May 03, 2012 Herm Card Uncategorized
When Bob Dylan said that the times were “a changin’” he probably didn’t envision that it would become the universal concept that it has. The times have changed, and continue to change, and that’s not always the best thing. Education has changed for sure and, incrementally, the tenets of education have changed within it. The “E” word – “entitlement” – has worked its way into education as a philosophical principal, just as it has throughout society.
There is no question that in public education, parents and their children are entitled to certain things. They are entitled to have a strong core curriculum with strong teachers. They are entitled to a solid arts program and a solid sports program. They are entitled to have good role models and good “life lessons.” Simply put, what people are entitled to is the best possible education for their children.
What they are not entitled to is the ability to tell the English teacher how to teach, the orchestra director who the first chair should be or the baseball coach who the first baseman should be. They are entitled to a parent conference about why their daughter is not doing well in school, but not why she isn’t the starting point guard. They are entitled to attend athletic contests, but not to “coach” their children from the sidelines in contradiction of the actual coach.
Despite prevailing practices in some school districts, they are most definitely not entitled to a say in who should be hired and who should be fired.
They are entitled to vote for the school board, but not entitled to tell the board how to operate. They are entitled to membership in the PTA, but not entitled to form parent groups to undermine the people hired to do the teaching or the directing or the coaching.
Teachers and coaches? They have some entitlement too. They are entitled to have administrators who have the knowledge and professionalism and courage to support them without micromanaging. They are entitled to administrators with enough strength of conviction to make it clear to the community who is in charge. They are entitled to support worthy of their dedication and professionalism.
Of course, the old assumption that teachers and coaches are ‘in charge” is becoming something of a fallacy. They are in charge only so long as things go well, nobody complains and test scores are acceptable. Good administrators – the majority – understand that despite the outside influences, annoyances and agitations, they are in charge and ultimately responsible. Some administrators – the minority, fortunately – are not confident that they can support the people they should support. They tend to look for an easier solution, a solution that sends that “squeaky wheel gets the oil” message – you know, the one that reinforces the entitlement idea. The one that doesn’t do anybody any good – especially the students.
So it becomes easier to transfer a teacher or to have a coach “resign” than it is to stand up and deal with core issues. It is easier to suggest that the individual come before the team if that means that the “individual’s” parents will stop complaining. It is easier, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better. Or right.
Participation in many activities is based on merit. The concept of team requires that the better skilled individuals fill the appropriate roles. Do you want to be the lead in the class musical? Rehearse better than the rest. Do you want to be the valedictorian? Study more than the rest. Do you want to be the starting goalie? Practice harder than the rest.
Do you want your children to be these things? Encourage and support them to rehearse longer, study more, practice harder. Then stand back and appreciate the results.
Accept the fact that even though they get better at what they do, and become the best that they can, there still might be somebody better. Somebody else who has earned the role, the honor, the position. Don’t call a meeting, don’t call the school, don’t write an anonymous letter. Don’t do anything but remember that that’s how school is – that’s how life is.
That’s a lesson worth teaching and for sure, a lesson worth learning.
Herm Card is a former teacher with more than 32 years of classroom experience and 20 years as a professional development consultant. His column runs bi-weekly in The Eagle. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.