The Porridge Goldilocks Ate and Parental Involvement

I know. You’re wondering where I’m going with this. I’m hoping we all know the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Long story short: broke into a home in the forest, ate some food that wasn’t hers and went to sleep. Awoken by bears and ran away. The end.

Let’s face it: In this day and age, she would have been booked for breaking and entering, trespassing and theft. However, she was very selective in what she took, and she preferred the porridge that was ‘just right’.

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As a teacher, there will always be an expectation of working with parents in the best interest of the students.  However, parents, like the kids they send us, are not all the same, and have different expectations about what involvement level they should have.

For example, my co-worker had a student that was combative, argumentative, and hated women. She documented, contacted the counselor, and did everything she could do before contacting mom. Mom said, “You need to just make him run laps”. My co-worker patiently explained that she was not a gym teacher, and that, furthermore, this was a form of punishment not endorsed by our District. Mom’s response, “Well, if you’re not going to do what I suggest, don’t ask”.

Teacher = frustrated. Parent = frustrated. Student = Still belligerent. Not a great solution.

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So back to Goldilocks. She looked for what was just right. It started me to thinking about parent involvement in school.  What parent would Goldilocks pick? Which one would she definitely NOT choose. In discussions with my co-workers, it was determined that several different types of parents exist.

Helicopter Parent

AKA: OMG I have another email from this person!!

This type of parent is ultra, super, 110% involved in the student’s life. They know every test, when it’s coming up, when they should have a project due, when every pep rally is scheduled and the who, when and where of every single cotton picking aspect of their student. Don’t get me wrong. It’s FANTASTIC when you have parents that care. This type of parent, however,  takes it to another level. They send you emails about grades less than 30 minutes after their child’s scheduled class with you is over. They want you to let them know where they sit, who they sit with, did they bring their folder to class, did they put their review in their binder, did they leave their sweater in the cafeteria, did they eat breakfast, were they allowed a bathroom break after lunch, why do they have a 98, why not a 99…?

They make you consider an illegal life as a small foreign arms dealer.

Not the parent Goldilocks would pick.

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Vicarious Parent

AKA: We don’t understand how we got that grade on the report card, A Momager

These parents have their daughter in the following events: Tumbling, cheering, drill team, dance, choir, band, twirling, soccer, softball, student council, honor society, FFA, FTA, Key Club, Junior League…..wait, did I mention that this was just ONE student?  I have honestly never seen a Dadager. I’m sure they exist, but my experience is limited to moms living vicariously through their daughters.  Their student is doing SO many things that grades are the last thing on the parent’s mind, until one isn’t to their liking. As a teacher, I’ve suggested before or after school tutoring. “No, we have dance before and after school, cheer on Tuesdays, choir events on the weekend, a fashion shoot on Friday, and a modeling class on Wednesday. We know it’s not fair, but we have so much going on and we were wondering if maybe we could take the test at a later time?”

Momagers ask you to do things for their kids that other parents wouldn’t, and for that matter, shouldn’t.

Not the parent Goldilocks would pick.

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The Ghost Parent

AKA: I know you have a parent or someone who takes care of you, right?

You’re pretty sure this parent exists because the student shows up everyday, and they had to come from somewhere, but you’ve never actually see, spoken with, or received any form of correspondence from the parent. No matter how many contacts you make and in what manner you make them, they are never returned. Ever.

You begin to wonder if the kid has a part-time job and lives alone.

Not the parent Goldilocks would pick. If she could even find them.

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The Combative Parent

AKA: I’m going to kick your a** if you ever f*****g give my d**n kid a ‘C’ again. I can have your f*****g job! I know people!

I’m friends with people on the school board! I pay your salary!

These are a special kind of people. Their child earns a ‘B’, and they want to sue you because the review sheet wasn’t word for word like the test. You write their child a referral for ripping another student’s pair of jeans in half while in the locker room during gym, and they want to meet you after school in the parking lot and discuss what you can ‘do’ with your referral. There is no reasoning with these people, and after one or two times, the front office begins posting their photo next to receptionist’s desk.

