Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Principal's Message: School is a 24/7 Job

Mrs. Smith bitched to the Principal that little Alfie's teachers never called when little Alfie wasn't doing well in their classes.  She didn't know how she could help little Alfie if she didn't know what was going on.  The Principal, in the nicest tone ever, spoke to the teachers about how they needed parental support.   He said, "If we don't contact them and give them the opportunity to intervene then we can't say they aren't involved."  He then added that large case loads are a fact of life and teachers need to deal with them.

It is a good thing I am not a teacher in Little Alfie's school because I would have several things to say about this:

1.  I raised two successful children without phone calls from teachers.  I saw them do homework every day, knew when exams were approaching, made sure they studied and was aware of each and every test grade.  When my children had trouble in chemistry or Spanish, I made sure to intervene and get them the help they needed.  It was my responsibility to know.  I didn't expect a teacher to call and tell me my son only got a 65 on his Spanish exam.

2.  Not only are teacher case loads large, the amount of free time during the day to do anything extra has decreased to almost zero.  Is this Principal now expecting teachers to work longer hours?  I am sure many are already giving up lunch and prep periods just to stay afloat.  This extra work might earn the Principal and his Cabinet some big bonus dollars but it will do nothing for the teachers.

3.  Even teachers who want to make the calls are often at a loss to find an available, private phone to use.

Mrs. Smith needs to do a better job of parenting.  She needs to be on top of little Alfie to make sure he is on top of his school work.  A teacher with 150 students cannot contact all, or even half of them.  It is an unfair and unreasonable request.


Anonymous said...


Arbeiter said...

"Parenting" is the operant word here. As a parent, I hold my child responsible for any and all achievements or lack of them in school. I do hold teachers responsible for content, but it's my child's responsibility to master that content through classroom activities, homework, tests, projects, and so on. I, as you did, will support him, but I certainly know and respect the lives of teachers and I do not expect them to call with every little detail of his problems in their class. As a teacher, I did occasionally call a parent, blocking my home number, on a weekend when I knew that this one call would have a positive impact upon the parent. I even used Google translator when I knew that the parent did not speak English. Teachers should be receiving executive pay and privileges if they are to be expected to be "on call". Since that will never happen, and since they are not network administrators, this is an absurd expectation. Nothing works like parenting.

ChiTown Girl said...

Can you PLEASE take out a billboard or two (or a hundred!) to post this for all the lazy parents out there??

burntoutteacher said...

At the my last two schools, we had to submit phone logs to prove that we were making calls home. At one school we had to hand them in weekly, at my last school, every month. I finally bought a Magic Jack subscription for $20 a year (no, I could not get my Teacher's Choice to pay for it!) so that I could call from home without worrying about revealing my home phone number or having my calls rejected. It was expected that I make calls to a minimum of 10% of my course load every week, and in meetings with my supervisor had to discuss the calls. Because there was no time or available phone during the school day, of course I was making these from home. My Saturdays were a full workday -- between having to input all of the week's data on skedula, making those calls, grading, planning, typing, etc., there was little time for family or myself. (And let's not forget the daily grading I had to schlep home -- as an English teacher there was lots and lots and I often graded from the time I got home til bedtime -- since there was never ever enough time during the school day with the "learning community" meetings, the grade meetings, etc.

Anonymous said...

As an elementary school teacher, I had parents sign their child's tests as well as their homework pad. (rather than each assignment) The assignment pad was a separate composition book which listed daily homework as well as upcoming tests and projects. I once had a parent complain to the principal I gave too much homework. The principal had me meet with the parent. I asked her to show me which nights I gave too much homework. She turns to a page and said I had 8 things listed. After we went over the 3 assignments, we read the rest: Picture money due Monday. Gym tomorrow-wear sneakers. Return trip form. Study for Spelling test. Next book report due xxxx.

I asked her how many actual assignments there were. She said 3 which would take no more than 40 minutes (it was a 4th grade class). I told her as a courtesy to parents and the students, I always added the reminders. Every single page had reminders. Parents had to sign off on the assignment journal rather than all homework so I knew they were aware. If an assignment was missed, all I had to do was write out a form with the date and subject, and all the parent had to look at the assignment book. Sometimes I wrote a quick note in the assignment book. The woman left with her tail between her legs.

