"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Monday, May 26, 2008

Teaching and the Golden Rule - a Rant

I just read a popular advice column and the writer was concerned that her child would pick up four letter words from her potty mouthed husband. The husband insisted that what he said was no different from what the child would hear on TV and, therefore, he couldn’t be blamed for teaching the child to swear. The mother was concerned that the child would go to school using gutter language.

There is so much wrong with that scenario that I won’t bother to dwell on it.

The advice columnist had some things to say about commitment to change; that the husband needs to not undermine the wife’s attempts to clean up junior’s language; and, (the obvious) changing the channel. What BOTHERED me was that the columnist breezily stated that the child’s teachers would “make sure he doesn't swear in school…”

I see this sort of mentality more and more frequently. For some reason, teachers are viewed by many as surrogate parents. Some people seem to think it is a good idea (assuming it were even possible) for a teacher to have the responsibility of “parenting” 20 – 30 grammar school kids 6 or more hours a day.

I mean, seriously - parenting even 2 - 3 kids is tough.

At the same time the teachers are supposed to be doing the parenting, they are supposed to be educating the other kids. They also have to discipline trouble makers without benefit of corporal punishment which means that there is a lot of talking, and explaining, and reasoning, and paperwork, and contacting parents to explain, and allowing them to file grievances, and having meetings to discuss how the discipline was handled, and putting into place plans about how to approach the problem in the future, and accommodations if the child has special needs, etc. (as opposed to a quick swat if junior doesn’t toe the line). Do I like swatting kids? No. When I was a teacher, I refused to do it. But let’s be practical, here. What is worse? A swat or total chaos? Have we reached a tipping point in some schools?

One (just ONE) bratty 7 year old can take up the bulk of a teacher’s time that should be spent educating the children who are sent to school to learn. In the meantime, the criminal justice system is sharpening its knives, preparing to make a meal out of the child who, by the time he reaches his teens, has never learned about the Golden Rule OR that society really doesn’t care about his individual happiness.

And on a slightly different note, why in heaven’s name aren’t many parents teaching their child how to deal with life’s typical disappointments and obstacles instead of simply trying to clear his path? Do the parents really believe that society will make allowances for their child as he gets older, bigger and meaner? Do they really think the rest of the world will love their child the way they do and put his best interests first?

I’m not saying it is easy or painless. Parents’ hearts are broken every time they see their child get his feelings hurt or maybe get the short end of the stick. Welcome to the club. Back in the day, kids were taught the importance of dealing with unfairness with grace. It was a good lesson. It didn’t teach a defeatist attitude – it taught PEOPLE skills, which are nice to have if you want to be successful.

But back to the article and my distress about the columnist’s take on teaching. Teaching the importance of using appropriate language is a PARENTING issue (as opposed to teaching grammar which the teacher is equipped to handle). The teacher should not have to waste MY child’s time in school having to deal with that sort of thing. For an advice columnist to assume that this is part of the teacher’s job to teach children basic good manners is ridiculous. I have to wonder if the writer of that column ever had her own child’s educational opportunities put on hold while the teacher tried to civilize a child who came to school acting like a savage.

Parents – for the love of god, civilize your children before you turn them loose on us. A lot of folks are leading miserable lives, have a string of broken relationships, are sitting in jail or are dead because they never learned that the world does not revolve around them.

Forgive the rant. I’m afraid it sounds sort of mean spirited but I used to be a teacher and firmly believe teachers should be able to educate the students instead of parenting some incompetent’s child (because you really can’t do both). Moreover, if the hellion child’s parents simply undermine everything taught during the day, anyway, it is a COMPLETE waste of everyone’s time and resources.


Anonymous said...

We have an 'alternative'school here for kids that just can't function in the public school system. Kinda like one step down from juvenile detention. It's set up for 6-12th graders. A couple of years ago, they had a 4th grader there (9-10 year old!!). She (yes..SHE!) was there because of her language. They could NOT get her to clean up her mouth...so ended up putting her in that school to keep her away from other kids. I always wondered about her (and where she ended up). What kind of a home life did she come from?

Totally agree with you (yet again!) Teacher should teach, and yet, spend any time in the school/classroom, and you realize...they have very little actual teaching time. sigh...

Penny said...

I feel a bit like an old grouch by complaining of that sort of behavior.

It is tough to raise kids, these days. You didn't even need to talk about this "back in the day." Back then, if a kid talked like that, mom would automatically be reaching for the soap (which she probably wouldn't actually need to use). Nowadays, you get into a debate over the source of the language; whose responsibility it is to explain etiquette to the child; a worry that the child's psyche will be damaged if they aren't allowed to express themselves (or, heaven forbid, embarassed that they misbehaved); concern that you will be viewed as a bad parent if you DO put your foot down; and a complete lack of consensus regarding whether ANY adult should be talking that way in front of a child.

"Back in the day," a dad would immediately remove his children from a "bad" environment and kick himself for exposing them to it in the first place. Alternatively, depending on the location, he'd simply remind the loud mouthed idiots that, "there are children present." The response of the adults was generally shame, even horror, that they "slipped" in front of a child. Now? The parents are debating whether they should clean up their OWN language since the kid hears worse on the TV (in their house), already.


Anonymous said...

I guess I really wonder about the TV thing. The worst my kids hear on TV is 'bleeeep'. And if I hear a bleeeep...we change the channel! Of course, we don't get any of the premium channels which I hear don't bleep..but are those programs the kids should be watching anyway? Lots lots lots wrong here..... probably language is the least of them...sigh...

Jacquie said...

Rant away! Sometime the folks not in classrooms don't understand what teachers are asked to do on a daily basis. In addition to the time it takes to discipline, we have to teach hygeiene and manners and bus safety and railroad safety and sex education and save the whales etc etc and do bus duty and cafeteria duty, hall duty, before and after school care, participate in every stupid contest or program that some well meaning person comes up with who doesn't realize the time it takes from the job we need to do. I love teaching and I get much joy from working with kids. I want to partner with my parents, not replace them. Ooooh, got on my soapbox. Sorry.