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December 2, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Readers offer their views on the parent-teacher school dance

“Many of us are guilty of the wretched excesses of overparenting. Not all the time. But there’s something about education that makes us sometimes sip from the crazy cup. I’ll cop to it if you will.”

EDUCATIONWith those confessional words, I use my most recent column to launch an exploration of the delicate dance between parents and teachers and principals. Reader responses have been thoughtful. Everyone is in agreement that parents deserve a voice and teachers deserve respect. But there are shades of gray when it comes to our children.

Thomas Munyon, who taught school briefly after a career as a naval officer, laments the days when parents concentrated less on teachers’ failings and more on holding their own kids accountable. Here’s an edited version of his email to me:

“My parents showed respect for my teachers. There really were no incidents where they had to take my side against a teacher or school administrator. Had I ever come home with a story about a run-in with a teacher I would have probably received a second dose of punishment. I only taught for four years before my
wife persuaded me to just take an hourly wage job to supplement my military retirement. I was about to lose my mind.”

Joshua from South Seattle connected poor behavior in the classroom to ineffective parenting, a problem that is a greater burden on teachers trying to work with 30 kids than on the parent.  He wrote:

Basically, it’s the classroom attitude of the students and how it either can or, more likely, greatly impede student learning and progress. I’ve read articles and heard from other teachers that classroom progress can drop to a quarter of what it could be by just one or two disruptive students, let alone a classroom full of children not paying attention or goofing off. I believe this attitude in the class room has multiple roots, but near the bottom must be the way the children are parented.

And Katy Warren took to Facebook to say that she had spoken to a kindergarten teacher who had been through the WaKIDS pilot  (the Washington state kindergarten assessment) and who spoke with amazement about how helpful it was to meet with the parents in a low-stress set-up before school started – it enabled them to establish a relationship and then when they met again for parent/teacher conferences they were able to hit the ground running, working collectively both at school and at home on things that were needed for the child’s growth. Sounds like a reform that works.

Lastly, a New York Times article likened the parent-teacher relationship to an arranged marriage in which you didn’t have much say about the choice of partner but you’ve got to work it out nonetheless. Would you agree with that metaphor? And how have you worked it out with your kid’s teacher or, if you’re a teacher, how have you learned to enlist parents as teammates rather than  headaches?

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