It’s best to stay away from these people. If you choose to deal with them anyway, I have 2 words for you: Stupid hurts.

Definitely NOT the parent Goldilocks would pick.

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The Enabler

AKA:  Well, Little Jimmy has ADD, ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Operational Defiant Disorder, Discipline Syndrome, Narcolepsy, Panic Disorder, Insomnia, Allergies to everything known to man, Forgetfulness, and an in-grown toe nail.  At least I think he has all these things. He’s going to be tested next week.

These parents WANT their child to have something wrong with them. It relieves them of the responsibility of dealing with their behavior issues, lack of motivation, and poor grades and decision-making skills. These parents make tons of excuses for their child, but never offer any solutions.  They attend every meeting, want their perfectly normal albeit bratty child tested for everything under the sun, and want special arrangements and treatments for their child, such as “Little Jimmy says the desks make his bottom itch. Could he have a pillow provided by the school that will be transferred from class to class to keep his bottom from itching? I think he has shingles”.

  Kids like this learn to always blame someone or something else for their failures in life. They don’t try because, well, why would they?

They have all these things ‘wrong with them’.

*I am NOT referring to kids who really DO have these disorders. *

Not the parent Goldilocks would pick.

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The Middle of the Road Parent

AKA: You let me know if you need anything of if they act up. They know how we expect them to act at school.

These parents contact you back when you leave a message, they return all forms in a timely manner, and they let you know when something is going on in the student’s life, such as a death in the family or an illness. They back you up and encourage their kids to be responsible, to be prepared for class, and to act respectfully. One phone call home about bad behavior and it’s like you have a new student the next day.  Are they perfect? Nope. Sometimes they overreact before speaking to you about a situation, or they forget to send a needed item to school. The bottom line is that they respect the educational process and want the best for their kids. Not too intrusive, not in constant contact, present, but not living through their student, they represent what a parent should be: helpful, encouraging, and involved in a manner that is adequate.

These types of parents would definitely be akin to the porridge Goldilocks ate. JUST RIGHT.

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Is ‘Duty’ a 4 letter word?

Truthfully, I can’t say I have personally ever spoken to a fellow teacher who enjoyed duty. Granted, I teach at a Junior High where watching them chew with their mouths open is a lot less charming than to see little ones swinging and playing hopscotch.  However, one thing it seems that most can agree on: Almost all schools require and need some form of duty either before or after school, or in some cases, both.  Several years ago, we had parents who dropped students off at 6:45 am. Unsupervised, they tore out ceiling tiles, stole items from display cases and broke things in the halls…and these were kids who were typically considered good. The main problem? There was no one there to watch them.

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71.64% of respondents to my poll about duty noted that they have duty both before and after school. 11.94% have it only after school, 4.48% have it only before school and somewhere, over the rainbow in a land of unicorns and wonderment, 11.94% noted that their school requires no duty. (Where is the place, and are they hiring?)

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My school requires duty twice per week, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. I have had what I affectionately call ‘Pop Tart Patrol’ for going on 5 years now. We’ve joked that teachers should have a sash and earn patches for duty stations much like the Boy or Girl Scouts. If so, I’d have 4 Pop Tarts and 5 Parent Pick-Up Cars on mine.

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Some of the comments, I wanted to share:

Even though I do morning (albeit, once a week) duty, and afternoon
walker duty… I’m fortunate to have been taken off of lunch duty. Feeling like
I should light a candle for my coworkers…    Henry

I think duty at my school is pretty fair.  Generally, we all have an
assigned duty–some better than others.  Car duty is the worst.       Suzanne

I teach in a high school.  We have duty assignments for before and
after school.  Additionally, the students have an hour lunch, but the teachers
have 30 minutes.  Guess what we get to do for the other thirty minutes?  Duty.
Duty may include the traditional standing in the cafeteria watching the kids
eat, tutoring, pacing the halls to make sure that the kids are behaving (the
kids can eat just about anywhere they want), supervising kids during open gym,
or in “interest groups.”  Most of the students ignore the activities we offer
and spend the lunch hour eating, gossiping, and walking around.          Kim

