A letter from a teacher to parents: ‘I can’t do it alone.”

A veteran teacher from a suburban Atlanta district sent me this note:

There are many futile attempts to remedy the ills of our educational system when a core issue to be rectified is parents. Each year, I see the positive effects of strong parental involvement on the educational outcomes of children. Conversely, I see the negative effects of parents who do not make education a priority.

I cannot effectively educate students if parents do not prioritize education in the home. It is akin to a parent bringing a child to the physician for an ailment. The parent must support the physician’s recommendations, along with prioritizing health in the home, for the child to successfully heal. Parents must prioritize their roles and responsibilities in the education of their children to assist teachers in their quest to provide a quality education to students. Teachers simply cannot do it alone.

A teacher says parents are critical to student success.

A teacher says parents are critical to student success.

The teacher shared a letter she wishes she could send parents. Here it is:

Dear Parent,

I am an educator. I can create a safe, stimulating learning environment for your child. I can encourage and support your child through the learning process. I can teach your child how to think logically and creatively. I can effectively teach your child the required curriculum. I can challenge your child’s intellect.

I can identify your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses. I can strengthen the weaknesses and build upon the strengths. I can develop a trusting, respectful relationship with your child. I can attempt to build a productive parent/teacher relationship. I can create a positive educational experience for your child. Your child will leave my classroom with the necessary knowledge to be well prepared for the educational road ahead.

But I can’t do it alone.

I am not the parent. I can’t guarantee your child gets an adequate night’s rest and a healthy diet. I can’t make sure your child is on time to school and only misses classes when absolutely necessary. I can’t prioritize education in the home.

I can’t provide your child with a literature-rich home environment. I can’t limit the time your child spends playing with electronics or surfing through social media. I can’t instill the value of an education on your child like you can.

I can’t follow through with consequences when you are contacted about discipline issues that are impacting your child’s learning. I can’t force you to attend conferences to discuss how we can work together to maximize your child’s potential. I can’t best demonstrate to your child that you and I are a team, operating together in the child’s best interests.

Frankly, without your cooperation, I am fighting an uphill battle in my fervent attempt to educate your child. Please understand and appreciate the enormous role that you play in creating a successful educational outcome for your child.

Respectfully,

Your Child’s Teacher

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Reader Comments 0

104 comments
msgapeachss
msgapeachss

I actually stumbled upon this blog when doing a search for my child having a deadbeat teacher. As a parent, my obligation for my child's educational success should be making sure she has a nice dinner and breakfast, gets plenty of exercise, gets to spend quality time wuth family, gets to play, and is well rested. Mine personally does not spend much time on electronics nor sitting in front of the TV, but for this teacher to tell parents not to allow their children to do that is about as arrogant and overstepping as it gets. As mine has entered 4th grade, we have put a strict limit on how much time we will allow her to spend on homework. Her limit is an hour...and absolutely none on the weekends, like her teacher has tried to pile on. Since she has all kinds of worksheets for homework that is busy work, I have her set a timer that allows her just a short amount of time to do each assignment. There is no time for me to go over it with her, and by this point the homework and whatever she does not understand needs to be between her and her teacher. It was in my generation, and we learned with great success. 95% of her homework has nothing at all to do with what she is currently learning at school. A portion of her math are concepts that have not even been taught yet. With the new complicated way of doing math, we parents do not even know what method will be used to teach it to them. So now we just do not make her do those problems. I would much rather invest her time studying for her upcoming tests, as that is a very valuable skill, as is setting time limits. If I did not limit the amount of time spent on her nightly homework as well as go over it with her, she would easily be spending 2 hours a day on it which is ridiculous for any elementary student. I want my child to be well-rounded and responsible, and I am invested in teaching her that while school is her job and priority, she has other priorities and obligations to fulfill. She has daily chores, she plays the violin, and she does an activity that consumes 6 hours a week. She also goes to church, makes time weekly to spend with friends and with her family. We met with the principal at the onset of this school year to put our feet down about the intrusion the school tries to bestow in our lives with their "homework". I can assure you that after low towing to this new homework regime from K-3rd grade, it has not helped my child academically in the least with the exception of helping her to study/prepare for her tests. Her teacher this year is quite over the top with her homework assignments and expects then to do an hour of it Friday-Sunday, yet she does not respond to emails nor sign off on their homework notebooks like she is supposed to do, so she is not holding up her end of things. I am fed up and sick of hearing how we need to work as a team and that parents need to be involved. What they mean by this is we need to try and teach our kids what they are not learning at school due to this new curriculum that has made it so that teachers don't have time to teach...not when they have to teach 3 different complicated, time-consuming ways to do one math problem that would otherwise be fairly simple if taught the traditional algorithm. They are moving too quickly through sophisticated material that many kids are not able to absorb. I can assure you that my child is no discipline problem. I am intelligent enough to have disciplined her, and I am also intelligent enough to know when to put a limit on homework and not overextend her. After being at school for 7 hours, her window of learning much of anything is closed. It is high time more parents put their feet down about this in order to be good parents who are looking out for their children instead of lemmings who do as they are told by the government. I think our education system is at an all-time failure, and it is not teachers faults...we are all under pressure due to the federal government's involvement our public education system. God help us all and these children.

