Being an EDU-Parent: When the Teacher with Terrible Practices Called

Last week I received a call from one of my son’s teachers about his inability to sit and copy verbatim power point notes for 45 minutes straight. To add insult to injury, this teacher went on to describe how he gives his students a “notes quiz” to prove that they wrote down every word which also gives kids a free 100 as a grade. I listened to him, a friend of mine no less, with these thoughts racing in my head…

  1. Who on earth gives kids, especially HS freshman, 45 minutes of verbatim notes via ppt?
  2. My son has to come out of this class!
  3. Wait, I have to teach my son to conform even when he does not agree.
  4. Oh my gosh, I am your friend but your teaching practices suck!!!

To be clear, this is a geography class and the class is comprised of half a period of notes and half a period of proving that you took notes. Kids sit in their assigned seats in rows the entire period and are not allowed to have any discussion or debate. The information comes from the teacher and textbook. Kids do not have access to any hand held technology other than their own devices which they are not allowed to use. Based on the rest of the conversation, pretty much every kid is completely disengaged. The curriculum is standard across the board and every class is completely standardized. (Yeah, that educon conversation about standard vs standardization came at the right moment!) This teacher did not get it and believed that what he was doing was great. He’s teaching the way that he was taught, which is traditionally what takes place in schools.

Sometimes in the “edu-twitter” world, we forget that there are entire schools built upon this very model.

Before I share where the conversation went, I need to share that this is also a coach with no planning period. Unlike other teachers, there is no time to plan lessons during the school day. He is either coaching or teaching all day and as much as there is a discrepancy in schools, especially Texas where football rules all, teachers need time to plan and collaborate…coaches too.

The Edu-Parent/Friend of Teacher Response

After letting this teacher get his complaint about my kid out, I told him three things…

  1. You cannot expect anyone to sit in an uncomfortable desk for 45-50 minutes to write paragraphs of information from ppt.
  2. With that said, I cannot be your friend if your teaching continues to suck the way that it does.
  3. Let me help you…please.

After his shock passed, we had a nice conversation about how geography should be a fully interactive class. This is the class where kids get to explore the world. They cannot explore it through ppt notes of information that they can actually discover for themselves. They needed to be engaged in way that encouraged thoughtful discussion, debate, collaboration, research and critical thinking. Kids could care less about what you tell them but will care deeply about what matters to them.

He heard me. He wants to change things and we are working, outside of school hours, on changing the face of his class.

His only question….

What if this new way fails?

My response…

Count on it failing in some way but count on the successes that you stand to gain. Like sports, there is a risk of failure but that doesn’t keep you from trying. Your classroom is no different. Your students are more than worth the effort.

(FYI…I did deal with my son because whether we like it or not, we don’t always get to choose the cards that we are dealt. You have to learn to deal and do what is needed to get what you want and need in life. He needed to learn that too. What he did in purposefully ignoring antiquated directives, was still disrespectful. As much as I agree that the teaching in this class was bad, I will ALWAYS hold my children responsible for their actions.)

Also, we did not discuss technology because before you put tech into the equation, you have to fix the bad practices because I think that we all can agree that technology in the hands of a teacher with bad practices does nothing but enhance the bad practices. We’ll get there…eventually.

Edited to add: This story was shared with the full consent of the teacher involved as this is more about his openness to change and less about my decision to speak up about what needed to change.

Comments 20

  1. First, thank you for this post. Everything from the name EDU-parent to your model of honesty has given me a lot this morning.

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      Thank you! The road of an edu-parent isn’t an easy one but it’s necessary. I will always advocate for my son no matter what.

  2. Wow… great post! Wondering how many friends I’d have to give up if I dropped those whose teaching “sucks”. πŸ™‚ You are being a terrific parents! and colleague…

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      Coaches are a unique breed though. They hear it so much until it’s normal. He had never been told that about his teaching. It helps that he wants to be an admin. I told him that he could NOT be a principal until we fixed his teaching. Luckily, he agreed. I can be pretty persuasive πŸ™‚

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        Thank you Scott! He actually laughed at that too and then I had to say…No, Really. I’m dead serious.

  3. Good for you- as a parent AND a colleague! You took a risk in giving that feedback and I am glad your colleague responded. I am also glad you pointed out that technology in the hands of teachers with poor pedagogy is not the silver bullet!
    It does make me wonder though…where is your principal/instructional leader in all this? I have a dear friend and mentor who is a building leader and observed a similar classroom in her school. She gave the difficult feedback, set up learning and planning opportunities for the teacher and now there is a change. Not perfect but a step in the right direction. After all- we are all works in progress.
    But who is speaking up for the other students without edu-parents?

