I discovered that many teachers are afraid to speak frankly to parents. They’re afraid of being disciplined, or even fired for “insubordination.” The ones who spoke with me tended to speak carefully, watching their words – almost as if the walls had ears or as if people were lurking around the corner.
Some teachers agreed to talk with me if we met outside of the classroom. Several told me they’d already been disciplined for talking with parents. One teacher talked with his lawyer before he talked with me. Almost all of them spoke on the condition of absolute anonymity. Three teachers began to talk with me, then decided the risks were too great to continue. Some agreed to give me the gist of their concerns, but they wouldn’t let me take notes or tape the conversation. Some teachers expressed sympathy for my project yet refused to talk about their experiences. A frequent explanation: “I just have a few more years to go to retirement. I can’t afford to get into trouble.”
This is a common theme elsewhere in the state and the country. Bob Dean, chair of the math department for Evergreen High School in Vancouver, WA, told me he’s familiar with the fears.
In February 2008, I interviewed Spokane Superintendent Nancy Stowell. I told her some teachers are worried they’ll receive bad evaluations or be fired for speaking frankly with parents. I added that some teachers believe they’ve been “disciplined” for activity they thought was warranted but that administrators saw as oppositional. This was her response:
“So if a teacher had an issue about either the math curriculum, or what he or she was teaching, or grade level, or any of that, I can understand that a principal would expect that it would be something the teacher and the principal would talk about rather than the teacher kind of going out there. Because it’s the principal who really knows the teacher, and how good the teacher is, and we all want, you know, excellent teachers.”
To me, it sounds as though Dr. Stowell might be saying that teachers who intend to give parents their honest professional assessment of their child’s academic situation – including comments that could indicate weaknesses in the curricula, school policy or administration – might actually:
- have other issues,
- not be "successful" teachers anyway, or
- just be resistant to change.
Parents, please be aware that – although teachers generally do their best every day in the classroom – many have concerns about being absolutely frank with parents.
The best way to know how things are is to look at what your children know versus what they should know at their age. Have them professionally tested and assessed by people outside of the district. Speak with people who know which skills are required for the future your children envision for themselves. Take steps to fill in the gaps.
Don’t wait until your children are in Grade 12 or applying for college. The longer you wait, the harder it will be. At some point - sooner than you think - it will be too late.
Please note: The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is: Rogers, L. (October, 2008). "Teachers are afraid to speak out." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site: http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com/
This article was also posted November 5, 2008, on EdNews.org at http://ednews.org/articles/30318/1/Teacher-Fear/Page1.html