An American Patriot
An American Patriot

Cry me a river.  Just do your job and the ones that don't want to learn, GIVE THEM A FAILING GRADE and don't back down.  Don't worry about your job.  You know, the problem is, you teachers aren't standing up to the administration en masse and you're letting them run all over you.  Get a spine, grow a couple.  This is part of the political correctness crap that's ruining our country. You know right from wrong, just do it.  The parent problem ain't going away.  It's up to you, you chose the profession......if you can't stand the heat and don't want to do what's right, QUIT.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@An American Patriot


 Don't worry about your job."


Easier said than done in today's world. especially if you have a family to support and mortgage payments to make.

flaneur_
flaneur_

No doubt, the letter would have twice the chance of success with two parents in the home reading it. 

But the liberal media's war on traditional morality, along with the welfare state's counterproductive incentives, have destroyed the black family and are steadily doing the same elsewhere.

SnoopyDawg
SnoopyDawg

This is spot on!!!


My wife retired this past year after 30 seasons in the classroom.  The job had evolved from "teaching & having support" to now teacher's becoming DFCS, mountains of paper for 'plans of improvement' for the child that the parents & admins demand. (the kids come to class unprepared, hungry, sleepwalking & disobedient) Because Lil Johnnie is not doing well.  She's even had multiple parents, yearly complain that she's giving too much homework & their Lil Johnnie has - - - - pick a sport (football, basketball, dance, cheer) practice & has no time for homework..


So YES! This teacher's plea is warranted...  But the parents that need to read & understand this will not be the one's reading & trying to do better for their Lil Johnie's...  Just Sayin...

BCW1
BCW1

I have been saying this all along and it is not PC. But until the parents step up and take responsibility of their child's education and partner with the school and teacher, all the money and reform will not solve the main problem. When education is not important to the parents, guess who else does not care!!!

And I say this as a 34 year educator as well. So this is not from a casual observation but real time experience!

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@BCW1 

I think we all agree with you here. But, as several have noted, the tone of this letter ("exasperated," as one poster says) seems addressed to a parent who the teacher is skeptical will take this responsibility.  The teacher seems subtly to look down on the parent, and the language gives this inner feeling of superiority away. One can have very good intentions, while still seeming patronizing or judgmental.

popacorn
popacorn

@OriginalProf

And we all know how the road to Hell is paved. We walk on it now with Public Education. 

