Dear Editor,

Who is really responsible for the success of students? Is it not the schools’ responsibility to teach students to follow the rules in preparation of becoming law abiding citizens? Is it not the teachers’ responsibility to prepare students for careers and other aspects of the work force? Is it not the responsibility of the parents to instill those components necessary for students to begin school? Those components include self-respect, self-discipline, a desire to achieve, and respect for others. Is it not the students’ responsibility to have the desire to want a better life and a desire to want a better world in which to live? Educators for public schools can attest that there is a breakdown somewhere between preparing children to enter the schools and preparing them to enter the real world.

With so many responsibilities placed in the laps of public schools, it can almost be labeled a miracle that administrators survive their tour of duty. Each school, however, is fortunate enough to have administrators who oversee hard-working and dedicated teachers, ensure that curriculum matches the expected standards by the state, and develop budgets to adequately operate a school. Oh, and let’s not forget the evaluation of the teachers – an evaluation that may or may not be accurate. What is meant by this? Are teachers being evaluated on how they conduct their class and teach the material set by the standards? Or are they being evaluated based on what students have mastered and how well students perform on standardized tests?

Well, if we can’t get students to enter the classroom and hold up their end of the bargain, it is almost impossible for any teacher to hold up theirs. That one enormous task is discipline – minimizing the negative behavior by students which causes disruptions in the classrooms, in the school building, and on the school campus. It is the responsibility of the parents to make sure that these students come to school prepared to learn.

The responsibilities of teachers have become endless. Their days begin with taking attendance and ends with…Well, there is no end. There is the responsibility of documenting the progress of multiple students with varied educational levels and varied educational experiences. Individualized Education Programs (IEP) must be followed precisely or teachers jeopardize their hard-earned careers. There is no problem with following the IEPs, but there are so many that keeping up with what to do and when to do it is a challenge. Then there are the 504s that must be implemented with the daily course of study. There must be records kept to inform parents of behavioral infractions, academics, and emotional instabilities. We must not forget to include the English as a Second Language (ESL) students. That documentation is just as crucial as the IEP documentation. All other responsibilities include benchmark data, progress monitoring, lesson planning, test designing, depth of knowledge training, documenting in Educate Alabama, technology training, and much more.

To top it all off, the average teachers deal constantly with inappropriate remarks from students, distractions that interfere with other students’ learning, side conversations that are carried out during classroom instruction, and extreme emotional behaviors that seem to come with the territory. Teachers are limited, too limited, in what they can say or do to correct negative behavior, and the students know this! Teachers remaining the role model in and out of the classroom create stress that sometimes becomes nearly unbearable. Teachers are powerless because of the lack of discipline from students, and they are sometimes deemed incapable of carrying out their duties as teachers by administrators who tell them that there is an urgent need for better classroom management. How can classroom management be the solution when students are not well-managing their own behaviors?

Parents may be the breakdown in our educational system! Parents have more control over the success of students than anyone is willing to admit. But it is all too easy to place the blame elsewhere. The home environment has a huge impact on how students arrive at school ready to learn. Home life plays a gigantic role in the ability to teach students, and there is only so much a teacher or administrator can do. Many parents simply don’t take interest in partnering with school officials to provide a good education for their children. They are just not ready to take those first few steps. Therefore, students are not ready to include those components necessary to achieve academic success -- ethical behaviors and respect for those placed in positions of authority. Where students live should not impact on where students are trying to go. However, parents need to encourage students to dream and dream big. It is not too difficult to bring children into the world. The challenge is raising them and preparing them even before they set foot inside the school. The message to parents is to stop letting the system take charge. Children should be the primary responsibility of the parents. This will make it easier for teachers, community leaders, and the rest of society.

All those who have entered a classroom as a teacher, paraprofessional, or school counselor know the challenges of getting an entire classroom of students to cooperate and do what they are supposed to do versus what they want to do. It is not recognized enough that students are responsible for conducting themselves in a manner conducive to a learning environment. Students have either forgotten or simply don’t care that it is the right of all students to get an appropriate education in an environment free from disruptive behavior which adversely affects the academic achievement of others. The excuses the students use for not performing well have become redundant. It is time now for students to put an end to the excuses and start providing reasons why success is possible. Parents and students need to stop blaming everyone except themselves for the shortcomings of the students. It is detrimental that parents take a stand and be parents so that teachers are able to teach and not spend a percentage of their classroom time managing negative behavior and dealing with other issues that should be the responsibility of parents. Teachers are not miracle workers. They are human beings trying to make a difference in the lives of children. In order for them to perform exceptionally in the classroom, students and parents need to perform exceptionally well in their roles as educational participants. Parents must realize that they are their children’s learning models and that it is the attitudes of the parents which greatly impact students’ educational journey.

The first teacher students ever encounter is the parent. One of the parents’ jobs is to exhibit meaningfulness of education and to support the desires for student learning. Parents and teachers must hold students accountable for schoolwork while displaying a positive attitude towards school and education. A quality education must be top priority in every home. After all, it is the opinion of parents that shapes the opinion of students towards school. No longer should parents expect the schools to be accountable for student learning if parents are unable to be accountable and educational models for students. In other words, everyone has to play a part when it comes down to educating future leaders in our communities. The parts of educators and parents are not clear in the educational arena. Who is responsible for what? This is a question that truly needs answering before the educational crumble has no more room to fall.

Sincerely,

Dr. Sharon Dean

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