachers are put on a pedestal.  The expectations are skyrocketing.  We must handle ourselves a certain way at all times because of the position we hold.  Teachers are expected to be teachers and ONLY teachers.  And when you're being a good teacher to someone else's kid, then you're not being a good enough teacher to another's.  We must be perfect all the time.  We must be willing to give up our free time to help students with little thanks to show for it.  If a teacher isn't a great teacher, we must publicly flog them.  Forget giving them the benefit of the doubt.  The general public obviously knows more about what a teacher needs to do than a teacher does (insert sarcastic face here).

That teacher who didn't reply to your e-mail by the end of the day? She was assessing all of her students one at a time and then had a doctor's appointment immediately after school.  That teacher who didn't put your missing assignment in the gradebook within a few days?  He has a stack of missing work to grade that is one inch thick because so many students turn their work in late.  That teacher who took a week and a half to grade your test and give it back to you?  She had a sick child at home and had to spend her spare time making sub plans to make up for the three days she'd spend at home taking care of him.

To any other perspective, the aforementioned situations would warrant major annoyance from any parent or student.  But to the teacher's perspective, he/she is giving it her all and then some just to get through the week.

So cut us some slack.  We're people too.  And when in doubt, talk it out.  Privately.  I can almost guarantee you there's more to a situation than you think.

photo from


  1. I would love to share this with everyone that I know. If only people understood what we do and that we do all of these things for their children, maybe they would be more willing to ask the question rather than make the assumption.

    1. Thank you for your comment! Feel free to share away!