Owning the Dart: Change with Me, Don’t Criticize Me (By All Means, Reflect)

Tonight I took Braeden to his school for family math night. Within ten minutes of walking in the building, three things were apparent…

  1. Table cloths are supposed to make worksheets more engaging.
  2. I hurt a lot of feelings with my blog.
  3. Those teachers have no clue that what “worked” years ago is irrelevant now.

We walked into his 3rd grade hallway and were faced with three choices.

  1. Fact family worksheets neatly decorated with a picture of a pumpkin
  2. A worksheet of multiplication color by numbers
  3. Multiplication musical answers…where kids walked around stepping on multiplication problems. When the music stopped, they were given a product. The winner was the one standing on the correct matching problem (FUN)

Before Braeden could make his choice, a teacher that I knew walked up and said,

Oh we know exactly which one your aunt wants you to do.

For the record, it took zero prodding for Braeden and every other child to choose the multiplication musical answer game.

I tried to ignore her statement but I knew at that moment that she may have possibly read my blogs. After Braeden left, this teacher, a different one than his own teacher,  cornered me to tell me how much I hurt her feelings. She then went on to try to convince me of how hard they work and how wonderful their school is. To make her point, she stated…

I taught your son (now a HS freshman). Did he not learn with me? Did you complain back then? We’re doing the exact same work that we did then and it was ok.

My response:

Six years ago seems like a lifetime. I didn’t know better back then so I didn’t complain. In the last few years, as I’ve grown, I’ve been exposed to better practices than what we used to do. If you read my blog, I’ve even acknowledged my own mistakes. What I know now is that what I did back then wasn’t always best. I can’t help that being connected to education on a more global scale has changed my perception. No, the mounds of worksheets are not okay. I will not stop advocating against that. I can’t in good faith ignore it. As creative as Braeden is, he has to power down while in school and that’s sad.

We went on to talk about testing and how it drives what they do. She talked about needing to prepare kids for solving tough word problems and reading passages. They have to have those test taking skills, right? In the state of Texas, they do. Not teaching those skills can be the reason that some child isn’t promoted to 4th grade. None of those teachers want that on their backs. That’s why they haven’t changed in probably 10 years. Why change what works, right?

I ended the conversation by saying…

I’m sorry that your feelings were hurt, but my main priority is Braeden. In addition, I’ve received countless messages and emails from teachers and administrators who have said that those postings have helped them to reflect and re-evaluate what they were doing. Things may not change for Braeden but they are changing for other kids and that’s a win.

After acknowledging that I had the right to report matters of my family as I pleased, the conversation ended.

I wanted to share more with her but tonight wasn’t the platform for doing so. I wanted to share that she too could be enlightened by best practices. She could read blogs by classroom teachers who are sharing what their kids are doing. She could connect with other classrooms via skype or Google Hangouts. She could join twitter and devote countless hours to growth. She could attend edcamps and even Dallas area conferences. She could ask her students how they learned. She could start with looking at how many parents and kids chose options 1 or 2 from above…worksheets…Zero.

My reality is that being connected has forever changed me. When you know better, you do better and you expect better as well. Tonight further solidified my plight to share with even more teachers. We should all be reflective agents of change. We should all want what is best for kids. We should never assume that what we do, especially from years ago, is still okay.

I spoke up in a town where no one speaks. Tonight, I walked away from Braeden’s school proudly displaying the invisible dart on my back that they’ve all bestowed upon me.

In case you missed it…”we did the same work six years ago”…

Time to reflect and change.

Comments 11

  1. Keep advocating for change Rafranz, I am inspired by your blogs… I will gladly help you heal the wounds invisible darts leave in their wake.

    1. Thank you Lise! I really do appreciate your support. I pray for the day when the children of my community are all afforded the right to an education beyond low level thinking!

  2. I LOVE this post! You are doing amazing things and sometimes, peoples feelings get hurt. If you had posted these things about me, as much as I would like to think that I would be above it, my feelings would be hurt too.

    The difference is that you’re offering constructive comments rather than just teacher bashing. I am honestly a little scared for the time when my kids go to school. I don’t want to be the parent that the teachers dread and I don’t want them to take that out on my daughters.

    At the same time, I won’t be satisfied with sub-par teaching for my children. Keep fighting the good fight!

    1. Justing, what you’ve just given me is perspective. I’ve tried to keep all postings highly constructive. I understand their position with testing as well as district mandates and I try to acknowledge that as well. I don’t want to be the parent that every teacher hates but at the same time, I think that it is within our right to have high expectations. I also expect our district and teachers to expect the same. Change can come when we are willing to stand up and act. It’ll be a long road but it’s definitely worth the fight! Thank you so much for your thoughtful response.

      1. I completely agree with you! All of the posts that I’ve read have been constructive criticism and have seemed to me to be offering advice as well as your opinion.

        But I think about the kind of teacher I was last year and how unreceptive I was to ANY criticism. I knew what I was doing wasn’t great and could be better, but unless I was specifically ASKING for help, I didn’t want to hear what anyone had to say.

        “No one knows what it’s like in my class! It’s different than anywhere else!” That may or may not be true, but my perception locked everything else out. I came to #MTBoS on my own, but if someone had forced me to join as part of a district initiative, I would have scoffed and hated it forever, no matter how good of a resource it is.

        Teachers like to be kings/queens of their domain and it’s often very hard to give up control. In a sense, getting advice or criticism from an outside source is like admitting that we don’t know what we’re doing.

        What that teacher did, confronting you, took a lot of courage and I think she’s to be commended for that. She could have written you off as a nut, like I have to so many parents in the past, but she chose to talk to you about it. Maybe, once tensions have cooled down, it might be a good idea to sit and talk with her about her goals for Braeden and how you can assist her in achieving them.

        1. I will say that this was not Braeden’s teacher but another teacher on her team. I think that the professional relationship that we once had aided in her comfort in having that conversation and you are right, she needed to be and was commended for that.

          Their issue is really at the district level. This school district does not have the embedded support that other districts have. Their admin wants things to be taught a certain way…traditional. We agreed on that.

          She did not like that other parents were beginning to question the work that kids were doing because of me. I’m glad that they did.

          Hopefully before they print that worksheet packet with a copyright date of 1989, they’ll consider the purpose.

          1. Interesting. I often say things about the vision of the district and will get a response from other teachers along the lines of “Shh! There are parents around!”

            I know there are parents around and they need to understand that things are not always they think. They need to know when teachers are being asked (forced) to do things that are not in the educational best interest of their children.

            If making those parents angry about what’s happening leads to change, then it was worth it. If this teacher doesn’t like how things are going, then maybe that’s a perspective to which she might be receptive.

          2. I think that this teacher is okay with the vision of the district. This is all that they know. What we see as academic progression for all, they see as gifted education only.

            I’ve been thinking about this situation quite a bit. I have connections within our community and I really want to help parents help their kids. I need to think deeper about how I can help them bridge a connection with our school. That’s the only way that this dialogue continues in a way that is positively beneficial to kids.

          3. “Rafranz Tutoring Service For Parents and Teachers: Learn to help them learn!”

            I’ll accept a 20% commission for coming up with this brilliant idea.

  3. Well said, and thank you.
    Contrary to the popular meme, “doing what you’ve always done” no longer gets you “what you always got.”

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