PROBLEM #3: HELICOPTER, LAWN MOWER AND IN ABSENTIA PARENTS or WHY YOU SHOULD PURCHASE MY BOOK!

Over the next few days, I will reveal problems which live in our educational system. Those situations represent all four points of view found in “RESCUE THE TEACHER, SAVE THE CHILD!”: students, parents, teachers and administrators.

Problem #3: Yesterday my husband received an email from a former collegiate coach. He and his wife are dear friends of ours. Because of our friendship, I sent them my book.

He shared this with my husband: I read Paula’s book from cover to cover.  Wow – what a valuable addition to the role as well as the pitfalls of today’s teachers with what I would call practical solutions.  I have empathy for her and what she went through at the end of her career.  It is amazing how one or two people can end an amazing career that has been dedicated to the children of America and in helping them become successful, dedicated, caring, peace loving citizens of our great country. As I reflect back on my years as an educator, your wife’s career so parallels that of a coach as she and her students were so visible and subject to the whims of parents, administrators, and the public.  Without the support of administrators it sometimes becomes a hopeless cause. 

Yes, the whims of parents. I am a parent (and a grandparent). In all the years our son attended public schools and a university, I never resorted to the kind of attacks I received as an educator. Never. Not all of our son’s teachers conducted themselves in a professional manner. But I respected them as colleagues and chose not to chastise them privately or publicly. What is going on with today’s parents?

HELICOPTER PARENTS: These parents cannot allow their child to fail. They place themselves in committees, boards, and advisory roles. They helicopter close to their child and make sure said child is given more opportunities to succeed. That translates into prodding teachers to place their child in the higher academic group, the lead in the school play, the higher choir or the better sports team. I dealt with one parent in particular who was president of the PTO board and sat on the school advisory board. If I turned around too fast in my classroom, I would physically run into her.

LAWN MOWER PARENTS: This is the 21st century addition to parenting. Put quite simply, if they don’t get their way, they will mow over anyone standing in the path. When dealing with this new breed of parents, working with helicopter parents appeared easy. Lawn mower parents definitely impacted the sudden end to my career. These parents believe their child is blameless and that teachers are impeding their child’s success. They refuse to have face to face meetings when their child doesn’t succeed. Instead they hide behind their computers and level a salvo at a teacher, which ultimately crushes the teacher’s spirit.

IN ABSENTIA PARENTS: Yes, it could be said these are the easiest parents to work with because quite frankly, they don’t care about their child’s schooling. One evening after a concert, one of my singers complained she didn’t have a ride home. I asked her why her parents didn’t attend the concert. Her reply: they really don’t enjoy performances. I took her home only to view both parents sitting in the living room watching TV. They couldn’t even carve out enough time to pick their daughter up after the concert concluded. Whereas these parents seldom cause problems, their lack of attention is not conducive to producing a well-adjusted, high achieving child.

Did I miss the ENTITLED PARENT? No. This aspect of parenting manifests itself in either helicoptering over their child and the teacher or mowing the teacher down. For the record, the majority of parents are thoughtful, kind and supporting in their day to day dealings with teachers. Unfortunately it is the few who cause educators the most stress and hardship.

How do you deal with these types of parents? Can you do it alone? The common denominator when dealing with parents is the administrator. Is he able to protect his staff from parents whose points of view are skewed? When push comes to shove, will he support the teacher over the parent? Great questions. Take a break and enjoy a summer read which addresses these situations and provides solutions. Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child! is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

PROBLEM #2: ARE UNIVERSITY TEACHERS’ PROGRAMS RELEVANT IN PREPARING TODAY’S EDUCATORS ? or WHY YOU SHOULD PURCHASE MY BOOK!

Over the next few days, I will reveal problems which live in our educational system. Those situations represent all four points of view found in “RESCUE THE TEACHER, SAVE THE CHILD!”: students, parents, teachers and administrators.


Problem #2: Search the website of any university or college and read the resumes of professors who are preparing today’s teachers. These professors did not spend much time in the public school system as instructors. It does not matter today’s teachers have the 21st century technology language if their classroom is void of discipline and decorum.


Is it the professor’s fault he didn’t stay in public school K-12 education? No. The fault lies on today’s institutions of post secondary education. These ivory towers insist their faculty hold a doctoral degree. This degree insures instructors never possessed significant time in public education as the dissertation alone would take years. There are research and publication requirements saddling the backs of higher education instructors. Are these instructors equipped to arm a teacher with proven methods if a gang fight erupts in his classroom? Do these professors even begin to understand the human tragedy of homeless children in our schools or the implications of a classroom filled with students who cannot speak English? You might scoff and think these examples are the extreme. I dealt with all three in middle-class America public schools.


What could today’s colleges/universities implement to recruit future teachers? How could those institutions of higher learning utilize teachers in the field? Have you appeared at your alma mater as a guest speaker or a workshop facilitator? If you have, consider that an exception. My experience is universities/colleges do not have much of an interest in improving the public education system. Perhaps they understand that task to be incredibly challenging since the university system is a major part of the problem. How can we change that? How can teachers become proactive at their alma maters? Buy my book and find out.

