Monday, September 26, 2011

Sometimes it is their fault.

Working with an economically disadvantaged population, mostly comprised of other language speakers, comes with many things a teacher needs to accept with the job. For example,
  • Regular parent-teacher communication is not a given. In fact, if it happens very rarely. Many of our parents don't speak English and therefore are unable to communicate, and aren't aware of the resources available to them.
  • Many of our parents are illiterate. They didn't receive an education in their home country or the one they did receive was poor at best. It doesn't matter how many languages you translate your field trip letter in, if they can't read, they can't read.
  • Living conditions in our community can be very very poor. If your rent is very low, you can bet that the living standards are too. Backpacks often come to school with cockroaches along for the ride. Many of our kids are riddled with bed bug bites. Lice happens, but if many children share small spaces, it's hard to get rid of it.
  • Many of our kids only eat here at school and they eat for free or at a reduced price. There is no reason to begin any instruction unless you have made sure everyone has had their breakfast.
  • There are many instances throughout the day that our children are simply not available for learning because of a variety of reasons (the police came to the building in the middle of the night, the baby sibling sleeps next to the 5 year old and cried all night long, mom or dad just went to jail for immigration status, etc, etc, etc...)
I don't think any of this is our parents' or students' faults. It's their reality and it's our reality. We work with it.

What has been bothering me are a few things that I believe are the parents responsibility, no matter their economic conditions, their living situation, their work schedules, or whatever other barrier they might face. Oh, and when these things are ignored, it makes teaching very very difficult. In short, these two things have been driving me BANANAS.
  • When a child hears his or her name, THEY MUST ACKNOWLEDGE IT. Trust me, I have a child of my own who at times ignores his name. But you know what? I let him know that it's unacceptable. I teach him that when an adult says his name, he turns and looks at that adult. (This should apply to his peers too, but right now, I'm focused on the teacher-respect thing). And yes, he is TWO. So what's the 5 year old's excuse? I can't tell you how many times a day, in all of our classrooms, teachers are having to say a child's name 4 to 5 times before the child acknowledges it. And then a lesson must be given to that student, or the whole group, on this "skill" that didn't come to school with the children.
  • Bad behavior is bad behavior. I can work with a child who exhibits poor behavior because of something else (emotional, physical, mental stress from home or school). I can put together individual behavior plans. I can spread so much positive love on the student that they don't know what hit them. I can start the referral process for kids who have greater needs than I can meet alone, but what I can't do, is day-after-day-after-day deal with a child who is disruptive because "that's how he is at home." If I spend hours working to help your child learn appropriate behavior and spend hours meeting with specialists to get advice and strategies -- and you don't see my problem, you don't see your problem, and you just keep picking him up and dropping him off like all is fine? Well, keep your kid at home. (Yes, I said it).
I understand and accept the barriers our parents face. But the barriers can not be an excuse.


magpie said...

Love it:)
What I see regularly is that parents quite often think they don't have to learn new things as well.
It's the old "When I was at school" mentality. A road to nowhere indeed.☺☺☺

kiri8 said...

Did you read my mind or something? The number of my new kiddos who do not respond when I say their names is huge, and it is driving me CRAZY.