I also would have a few parents tell me their kids did all the homework. I calmly said I believed them, but couldn't understand why, after all that work, the student wouldn't show me their homework? They always looked so stunned.

When I was a cluster, I made copies of form letters with boxes. If a child did something that I thought the parent should know about, I just filled in the name of the student: "To the parent of_________," and marked those bulleted areas. At the bottom was a return slip where I would place the name, date and item numbers. On the student's seating chart I would put an L for letter and a date. When the letter was returned I crossed out the L and kept those receipts. During PTC, I had all those returned notes. If a note wasn't returned, a did a 2nd one with "2nd Request" on top. This way a parent or admin couldn't say I didn't contact the parent. If a note was never returned I mailed it. As a cluster, you have @350 students. I was NOT going to call them all.

burntoutteacher said...

An addendum: to illustrate how some principals have no clue -- when I first arrive to my last school, I asked the principal to co-sign my standard form note to send home that lets the parent know the child was missing homework, not prepared for class, etc. and asking that they contact me. He said, "we don't do that here, you have to call home." I explained that this was in addition to calls home since I found in my over 20 years as a teacher, it was very, very difficult to reach the parents I needed to reach by phone. Would you believe that he fought me on this? Here I was reaching out in an additional way to parents, creating more work for myself, and he was giving me a hard time. He finally relented but then told me that I would have to pay for the mailings on my own. By the end of the day he changed his mind and told me to give the sealed envelopes to the secretary. (I guess he spoke with someone higher up, perhaps in New Visions.) What a true representative of the Principals' Academy! Stubbornly clueless!

Pissedoffteacher said...

What an ass!

Anonymous said...

I think if you are an effective teacher you are not calling 150 + students. Usually comes down to 10 -15% of your caseload. With that said, 5-10 minutes phone calls to help support students shouldn't be overwhelming if you manage your time efficiently.

I am dumbfounded with your response PO. No wonder there is such a push with teacher evaluations, and attacking teachers. Your post validates the thinking around why teachers need heavy handed evaluations.

I feel sorry for your students who came from immigrant families who didn't know how to support their children. Or the parents who had no more than a basic high school diploma or were drop outs themselves.

You children were very lucky to have a parent who understood how to help them. A teacher who knew what more or less happened at school. Children who came from a home with parents who were college graduates and probably had additional degrees.

I am really saddened by your post. I guess it is best that you are retired, you have no business being in a classroom anymore considering how negative your views are.

Pissedoffteacher said...

9:28 anonymous--you are a clueless idiot if you think immigrant parents and parents without educations can't keep on top of their children. I grew up in a project in the Bronx. NOne of theparents were college graduates and many were immigrants. All the parents knew what was going on in the schools and with their children. You don't need education to be aware.

And, if you think I never made phone calls or contacted parents you haven't really read this blog. You certainly didn't read this post because you are talking out your ass with those comments.

And, some low level clases are full of kids who have trouble functioning. Having trouble with them does not make anyone ineffective. You sound like a politician or a leadership academy principal who knows nothing about education.

lgm said...

Funny, my kid had trouble in spanish and chem too. Spanish turned out to be a class taught only in the auditory mode, with the exception of a few bingo cards with pictures. Had we been native speakers, it would have been enough. But as brand new to spanish, and not living in a spanish print rich neighborhood, auditory instruction wasn't enough for my kid to see success with written tests that included words and grammar that were never discussed, as well as 50 new words a week. The info necessary to succeed was found on another teacher's website (thank you Sra. Brownell) - written exercises that go with each unit, plus partner activities for dialogue and which had drills that the teacher was unable to come up with on her own.

Chem - same thing. All auditory. No visuals; claimed that school computer wouldn't allow it. Textbook? none issued. Took a month to get one from the school, it was worthless. Had to buy one.(see amsco vs zumdahl for the huge differences).

It is worthless to go to school when the teacher does not teach the material in the classroom. Presentations that are all auditory aren't remembered after 9 periods of a school day. Presentations that are incomplete are the norm now too.
It doesn't matter how much I 'keep on top' of my child - without the correct information and meaningful assignments he can't learn the material well. Like everyone else, I have to tutor or hire a tutor after I go buy the materials needed to get the job done correctly. Thankfully the publisher of the chem Regent's Review book will sell the answer key to the parents, saving me several hours of work. I used that to get the key animations from the internet.