Starik
Starik

@OriginalProf @popacorn Many parents don't have the capacity to take responsibility for raising their kid(s).  They, themselves were never taught properly at home or at school.  Having kids is easy and natural. Raising them?  No. We need to address the problem for the good of the rest of us.  This is why we have public schools. The schools are not adequate in their present form.  We need to pay attention. 

jarvis1975
jarvis1975

I have the feeling that the target audience of this letter wouldn't be reading a "Schooling" blog. Clearly the parents on here are at least interested in child performance and school improvement.

I'm afraid the people that should be reading this won't be.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

Years ago, one of our kids came home with an elementary school report card for which conduct was marked "U" or some such for unsatisfactory.  No note, no explanation, and we had not gotten any sort of note or referral from the teacher during the marking period.


We met with the teacher to find out why, and it turned out that our precious angel had been engaging in conduct that was slyly, frustratingly undermining his teacher - working, as it were, the EDGES of classroom rules to show out to his peers.  There was nothing blatant or extreme, but he was "getting" to her - hence the "U".

We sat down with our child and explained to him that we would, at some point in the near future, email his teacher to see how he was doing with respect to conduct.  Any reply other than "great" would result in consequences at home.  Several days later, we emailed and the teacher's response was not the we one hoped for.  For 2 weeks, the tv went dark and bedtime came 30 minutes early.


Only took one time.


I fear/suspect that our support of our son's teacher, to the benefit of her, him, and ALL his classmates in terms of the reduction of learning time lost to his off-track behavior, was the exception rather than the rule.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@AlreadySheared That was the common practice in the 60's, but, alas, has become the exception rather than the rule in today's permissive society.

I have heard that some schools do not even permit conduct grading.  Teachers?

Starik
Starik

@class80olddog @AlreadySheared Please.  The authoritarian society of the '50s and '60s wasn't paradise. Kids didn't complain about teachers - they were authority figures.  Parents didn't complain either.  They should have.

PappyHappy
PappyHappy

AMEN!  Now, did the parent listen?

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@PappyHappy 

My 35 years of teaching has given me another perspective from that of some posters.  I found that if I expected parents and students to listen to me, and if I spoke with them individually, with care and knowledge, they not only would listen to my words, but they would also work with me, and others, for the academic and emotional well-being of their children or of themselves. I taught for the final 16 years of my 30+ teaching career in a south DeKalb County high school, from which I retired in 2000.

Starik
Starik

@newsphile @MaryElizabethSings No, they were not. Poor, underclass black parents are, in most cases, not hostile or indifferent - if you approach them as one human being to another and treat them as equals and provide them the help they desperately need to raise their kids. Slavery and Jim Crow created a huge problem and we need to address the problem, not follow the PC route and pretend it doesn't exist.   

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik 

Thank you, Starik, for your perceptions.  If it were up to me, I would give yours an A+ golden star as the Best Post of the Month.  ;-) Certainly the most insightful as to what my experiences have been.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@newsphile 

I think you might be indulging in ageism without realizing it. Some concepts are eternal, such as "Treat others as you would want others to treat you." 

Please consider my words in relation to the fact that Starik's post was very much on target as to what this, now, Senior's experiences were in 1970 as well as in 2006, the last year in which I taught in public schools (substitute teaching in my last years).

class80olddog
class80olddog

Yes, I am sure that this is a letter a LOT of teachers would like to write.  She does address two of the three things I harp on continually - discipline and attendance.  But face it - the parents of problem children DON'T care.  This would be like a police chief sending a letter to the known criminals asking them please to not commit crimes. 


Instead, these teachers should be writing to their ADMINISTRATORS, or to their legislators, or to the Governor or to the newspaper, demanding that how the SCHOOLS deal with these issues be changed.  Demand EFFECTIVE disciplinary measures - no more ISS for a kid that wants to get out of class.  Demand EFFECTIVE measures to assure attendance - keep kids who are tardy after school and make their parents pick them up.  Have any student who is absent attend Saturday school ALONG WITH THEIR PARENT. Put parents who allow habitual truancy IN JAIL. 