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      I am not in that school or district and I can’t speak to where his admins are. However, I can help him because he is willing to learn. I agree in wondering who speaks up for the kids with no voice…sadly, no one.

  4. Today it is possible to go beyond the limitations of the teacher and self-direct the learning. I anticipate the day when students, like your son, will have had enough and take charge. The conversation would start something like this:
    “I am bored and not getting as far with learning as I would like. What standards are we working on and what is the measure (rubric) for competency?”….”Okay, I propose that I will learn this on my own and will show you I have learned the info and skills in (customized) way. Can I work on this during class, if I am not disruptive or distracting? Will you help me if I need to find resources or am uncertain of information? Thanks” This is a student that will achieve, gain an appreciation for learning, and be ready for the initiative required in the workplace. Classroom resources and tools are needed to empower students as well as help teachers. EDU-learner!!!!

  5. A respectful way to deal with practices like this:
    – Notify the teacher the practice does not make sense for your learning
    – Offer some alternatives you could do (for example, research the ppt topic on your handheld device, or the books you bring)
    – Accept that your grade may suffer if the teacher decides your alternatives “don’t count” as learning.

    You can’t have responsibility without agency. You can be open and friendly about your choices (that’s the respectful thing to do in a group), and you have to be ready to accept consequences, but following bad practices is a dishonest and hurtful thing to do.

  6. Thank you for being honest and putting this difficult conversation out there for all of us to read and learn from! Long gone are the days when we hold our parenting tongues in fear that our children will be isolated or picked on by that poor teacher even more! Not only are our classroom doors open to each other as colleagues but to our parents as well! We truly need to function more as a community of learners…and surprise ourselves with what we can all learn! Now all the children in your child’s classroom will benefit from a more informed teacher! You have shown us all the power of 1 voice!! Thank you!

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      Thank you Svetlana. It was easier to have this conversation because this teacher is also a friend. I used to work with him and he is very open to learning as well as having this story and process shared. That makes a difference.

  7. Great post! Thank you for sharing this experience. It shows that many teachers want to improve and get better. At times we just need to be shown that there are better ways. Great job showing and helping this teacher and your son.

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      Thank you Marisa. The more that the conversation went, the less that I thought about my son. I was thinking of every other child and so was he.

  8. Deep breath –

    First, your role as an EDU-parent is critical, and I applaud you for addressing your son’s unwillingness to comply. Second, I’ve had similar conversations with friends about their teaching methods – probably not as frank as yours – but nonetheless, the talk is never easy and quite uncomfortable. Most important, when are principals, ADs, superintendents, and board members going to force hands and insist that coaches are TEACHERS FIRST? As a Texan, born and raised, this concept of scheduling up to two athletic periods and no planning period is absurd! And I don’t care about anybody being a State contender – I get it. However, the classroom must come first. So, if no planning period is available, that’s still NOT a “pass” for poor instruction; I’m glad he’s willing to work with you after hours.

    I coached two sports, sometimes three, for 17 years while teaching English with two TAKS tests dangling over my head. My classroom ALWAYS came first, and I still managed to TLAP with success before heading to the gym or track. Exhausting work. But, education can’t afford to allow coaches to slide. No teach, no coach! Very few are listening and taking action, and kids are suffering the consequences . . .

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  9. I loved this post, it really resonated with me. I know that as an educator and a parent, I will struggle with this (my daughter is only 3.5, so I have a couple of years). I really like how you are able to deal with the issue with the teacher while simultaneously teaching your son about compliance and respect. I may have a harder time separating those two things so thank you for the insight.
    I’m glad this guy is willing to learn for your and your son’s sake. I don’t think the willingness to learn, change, and improve are the norm, unfortunately. The same practices go on here at our school in Minnesota: classroom expectations for coaches are much lower during their coaching season.
    We tell students all the time that they are students first, then athletes. Teachers should have the same guidelines in their teaching.

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      Very true that it is hard to separate the two. I credit my mother for raising us in this way of thinking. You are right that it is not the norm to encounter very many that are willing to take the leap and learn. This guy is different and I appreciate that about him greatly. It wasn’t easy for him to hear but he welcomed it.

  10. Pingback: Being an EDU-Parent: When the Teacher with Terrible Practices Called | RafranzDavis.com | Behind the Teacher's Desk

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