Threatened and humbled


Let’s admit it, we are scared. Teaching has become such a risky occupation nowadays, that our most urgent concern, believe me, has nothing to with education at all, but rather with our professional and physical safeguard. Why? There are two main reasons : there has been a shift of responsibilities from family to school for what concerns the care of the child, but at the same time parents find harder and harder to accept teachers’ judgements. Cooperation has become critical, that’s why nowadays everything is focused on communication, which unfortunately has turned out to be a major weapon to be used against teachers.

hit2Families must be accurately informed about school performances, truancy, behaviour (please pay attention to the passive voice), therefore it is our duty to inform them and not THEIR duty to come to school and inquire after their child. Even if we have parents/teacher meetings one hour a week in the morning with every single teacher and twice a year in the afternoon with all, plus informal communication via email, two report cards, well, this never seems to be enough.That’s why towards the end of the school year every teacher leaves everything off to provide the families with the most recent updating in order to avoid the drama, which despite all the effort is always inevitable, but above all the risk that the school might be sued for not having informed in due time.

The problem is that this tiring, bulky system does not work, because all these meetings are mostly attended by those families whose children have no real problems, while those who really have, rarely show up. They probably want to avoid the mortification of listening about their child’s (temporary) insuccess, which is felt either like their own or more often like the teachers’. It seems absurd, but it has happened that somebody deliberately left wrong telephone numbers in order not to be contacted. So when the end of the school year approaches, we start to feel that certain agitation that makes us worry more about form than contents. What really matters nowadays is whether we have diligently compiled, informed, signed , registered; everything but educating and forming the new generations. The truth is that we are missing the real object of our profession: the student.

hit 1When school is about to end, drama is always behind the corner. Those families that you haven’t seen for a whole year, suddenly materialize when they read that their child has failed. What you meet, then, is anger, rancor, bitterness that can become violence sometimes as it happened in Cosenza (south of Italy) only few days ago. The parents of a sixteen year old girl are summoned by the deputy head-mistress of a high school to inform them of the reason of their girl’s failure and to discuss learning strategies for the future. A normal procedure, in fact. At first it seems an ordinary teacher/parents conference but all of a sudden something changes. The atmosphere becomes more agitated so that the deputy head-mistress grows alarmed and invites the two to leave the room. The father, then, rushes to the door to bar the entrance and while the teacher struggles to find a way out, the mother attacks her from behind, makes her fall and once on the floor, grabs her by her neck and twist it with the intent of breaking her neck bone, while her husband is on watch at the door.The teacher attempts a reaction, but the father starts to kick her in her breast and stomach repeatedly till she faints. Then they manage to slip outside the room and leave the school unseen from a secondary entrance. When the teacher awakes, she has to be carried to the hospital and afterwards she sues the two. The girl has declared to be very proud of her parents’ doing as justice has been done.

Now, this is the end of the school year and maybe I am tired, but I cannot help but wonder how my life would be much easier if I gave high grades indistinctly to everybody. Wow. Everybody would be happy and relaxed. After all, if many parents don’t understand the importance of evaluation and don’t care about their children’s education, why should I? πŸ˜‰



35 thoughts on “Threatened and humbled

  1. Great post. Did you know that the art/picture “The Scream” by the norweigian artist Edvard Munch exists in a serie of 4 original versions? And 2012 one version was sold for Β§ 119 922 600, the second highest nominal price paid for a painting.

  2. All over the world, violence against teachers is on the rise. It is a pity that the once noble profession has become such a victimized one in modern times. This post raises an important issue.
    As to ‘The Scream’ we hope to see the original next week, since we happen to be in Norway these days.

  3. So many of my friends have left teaching in the last few years. One of them had total nervous breakdown. There seems to be an ever-increasing gap between state schools and private schools, the latter still fostering healthy competition between students and teaching them decent manners. It’s so hard for parents of really clever children, if they’re unable to send them to private schools. My son was an A-grade student and went from his prep school (fees paid by grandparents) to a state secondary school aged 10 (not 11) and came top in the SATS tests twice out of about 300 pupils. But he wasn’t pushed enough, so lost interest in studying, ending up with mostly Grade Cs for his GCSEs. At least his early private schooling instilled in him good manners!