The school administrators used to have the power to deal with these issues; what has changed. Oh, yes, the PC movement.  It is not PC to do any effective discipline.  It is not PC to enforce attendance.


Even these measures will not cure all the problems.  You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.  If a STUDENT does not have a willingness to learn, then he/she will NOT learn.  No matter how well-fed, or well-disciplined they are.  Attitude is 80% of the battle.


Yes, the decline of the parents IS a key issue that has led to the decline of education.  We must effectively deal with THAT.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@class80olddog

If the child has no respect for authority, chances are the parents don't either.

Sorry to say, but yours is a lost cause.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Starik @FIGMO2 @class80olddog



I was raised to demonstrate respect, until someone proved they did not deserve it.  Even then, I remain civil.


Today, the attitude seems to be, "I am going to disrespect you until you prove to me you deserve my respect."  Hard to prove you deserve respect to someone who is treating you like dirt.  Most people, when treated badly, tend to react in kind, which then "proves" they do not deserve respect.  It is a vicious circle.


Paul01
Paul01

Inserting the word "can" in all of the statements makes this more of a self serving epistle.  Why does the teacher not let parents know what she has actually done?

redweather
redweather

@Paul01 The way I read this letter, the teacher is telling parents what she has done. Her use of the word "can" simply emphasizes that it won't happen without their involvement.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Dear Teacher:

Education in our home is a priority.  We limit the amount of television and electronics.  We have books and other literature in the home.  We ensure our child is well fed, well rested and attends school on time, each and every day.  We ensure the homework is completed and we read the notes from you.  We send our child to you and trust that the school has her best interests at heart.  What we hear is troubling.

We hear about the same students who disrupt the class every day.  This has been going on the entire school year and apparently, NOTHING is done to correct this behavior.

We hear about the Special Ed kid who craps in his diaper a couple of times a day.  Instead of teaching, you have to stop class to get this student down to the Spec Ed teachers who change his diaper.  If you figure one hour per day spent dealing with this issue, that equates to 25 days per year in lost instruction time.

We hear about the tuberculosis scare because apparently,  the children of ILLEGAL ALIENS can show up and get admitted to school without all the immunizations that American children are forced to have.

We hear about the CRCT Pep Rallies and weeks of "test prep", all for a test that is "so simple you'd have to be an idiot to fail it."

We just wanted to let you know that our child will not be attending this school next year.  We've enrolled her in private school.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Lee_CPA2


"We hear about the tuberculosis scare because apparently,  the children of ILLEGAL ALIENS can show up and get admitted to school without all the immunizations that American children are forced to have."


I call BS.  Children in the US are rarely vaccinated against TB.  In fact, it is much more likely that a child from another country WOULD be vaccinated against TB than a child from the United States. 

Astropig
Astropig

"Frankly, without your cooperation, I am fighting an uphill battle in my fervent attempt to educate your child. Please understand and appreciate the enormous role that you play in creating a successful educational outcome for your child."


I hear what this teacher is saying and I agree with the general thesis,but this sentence seems unduly confrontational.It seems to start with the assumption that parents are not inclined to be cooperative and I know that's just not true.Parents have a lot of tasks,priorities and distractions because they are human beings living a life that is more stressful than ever. Tone is important and I believe that this sentence sets the wrong one.


Sometimes (AstroGranny told me once),it's not what you say,but how you say it.

Astropig
Astropig

@Gina12345


Professionalism requires exasperation not be expressed,especially in the initial communication. If a teacher received a letter on the first day of school implying that the parent did not expect the teacher to be a willing partner in the process,he/she would rightfully feel insulted.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Gina12345 

Teachers should set the tone, and not simply be reactionary to a negative tone from others.  I found that I usually received positive responses when I had, first, indicated that I understood their difficulties and wanted to be an agent of helpfulness to them and to their children, emotionally and academically.  This I found held true with students as well as with parents, for the most part. 

