Teacher's Desk: Shape Up, Parents

I keep telling myself I like my job and love my students, but when the weather is mild, students’ behavior gets wild. And boy, could I use a mental health day today. I awoke this morning with a bad case of crabbiness, but unlike regular public school teachers who get ten sick days and five personal days a year, I came in. I only get five days for both personal needs and illness. I used three already because I needed two for the Jewish holidays. I understand that I work with at-risk youth, but I also know many of their parents. If these nice folks knew how disrespectful these adolescents act toward adults, I’m sure most of them would be very embarrassed.

I’m as guilty as many supporters of charter schools and vouchers about blaming poor instruction for the sorry state of not only Colorado’s but America’s declining student achievement. That is really not fair to many teachers. What I haven’t alluded to enough is the shabby habits of many of our students’ parents. Shut the television off. Turn off the video game. Give your child a healthy dinner and conversation. De-clutter a desk or table, so he has space to do homework. Ask him to show you his homework. Don’t make your teenager babysit a younger sibling and miss school. Set up doctor and dental appointments after school. Keep the iPod at home. Don’t call him on his cell phone in the middle of the day. Use the school telephone. Call his teacher regularly. Show up for parent/teacher conferences. Provide money for lunch, or better yet---make him lunch. Make your child go to bed at a reasonable time, and make sure he gets to school on time in the morning. I’m sorry if you are a single parent. I’m sorry if you are here illegally and cannot speak or understand English well. I’m sorry if you, yourself, were a high school drop out; if you are not going to be responsible in properly raising your offspring, then don’t have them. I know that sounds really harsh (I warned you I was crabby!).

Good parenting includes continuing to parent during the high school years. I know some of these young adults wear parents down, so some parents are just counting the days until the fledgling leaves the nest! But poor parenting while your child was younger had considerable effect on his behavior now. Your young adult or your small child does not need another friend. He needs a parent. He needs someone to model reasonable behavior. He needs someone to show the consequences of behavior. He needs you to say NO.

Kathleen Kullback is a special educator with an MA in educational leadership. She is a former candidate for the State Board of Education.