Chapter Fourteen: From the Outside Looking In

       Who do teachers work for? Who does the principal work for? Do they work for the children? Are they paid by the children? Are they accountable to the children? Do they work for the parents? Are they paid by the parents? Are they accountable to the parents? Only indirectly. The staff at your community’s Public School works for the State Department of Education. The school district writes their checks. The school district hires and fires them. The people directly responsible for the children are not directly responsible to you, the parent. You do not write their check. They did not sign a contract with you. Teachers work for an organization that uses tax money to pay them. Teachers are accountable to that organization.

       When I drove truck for a delivery company, I got paid from the money that the customers paid the company. I did not work for the customer. I worked for the delivery company. It was my duty to serve the customer as a representative of the company. The customer did not sign my paycheck. To keep the job I had to follow the company’s policies.

       Even though the teacher has the noble goal of teaching children, she is still a paid employee. Even though she loves the children, she is under contract to follow the policies and programs of her employer. Looking past the tag lines and public platitudes she can see policies, programs and a culture that can do great harm to the little people. Are these little ones that the Public School harms the teacher’s customers? Are the parents? Either way, the organization the teacher works for coerces them to accept its services. And it forces them to pay for its services whether they want them or not.

       Most teachers want to teach and lift children. But make no mistake, they teach for the money. It is their career, their vocation. I’m not saying that is wrong or right. But it has to be thoroughly understood if you are going to make intelligent choices for the future of your little one. Even if she is dedicated and inspired, can the school teacher possibly see your little one as you do? She will have him for a year. She will be paid to teach him. If you teach him, what will be your motivation? Do you see him as a vocation? Are you under contract? Does the teacher’s contract make teaching your child her responsibility instead of yours?

       The Public School’s programs and policies demean, coerce and humiliate. A teacher cannot care enough; she cannot work hard enough to balance the culture and programs of her employer. On the contrary, she is contracted to carry them out. Her employer forces its customers to pay for its services. This means that there is no true incentive to improve.

       The good men and women I know that teach would never knowingly work for an employer that would restrain and confine children. They would not work for an employer that stifles natural curiosity in them and deprives them of the human need to create and discover. They would not knowingly work for a company that forces customers to pay for its services whether they want them or not. And so they don’t look too closely or dig too deeply. They will attend inspiring seminars and in-service lessons. This will help them stay convinced that the organization they work for is motivated by the children’s best interest. They defend themselves and their employer on the grounds that what they do is for the good of the children. That’s reason enough for them; it should be reason enough for everyone else.

      If you enroll your little one in the Public School, that organization will decide what he will learn, how he will learn it, when he will learn it and in what environment he will learn it. He will be labeled and tracked much like any other product in any other corporate factory. Teachers work on the product for one year then it goes to the next step.

       The teacher will be required to continually take classes to be an effective employee. Her vocation is to teach a group of little people for just one year. This group would include yours. At the end of the year she would be forever done with your little one. Even if she maintains a friendship with him, her responsibility is finished. For the year she has done her best to make learning interesting and fun. And yet she is told what to do, how and when to do it. She signed a contract that said she would. Your little one’s name would never appear on the contract, nor would yours.

       Ask a teacher if he is fascinated by the subject he teaches. Ask a teacher if he gets a kick out of discovering more about the subject he teaches. Ask these questions and you will realize that teaching is a profession, a vocation, a career. Your little one would be the product.

       As the parents of kids in the Public School, we never spent a full day at the school. Now, that seems very strange. Why wouldn’t we want to? Why didn’t we? Whose children were they?  One of the classes I was required to take as a new teacher in the school district was about being careful what teachers shared with parents. The teacher of this class, a respected educator in the district with a PHD in Education, told us that parents would have trouble understanding the “culture” of the school. Sometimes it was best not to share everything.

     The staff at the Public School does not want parents there all the time. There are prescribed times that they can talk with teachers. They will be given just a fifteen minute time slot at parent-teacher conference to review the half school year, or six hundred thirty hours that their child was in the school. They can also set up an appointment to talk with the teachers most anytime during the year. But they do not want parents there. There is a place for parents and there is a place for teachers. Parents may get involved with their little one’s education by joining the PTA, or by volunteering snippets of time to go to the school and read with the little inmates. How do you think teachers and principals feel about parents visiting classes for a day without an appointment? Why don’t parents actually go to the school and really find out for themselves what it is? Here are some of the reasons they don’t:

  1. Our kid would be embarrassed to have me there the whole day. That’s a sad comment on what the school does to the relationship with our kids!
  2. I wouldn’t feel comfortable being there all day. Why? What’s wrong with seeing what is going on in your own child’s life? And believe me, it would take all day for many, many days to begin to see what really goes on.
  3. The teacher and principal don’t seem very eager to have me there. Why? Parents should be on high alert if the staff tries to make them feel uncomfortable.
  4. There are times set up for me to visit. I don’t want to interrupt. That is true! The staff wants you there when they know you’re going to be there. Usually the times that parents may visit do not include real class time. Parents may go on parent day. They may have lunch with their child on birthdays. But staying in the classroom would disrupt the learning process.
  5. I already know what’s going on in “our” school. I talk with my kid all the time. We have a very open relationship. It’s tragic that parents would think that they could get even a glimpse of what happens to their child during all those hours she is away from them. The school doesn’t allow enough time at home with parents for them to ever understand what is really happening. The little inmate himself might not understand what is happening anyway. He just adapts.
  6. The teacher will think I want to spy on him. Parents that think this way have already given up being a parent to the school. When do they stop believing that the little one is their child? Shouldn’t it concern any parent that a teacher doesn’t want them intruding or “spying”?
  7. I don’t have time. Perhaps this parent thinks she needs to be paid like the teacher to motivate her to be with her child as much as the teacher is.
  8. I already know and trust my child’s teacher. No matter how inspired and devoted the teacher is, she is under contract to carry out programs and policies that stifle natural curiosity and smother self-esteem.

       We could add more to this list. But what does it matter?  Parents with kids in the Public School do not spend any real time there. If they did the system would be reformed, or it would dramatically shrink because I believe that most would remove their children.