PROBLEM #1: FALSIFYING TEACHER ASSESSMENTS or WHY YOU SHOULD PURCHASE MY BOOK!

Over the next few days, I will reveal problems which live in our educational system. Those situations represent all four points of view found in my book: students, parents, teachers and administrators.

Problem #1: Administrators may resort to falsely lowering a teacher’s performance score in order to drive him or her out.

Has this happened to you or someone you know? When I attended that fatal last end of the year evaluation, one of the admin hissed at me, “Up until 15 minutes ago, we thought you were retiring!” Then he disappeared for about 15 minutes while the principal continued his rant of false accusations. When the assistant principal returned, there was a freshly minted End of the Year evaluation in his hand. Its preparation so incredibly speedy that my last name was misspelled throughout. For eight years I received scores of four (the highest) with some three’s. Now I’m looking at a piece of fiction with scores of one’s and two’s. In “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!, I will arm educators with a proactive stance to end this disgraceful action.

It’s as if I awoke my final year in teaching and decided to steal money, hurt children, refuse to communicate with anyone and barely show up to do my job. You best be prepared for actions like these, as it is happening all over the nation. The new administrative credo: Don’t fire tenured teachers. Drive them out with lies and then explain they can return but in a diminished position. How do you safeguard against administrators determined to dummy down their schools with educators on the lower end of the pay spectrum? How are students and parents used in this final solution? How can teachers become proactive? Purchase “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” and find out! (Amazon, Kindle and Barnes & Noble).

IS IT REALLY BURNOUT?

Teacher burnout may affect others, but it could never become my nemesis. And for decades this premise held true. I believe burnout manifests itself in a depressive state: a teacher loses interest in working with children, finds it difficult to motivate himself to provide creative planning and truly cannot formulate thoughts while standing in front of the classroom. Those symptoms never appeared in my day to day teaching or week to week preparation. Do understand there were some days, even weeks where the teaching felt a little contrived due to the time of year or days without a break. But I always loved getting up in front of my students, sharing some valid insight to the day’s lesson and watching them run with it.


This all changed starting the third month into my last position. I noticed the following:
*All communication was through email, usually three to four paragraphs with negative connotation.
*I received an email from a disgruntled administrator written in all red caps!
*Department chair would work through the meeting’s agenda and then turn it into “here are the things you are doing wrong.” Yet, this person was not my supervisor.
*I was openly reprimanded in department meetings by the department chair and colleagues; I later found out this was common in our building.
* By the time the third principal was appointed (in three years), I was called to the office and scolded in closed door meetings. My answers to the unfounded accusations never seemed to resinate.
*A 22 year old colleague was allowed and perhaps even encouraged to report to the principal about my “poor teaching practices.”
*This same colleague, on the days I was out of the building, encouraged students to write letters to the principal claiming that our program was dying and my methods old fashioned.
*Never was there a fact finding, face to face with the colleague or the principal. If a faculty member declared my incompetency, therefore it must be true. Meanwhile our program grew, but those numbers did not seem to matter.


The summer after I completed my third year at this school, I confided to another teacher that I dreaded to go back to teaching. I was burned out. At this point in this position, I never knew when I would be blindsided by a department chair, an assistant admin or the principal. I was drowning in self-doubt. Was I truly burned out?


No. I was mentally defeated by my colleagues and the administration. Experiencing demeaning conversations by those around me attacked my spirit but not my passion to teach. I continued my position there for six more years, nine total. The thrill of seeing my students grow never changed. On Sunday evenings, I felt I just couldn’t take another verbal rough up from the adults in my building. But on every Monday morning, the pit in my stomach would evaporate within minutes of my first class. Lesson learned: burnout is very real and must be addressed as it will negatively affect your students.
Disparagement by colleagues and administrators is also very real. As long as it does not diminish your passion to teach, it will not adversely affect your students. But make no mistake: it needs to be dealt with as this atmosphere of unbridled verbal assaults is driving teachers away from the profession. A good summer read to affect change? “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!”

RECOGNITION…AT A SPA!

Yesterday presented itself in the usual way: market my book; elicit responses from emails; write an entertaining yet insightful blog; upload book to Kindle. The list went on and my patience grew wary. The muscles in my neck spasmed creating…you guessed it.. a literal pain in the neck. Book marketing is not for the weak in courage and fortitude.


Finally I departed for my once a year pedicure at a local spa. Oh mind you, I get my toes pedicured about every three weeks. It’s an interesting experience and smile-worthy as I listen to the Vietnamese chatter. However today’s trip took me to the upscale salon where I received my water in a real glass and proceeded to the beautiful massage chair where I began to unwind.


