Recently posted on social media by a teacher at her wit’s end: Simple request from a teacher to all parents: be kind. I have had my ass chewed more this week than in all my years of teaching combined. I didn’t plan the pandemic. I don’t make the rules. I am doing my best to keep up with more while having less (less (wo)manpower, less access to students, less time, etc.). I am neglecting MY children to help yours. I am never NOT thinking about how to be more…more effective, more communicative, more gentle. I am human…and I can only take so much. I am NOT your enemy. I am in your court. And I love your kids.
Isn’t there enough hardship with the pandemic, closed schools, loss of jobs, and riots? What parent truly believes now is the time to pile on their children’s teachers with petty complaints or worse, vitriol emails?
In my book Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child! I address parents and their lack of support for today’s teachers in Chapter 5 (Parental Assault, The Entitlement Factor, Watch Your Own Six). I honestly thought with online or hybrid schooling, parents would step back and allow for this incredibly difficult time to transpire without needless belligerence. It appears this is not the case. But it’s really not the parent’s fault. Parents are enabled by invertebrate administrators too afraid to stand up for their staff.
Until public school administrators realize America’s shortage of qualified teachers is frequently due to lack of admin support, teachers will always be vulnerable to baseless parental aggression. Such was my experience. As a performing arts instructor for over four decades, there were always a handful of parents who felt entitled to complain. My final year, one parent in particular made it his cause to attack me on every front. But never face to face, never in an email. Instead he circumvented me via my administrator and then the superintendent’s office. I was never able to confront my accuser or the central admin. Without due process, I was told if I returned to my school, I would be demoted in pay and in position. Be aware that’s the new way of firing tenured teachers. And it worked. Verbally admonished by my shouting principal, I retired. He just did not possess the intelligence nor the internal fortitude to protect me from complaints. And he is not alone. It is the common complaint heard from teachers leaving the profession.
What should administrators do when teachers are attacked? Zero tolerance. What does that mean? A parent’s claim against any teacher, when presented as an unjust verbal or email assault, will not be addressed by either the teacher or the administration. Period.
This does not preclude a parent having concerns about his child’s teacher. Those conversations should always be encouraged. I became a better teacher when a parent shared a concern with me in a kind and gentle way. This allowed me to contemplate the situation without insults and threats. With this positive environment, I could initiate a compromise both beneficial to me and the student.
America is losing one of her greatest assets: teachers. Students, parents, and administrators must come together and rectify this dangerous situation by creating an environment of positive collaboration. We all are on the same team.
Paula Baack is a retired teacher of 46 years. Her award winning book “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Ms. Baack is available for parents and educators Zoom workshops. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.