Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 02 2010


I started today by meeting with the mother of a very smart boy who does absolutely no work in class. His main accomplishments lately include sleeping so deeply that he was literally drooling on his math work… twice. His mother has no idea what to do and turned to him, frustrated, to ask what he needed. He had no answer. Neither did she.
I ended the school day in a meeting with my assistant principal, who was upset at me for not calling the parents of a student who was very disrespectful in my class. He called them because so many teachers have written referrals on this kid, and they were very upset that the teachers haven’t been keeping them informed. I appreciate my A.P letting me know this (I feel like people at school are still babying me and don’t always tell me when I’m doing things wrong, so getting scolded was almost a relief) but I’m a little confused by the parents. Last time I called, Mom told me that he was acting the same way at home and she had no idea what to do about it. Now she wants to know every time he misbehaves? HE MISBEHAVES EVERY DAY!!

I think I would be better at this if I weren’t so young and if I had any idea what it’s like to be a parent. I’m expected to interact pretty frequently with parents, but I’m never sure what I’m supposed to tell them (especially when they ask ME what to do… eek). I know I should just keep them informed, but I don’t really get what they can do about it. When you have a middle-school-aged child who’s a disrespectful slacker every day in class, what exactly are you able to do at home to fix this?? I’ve called parents and seen remarkable improvements for a few days (nothing like keeping a kid from their cell phone until behavior improves) but not long term.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely understand that parent contact is important and parents want to be involved, so I’m not trying to scoot out of anything. And this is NOT a “parents just don’t care” post… I know my kids’ parents care SO MUCH. This is just an honest question: realistically, how much can parents accomplish at home, in a short time frame, to improve eighth graders’ behaviors in school? What exactly can I be expecting here?

5 Responses

  1. Interesting post. I’m a tutor and I have parents constantly asking me the same question, “What should I do?!” Really, I don’t think we should be the ones with those answers, but I really think it might be worth a shot. Give them your opinion, maybe? I have a 1st grader who is brilliant at math but will NOT do his work and totally bombs his tests. His mother has no idea what to do and wants to involve a psychiatrist. I suggested she work a little more with him (in his math subject) before heading in that direction by making math more enjoyable, and therefore, lowering his test anxiety. It’s a process and short term goals are going to be pretty difficult to meet especially when kids at this age are constantly changing, learning, growing, etc. So I wouldn’t worry and don’t be afraid to give your thoughts… but err on the conservative side, I also don’t want you to overstep your boundaries. Anyway, you’re doing a great job, I commend your profession. Don’t let your age or your perception of inexperience discourage you. In fact, use that to your advantage. Think of ways that you were successful in school or any ways that your parents disciplined you (if at all) and shape that around your student’s situation. Oh gosh, I hope that helps. Wish you all the best, you’ll be great!

  2. Jane

    There are no easy answers to parenting questions. The fact is that most parents get up every day and do the best that they can do. What works for one child may not work for the next, even in the same family. It is quite a conundrum!

    My advice would be to suggest expectations that the parents must enforce. Most children want to please their parents (even middle schoolers!). If parents set a time for homework completion and take the time to review the homework with their child, kids will know that studying has to be done before the fun begins. It also tells the child that their parents value learning. If it is important to parents, it will be important to their children. It can be really tough in the beginning but when the pattern is set, eventually the monitoring lessens and studying just becomes the habit. Good luck! Don’t let them wear you down. Thrive on your youth!

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