Gina12345
Gina12345

Tone aside, this letter appears to simply be stating that a parent/teacher partnership is necessary for optimal student success. Parents need to understand that they play a key role, and the onus is not singlehandedly on the educator as society seems to think. Teachers are constantly on the receiving end of ALL issues related to student performance. The parents play a pivotal role in the attitude and educational success, or lack thereof, of their children.

Gina12345
Gina12345

Tone can only be inferred in a written piece. That being said, this educator may be at the point where all attempts have been made to best educate students while patiently and respectfully, yet unsuccessfully, attempting to pull parents into the equation. At that point, a dedicated teacher does get exasperated, hence, the "tone."

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

@Astropig Every single word of above quote is exactly right.  Key is clause "without your cooperation" - letter is clearly not addressed to parents who are taking care of business, but rather to those who need to step up their game.  See my posting above....

JDouglas4545
JDouglas4545

@Astropig If children are not the top priority in their lives (including their education/future), the other tasks and priorities you mention should have been factored in prior to parenthood.  Kids are not a hobby.

Astropig
Astropig

@JDouglas4545 @Astropig


" Kids are not a hobby."


Agree with that. But parents have lives also.We read in this space all the time about parents working "two or three jobs" to support their families.It's easy for the hours in the day to run out before the tasks of the day run out. Being a parent is a hard job and made doubly hard when you have to be both mom and dad. I'm not giving either side a pass here-just trying to be realistic.


That said, we need to remember that this is a letter that has not been sent out to any parents.I presume that it is safer that way (and the author also remains anonymous),precisely because it might not be the most cheerful missive for parents to receive.I can easily see both the proponents and opponents sides in this discussion.Both have some valid points that deserve consideration.

Dadof5boys
Dadof5boys

Go ahead and send that letter and see just how many parents will complain to your principal. Expect to be reprimanded.

booful98
booful98

@Dadof5boys I have gotten variations of this letter pretty much every year. The tone is much more polite, but the implication was clear: parent, do your job.


And this is in East Cobb where, if anything, you have too much parent involvement. I cannot imagine the response this would get in APS. My bet is that people that are too busy/too tired/don't have transportation/cannot be bothered to attend a parent-teacher meeting will all of the sudden find time to go and yell at the teacher and principal for suggesting they are not parenting properly.

TaxiSmith
TaxiSmith

I have experience teaching in and administering both public and private schools. It is very disheartening to be told by a parent "Teaching him is your job, not mine." And I have heard that statement more in the last ten years than in the thirty that preceded them. Today's parents are either incredibly lazy or profoundly ignorant. Not sure which.

RambleOn84
RambleOn84

@TaxiSmith

Most people are willfully ignorant, for which laziness is a prerequisite.

Astropig
Astropig

@TaxiSmith


"Today's parents are either incredibly lazy or profoundly ignorant. Not sure which."


All of 'em? You really believe that?I didn't see any qualifiers in that statement.

straker
straker

"I am fighting an uphill battle"


And, as long as you're an Atlanta district  teacher, this will never change.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@MaureenDowney @straker 

For all readers:

As long as some teachers see parents as the enemy in their own minds, many parents will not respond positively to those teachers.  Teachers are in the leadership position; therefore, it seems appropriate that the responsibility for reaching out in positive communication lies first with the teachers to the parents.

I tried to be a caring communicator with parents, not their unfeeling critic. Just as I usually tried to persuade by showing reason and empathy with teachers in order that I could teach these peer teachers reading techniques without dictating to them (which would only have created animosity and a rejection of my instructional goals), likewise, for the teacher to relate to the parents of her students not only with reason, and persuasion but also with a caring, empathetic attitude will more likely foster honest and caring dialogue between teachers and parents than will criticism of parents..

"Love never fails."  "Judge not that you be not judged."