Response to Brenda MacDonald’s Oct 15, 2012 column: Two Cents Worth
I’d like to add my two cents worth to Brenda MacDonald’s recent column in the Bedford-Sackville Daily News. In this week’s column, she laments the fact that she can no longer trust her sons’ teachers to teach them “the moral, value, life lesson, don’t-miss-a- deadline stuff”. Wow. My heart goes out to her. I mean, as a parent, I didn’t know either that I was actually expected to teach my children morals and values. This wasn’t in my “What to expect when you’re expecting” book! I mean, I understood that until they started school, I would have to teach them certain things like, “Don’t touch the stove or you’ll get burned!” and “Don’t flush your dinky toys down the toilet or we’ll have to pee in the yard!” But I felt safe in knowing that once my boys started school that responsibility, that heavy, heavy burden, would be lifted off my shoulders and placed on the backs of those miracle workers known as teachers. And when the last of my (two) children got on the school bus to begin his first day of school, I heaved a heavy sigh of relief. I felt light. No more worrying about educating my children on life lessons or morals or values. That job was now up to the teacher. I now have one child in grade 9 and another in grade 12 and I’m afraid I have a lot of catching up to do. You see I trusted their extraordinary teachers to teach them all of the morals and values and life lessons they would ever need. Thanks to Ms. MacDonald, I now realize how wrong I was.
Sarcasm aside, Ms. MacDonald’s initial concern that her child was given a 5-week extension on his middle school project and was not docked any points off his final grade is certainly valid. None of us likes it when we work our butts off and get our work done on time and the person in the cubicle next to us does the minimum amount and still gets paid as much or more than we do. (Yes, real life sucks, too.)
Ms. MacDonald admits that schools across the country have adopted no-zero policies, which means students can’t be penalized for what is considered a “behaviour issue” such as handing in a project late. Some parents and teachers are currently banding together to protest this new rule. The most high profile case on the books right now involves a teacher in Alberta who was suspended for going against the rule and assigning a child a zero. Ms. MacDonald dimisses the rapid spread of this policy across the country by saying, “I have no time such nonsense.” Nonsense or not, it is here, and teachers are required to follow the guidelines set forth by their provincial departments of education, their school boards and their school administrators. Shaming and blaming teachers (“I no longer totally trust them to teach my children anymore.”) is shifting blame to an easily identifiable group and allows Ms. MacDonald to ignore that other “nonsense”. A backhanded compliment like “don’t get me wrong, teachers are an admirable bunch” is as insulting as saying, “That dress is lovely. It really hides all the weight you’ve gained.”
Teacher responsibilities have grown over the years to include much more than the traditional reading, writing, and arithmetic. The obesity crisis, the bullying crisis, the identity crisis – all of these things are now being placed on schools. Fix our children, parents cry! Oh, and while you’re at it, make sure they can still read, write and do math better than children in other countries.
I did not, have not, and will not ever expect my child’s teacher to prepare my child for the “real world”. I want my child’s math teacher to teach him math and his biology teacher to teach him biology. I can handle the life-lessons, the morals, the values and “don’t miss a deadline” stuff. That’s what I signed up for.