The nail technician graciously asked how my day was going. I mumbled something about chaos and chronic neck pain. And then she did something we all could model from her genuine concern: she asked specifically what caused the problems. So again I tried to coherently develop a sentence about publishing a book and the many problems associated with it.


The lady in the chair next to mine perked up and leaned forward. I recognize you! The paper did an article about your book and the situations you encountered as a teacher. You’re that teacher! With my homely toes receiving the saw treatment from the emory board, I humbly acknowledged I was indeed that person. And thus began our conversation about the worsening conditions in education and the poor treatment of teachers. For you see, she used to teach. We retired teachers’ abilities to find relevant topics never fails.


If you thought I was merely a sour grape teacher who was asked to leave her position and then decided to get even by writing a book, you could not assess the situation any worse! If a measurably successful teacher, with tenure, can be dismissed in one afternoon after dedicating her life to educating children for 46 years, this is NOT an anomaly. It’s happening all over in America’s schools. Lesson learned from the conversation: a local school district made her life as a teacher challenging and she was happy to have it behind her.


After the retired teacher left, her chair was occupied by another woman whose body reflected walking art. Tattoos always intrigued me so of course I asked about hers. How that conversation led to teaching, I am not sure. Yes, she too was a retired teacher. Her experiences were a kaleidoscope of finding herself in the middle of a switchblade fight and helping lost children find themselves. Lesson learned from this conversation: university professors are not capable in preparing today’s teachers, due to the issue of not spending much time in the public schools as an instructor.


Teachers are leaving…not just “old teachers” but ones with a lifetime of finding success through failure, tremendous subject knowledge and a passion to raise up children to successful adults. The millennial educators seldom possess all three of these attributes. There needs to be a balance of old and new approaches. I do not believe our school boards or administrations understand that concept. Perhaps sometime they will find themselves receiving a pedicure and listening to the trials and tribulations of teachers. Perhaps then they’ll recognize the purity of the public servant called teacher. Will it be too late?

EMPOWERED AND READY!

Yesterday a parent of a former student wrote a scathing attack to the online article about my book. In the past, knowing full well the administration would do nothing about such an attack, I would crumble under the hurtful and many times untruthful accusations.


Yesterday was different. Reading comments about my bullying disabled children, teachers and parents did not crush me. It emboldened me! Let there be no doubt: entitled parents do attack teachers. Those attacks never come with positive suggestions or a balance of encouragement. No, instead parents sit behind those modern contraptions called computers and cast their nastiness on unsuspecting teachers. Yesterday, I found out you cannot even retire and escape the hostility.


What do we, as a nation, do about this growing blight on American education? We shame it publicly! One of my former students jumped on yesterday’s onslaught and told the parent, on no uncertain terms, she was out of line. Trouble is, students coming to a teacher’s defense will never defuse the problem. Administrators need to step up now and decide if they honor their staff or if they are willing to see this same staff humiliated by the lack of support. Perhaps during these summer months, administrators will begin reading my book or others like it and see how hungry today’s educators are for encouragement. But teachers must also hold some of the ownership to the wayward parent’s venomous emails.


Come together as a staff! Model the university system of a faculty senate. Elect people in your building to represent YOU. Not your department. Not your PLC’S, your subject area or your area of interest. Empower your staff to enforce civility at all levels: assessments, administrative decisions, parent communications and student life. It’s time American educators stopped taking the abuse and shout it out, “We’re mad as hell and we won’t take it any more!”

I Was Attacked…Again!

Today, a parent of one of my former students wrote a public letter to the editor accusing me of playing favorites, bullying disabled children, bullying teachers and parents. She ended that my reality was skewed and teachers are not leaving the profession because of what I state in my book (entitled parents and spineless administrators).

A kind gentlemen replied to her accusations: Ma’am- I’d be VERY careful about making any public claim against a teacher like this in writing…even in a comments section like this. It’s clearly based on YOUR perception. Legally this could be considered libel. Just saying- don’t be surprised if you get a summons to a civil court in the near future for monetary damages.
Unfortunately, teachers get these senseless accusatory emails constantly. And we wonder why educators are leaving the field in larger numbers than ever before. We can’t sue every parent who decides to paint a target on our back.


I replied to the kind gentleman (parent name changed to protect the guilty): Thank you for your words of wisdom to Ms. Smith. I actually write about the “Mary Smiths” of the world in my book. They hide behind computers, send vitriol emails and firmly believe they are entitled to these rants. They believe their child deserves better either because of their social status or the boulder on their shoulder. These “Mary Smiths” beat a path to the administrators’ office or better yet, that of the superintendent’s. If they can’t diminish a teacher, then they cast doubt on the teacher’s integrity with false charges. Just for the record, I received an award from the Special Education Department of my school for outstanding service and another award from the Down Syndrome Association for my dedication to Down Syndrome students. The bully mentality of the “Mary Smiths”of this world cannot be ignored and only fuel my belief that they must be addressed in the court of public opinion. Teachers, retired or in the field, deserve better. Thank you Mary Smith for making my point.

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