    I feel so sorry for state school teachers. Hope you have a restful summer.

  4. nice post – and was glad I came to leave a quick note – because I saw how much one sold for in 2012 yowza. anyhow, have a nice summer – and even with the stuff about grades – evaluations – and parents and so much more – never forget the lives you touch – in ways you will never see – and so many teachers I wish I could thank now – but truly – you are in a special profession and get fresh this summer – but keep doing what you do because it makes a difference. πŸ™‚

  5. Yesterday a kindergarten teacher was stabbed to death in front of her class of six-year-olds by the mother of a one of the children. There was no reason. The woman was unhinged. Teachers are getting scared and rightly so. Too many parents expect them to replace the parental authority, but when the child does something wrong and is punished/criticised, they take it as a personal affront. That wasn’t the case yesterday, but it could have been. We live in a blame culture not a responsible one.

    • Yes, I’ve read about it. You are right. The majority of parents take everything personally as if it were their own failure and rather than cooperating with teachers , they choose to attack them.

  6. Oh I hear you, sister! As another meeting with an aggressive student who is contesting her grade (even though she didn’t turn in 45% of the work) looms, I think to myself “If I marked students easier, I wouldn’t have to endure these meetings.” The students wouldn’t be prepared for the industry they’re entering but why should I care when a lot of my colleagues don’t seem to? I understand them, after years of this, their wish for an easy life above all else. And yet every quarter, no matter show many warnings I give, I find myself here. Teaching can be heavy going–even with older students from whom you’d expect more.

    • Despite what I wrote, I don’t think I will change in time as I truly believe in the importance of right, honest,sound evaluation,unless…..I’ll find a couple of parents just like these on my way πŸ˜‰

  7. I’ve heard that professors give As to students as long as they can spell their names….
    Then, students and parents wonder why they can’t get a job and blame on the President πŸ˜•

  8. It’s really hard when you’re overstretched and overstressed to maintain perspective — I know because I’ve been there — and for perplexity to move to feelings of persecution and paranoia. But it always pays to remember even the little successes one has, and to bang the drum and blow the trumpet about them. Because if you don’t, who will?

    And I know, Steffy, that you and so many other teachers care about your vocation and making those connections with students and pupils. We sometimes do ourselves a disservice by focusing on the setbacks while forgetting to remind the public that we are always trying our best and taking incremental steps in the right direction.

    But for now, enjoy your holiday! You deserve it!

  9. I guess there are nuts everywhere. DidnΒ΄t those parents face criminal prosecution?

    IΒ΄ll tell you why you should care, because when I was a 16 year old kid there was this tutor that cared for me and saw my potential. It wasnΒ΄t math, science, phisics, biology, basically all the classes except one, Literature, he pushed me that way, I liked reading more and more, lead me to like reading more and more about history, and then a scholarship. Although I have to say that some credit at that time had to go for me too, since I was willing to be lead in certain direction, a direction I felt comfortable. He made the point that if I wanted to study real bad English Lit. in the University, i had to at least get the lowest courses on the other things and pass at least with a C.

    And I was a tough nut to crack, but this guy made it. We actually smoked a cigarette once in a while outside school premises. Still remember it. He managed to find that silver lining between being in charge as a professor, not make the kids look stupid, and at the same time knew what type of buttons to push which had to be pushed for me at least to get my ass moving in the right path. Maybe not the most professional way to go, but I was 16 already smoked quite a lot and is not like he was going to change that. He saw that as a minor thing compared to what I could accomplish in my studies and latter in life. I let him down on that last part, but at that time that moment he was the one.

    But I guess itΒ΄s easier said than actually be there and having to live day in and day out with your job.

  10. Great post with an accurate portrayal of schools today.The shift is responsibilities is profound … and to top it off … admins support the parents. Nonetheless, satire from The Onion said your point a different way when they used this term …. school-homed.

  11. What a terrifying story! I can only hope that justice is served and a judge throws the book at them. Did no one hear the commotion? I find it incredible that no one seemed to intervene.

    We have several teachers in my family, and they always complain that it’s never the children who give them trouble; it’s the parents.

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