Before, during, AND after school.  Before and after my contract time
with no extra compensation.  Also, lunch duty while I am eating lunch.     Kristin

Duties are part of the school day both for classified and certified
staff. At my old site, certified regular ed classroom teachers had 15 min. of
duty daily. At the current school (same district) we have 15 min. daily 3 days a
week for half the year and 2 days the other half. We are also expected to be
with our students every day after school until they are picked up, usually
another 10-15 minutes.                       Heidi

Fortunately, my school is big and with the number of teachers and staff
involved, we only have a bus duty or car duty for parent drop off and pick up
three or four weeks each year. Classroom teachers have to do their own recess
time, but the cafeteria has paid aides, so that helps.                Charmaine

We have before school duty, lunch duty, recess duty and after school
duty. I’m ‘dutied’ out.                     Jennifer

I am the school secretary at an alternative school. All of our teachers
have duty before and after school to supervise buses. We pay two to supervise
lunch, and they spread it among those who are interested in selling 15 minutes
of their lunch time. Our teachers have one hour before and 45 minutes after
school for their prep period. It kind of comes with the territory. I don’t know
what the contract says, other than they are allowed a 30 minute duty-free lunch.
On the other hand, I am a pastor in my other life. I don’t get paid for “extra
duty,” for hospital visits, pre-marriage counseling or funeral counseling for
members (non-members are a different story). I don’t get paid for all the extra
meetings I attend, preparation for those meetings, or preparing my sermons; nor
do I get paid for all the resources I buy to or access to get those things
accomplished.As a school secretary, I don’t get paid for the cell phone I often use to
contact my principal when she is at meetings and we have a crisis, for attending
planning meetings during the summer that affect my life as the school secretary,
for the bulletin boards I do, or the art projects I design for our reward time,
or for all the research I do at night and on weekends to find ways to benefit
our kids. I don’t know if teachers “should” have to do duty or not, but if they — who
know the kids best — don’t do it, who are we going to pay to do it?                 Jan

Not all duty is created equal. Some is air-conditioned, while others bake in the hot Texas sun. Some call for you to see 10-15 students, while others have you watching an entire gym or cafeteria of children. If I made one suggestion about duty to administrators, it would be to rotate duties. Five long, long years of watching kids pick the crust off their bread, mix milk with their orange juice and slurp cereal is more than ample for me. I’d gladly trade this AC’ed job for one outdoors.

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You know that old adage that just when you think you have it bad, you look at someone else’s situation and realize you have it pretty good? This blog was one of those cases for me. I loathe duty. I hate getting there earlier than normal. I hate that afternoon duty crosses over into my gym time. I begrudge that fact that I have to give up time to plan, clean and grade to watch young adults who should be able to control themselves. Or at least I did.

Now that I have seen that, as they say, the grass isn’t always greener, it’s not as difficult for me to give 1 hour each week (30 minutes each duty). I have a free lunch period of 30 minutes and no recess duty. Granted, we don’t get paid extra, but as Jan pointed out above, quite a few jobs come with extras that aren’t compensated.

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The truth of the matter is, we are there to make sure the kids are safe. We want them to have food, shelter, enjoy a bully free environment, and have time to see us for tutoring, questions or just to talk. We don’t want them to be hit by a bus or a car, and if someone choked on a chicken nugget, we want to make sure they cough it up and breath.

So, no. Duty is not fun. Sometimes is not enjoyable. It is, however, necessary.

Do you Duty?

I wanted to talk about another teacher hot button topic: duty.

Before I do so, however, I am taking a poll to get a general feel of how everyone else functions. For those non-teachers, duty can be extra work around the school either before or after normal contract hours, and/or, during the day in place of an off period or a break. Generally, in my neck of the woods, it is not optional and receives no extra compensation.

Feel free to comment below and let me know your thoughts on the subject, how your school applies the process, if it works/doesn’t, etc. I’m withholding my thoughts for the moment so I can hear some of yours.

Please take the poll and look out for my new blog on this topic coming soon! Thanks!

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http://poll.fm/f/4dty7