Monday, March 10, 2008

Another LAUSD Rant

This article on parent-teacher conferences made me tense all over. What better way to deal with it than by posting a rant?

I wrote about Parent-Teacher Conference #1 with Riley's teacher here.

I'll try not to reiterate all the same points I made in that post, and in all my posts about why KIPP rocks, but rather focus on some of the massive generalizations made in this article.

And let me start by saying, I know I'm going to be guilty of generalizations as well, but since they apply to literally all of the LAUSD teachers that both of my daughters have had, I think that makes them pretty fair generalizations.

Okay, first off, which is it? Are parents not involved enough, or helicopter parents? Again, all I ever hear from LAUSD is how parents need to be more involved, and yet this article also complains of the parents who feel they are their children's best advocates. How about balancing out these generalizations of parents, and realizing that, while there are extreme cases on both ends, shouldn't we get the benefit of the doubt that most of us fall somewhere in the middle?!?

Next, please do not waste your funds or school funds on [expletive] mood music or scented candles. If you want to make sure I don't go off the deep end about how poorly my child is doing, then don't wait for a parent teacher conference to tell me. Call me, write me a note, an email. Let me know my child is in trouble as soon as possible. Parent teacher conferences should not be a place for major surprises.

To the teacher who was surprised that positive reinforcement actually works, please find another profession.

Quoting a teacher in the article: "It never ceases to amaze me how some parents want to tell teachers what they don't think they should be doing, what they should be doing, what should not be included in the course, what the grading scale should be -- basically how we should do our jobs." (Someone sounds defensive!)

It never ceases to amaze me how many teachers and other LAUSD staff assume that they know everything about our home lives based on assumptions they've made. "Oh, she's a single parent." It never ceases to amaze me how our level of involvement is based on how many chocolates we sell for the fundraiser, or how many times we can show up to assist in the classroom. This is Los Angeles, people! We all need to work to afford our housing!

Recently, I was talking to the lawyers here about the spelling tests my 2nd grader takes. The claim is, they're teaching phonetics. Yet, only about 3 out of the 10 words have the same phonetic sound. If you're going to teach phonetically, do I really need a teaching degree to figure out that maybe all of the spelling words should contain the same phonetic sound, but with all of the different spellings?

I used to drive myself crazy, wondering if I was actually the crazy one by not buying into all the whining (in various forms) that I've seen over and over from people representing LAUSD. KIPP LA Prep has proven to me that I am not the problem. No amount of coddling by the L.A. Times is going to convince me otherwise.


LunaNik said...

Again, I love that you're so involved in your children's schooling. Every parent should be. I actually followed your lead here and started asking about my towns school system. Not good is the general consensus. Move before your kids are in school seems to be the most popular vote. Great, eh...

KG said...

Ack! I've got a few years before I have to worry about parent/teacher conferences with my son, but reading your post made my head hurt. Especially the part about equating involvement with prepared chocolates for classmates. That scares me because I have already decided my kid will be the one wearing pre-bought costumes instead of hand-made. (By the way, I can find ANYTHING online. Seriously. It may be bought, but he'll have SOMETHING, damnit!) Chocolate size shouldn't correspond with involvement level. And kudos to you for going it alone!

OHmommy said...


I just started this point of my life and had my first parent teacher conference. I can tell, already, that I will be a lot like you.


Kori said...

What teacher-what PERSON-has the right to criticize ANY parent for being their child's best advocate? Of course we are, if we are any kind of parent at all; if I rely on anyone else to be an advocate for my children, in ANY way, shape, or form, then I am voluntarily giving up my rights and responsibilities as a parent, and basically saygin, "You know what is best for my child." Also, don't I have both the right and the responsibility to question both the things taught and the methods by which they are taught? As a fellow single parent, I agree with the generalizations that we are faced with when it comes to the dreaded PTC's; I was actually told once that the teacher would prefer to speak to my husband, and when informed that I didn't have one, was told, "That explains a lot." You are SO right in ALL of this.

Anonymous said...

I am SO not looking forward to the parent-teacher conference years!

Although I did have to recently have one with the "principal" at the day care (hello, it's a day care center -- you're the director, not the principal) about Will's napping.

Good for you for sticking with it despite the unpleasantness of it all!

(Oh, and if teachers really wanted to set parents at ease for the conferences, I think their money would be better spent on a martini bar rather than candles and chocolates!)

Melissa said...

It is good to see a mom involved in their kids schooling!

Tara R. said...

I can rant right along with you... this comment box is too little to add all I want to say about teacher conferences! Bah! Tell me what you are going to do to help my child, do it for a week, then abandon him... don't think so! If I'm not my child's best advocate who will be? You, Miss Teacher Thing? Again, don't think so! Been trying for weeks to set up a conference, it's testing week so even now we have to wait at least another five days to even expect a call back. BAH!

Lorna Costantini said...

I commend you for you interest and support for your children and their education.
I read this same article and am very interested to see the response from a parent's point of view. I went away thinking that there is a weakness in a system that stereotypes parents and teachers. It doesn't compute to me when I hear the public say things like "deal with parents" as opposed to “working with parents’ and “what do you expect from the school board and teachers” as opposed to “I wonder why they said/think that?”

It is not to say that helicopter parents don't exist and that some teachers are not as good at working with parents as others, but I don't like to generalize parents and LUAD teachers either. There is a large body of literature that offers good suggestions to promote positive parent involvement. If you are considering buying a car – you read the brochures and you do your homework. The same applies with education. Newspapers often use your emotions to sell papers, so of course, they print the sensational and quote what they think will engage parents and teachers and increase the listeners. Thus the tension and angst you write about. Did the press give you 100 ways to help your child and school succeed from
I would like to direct you to this new webcast series at - Parents as Partners Listen & chat live. Your ideas and questions are always welcome.
Lorna Costantini