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November 18, 2009

An opportunity to see what really goes on in classrooms

I don't usually share my personal opinions or experiences on this blog, but today I want to encourage all parents to take advantage of the last two days of American Education Week and go visit your child's classroom. No matter how busy you are, adjust your schedule and get there.

For those of you who have never been, I promise you will leave wiser about both your school and just how well your child is doing in the classroom.

There's really no better way of seeing what is going on than spending a day following your kids around. It is a wonderful idea, and I wonder why the private schools have not adopted it or why the private school parents don't demand it.

Until my children got to tenth grade and told me they would die a million deaths if I showed up in their classrooms, I never missed this opportunity. I remember the moment when I dreaded spending 45 minutes in Algebra II. I was one of those kids who wasn't happy about math. I admit it. But this math teacher was so inspired that the parents in the back of the classroom began to whisper, give each other smiles and wish that they had been so lucky when they were in eighth grade. Wow. No one could believe how good he was! I thought maybe this was a special lesson, but no, my daughter told me her math class was always like that. I doubt any parents there that day cut their child much slack about math, knowing they were in a class with a gifted teacher. I saw other classrooms over the years that were just plain dull, and I took pity on my kids. In another case, I saw another new teacher who barely had control.

I also had moments when I watched and suddenly "got it," realizing why my elementary school child was struggling and why we needed to work harder on something at home.

Whatever those classrooms were like, I had been there and had a glimpse into their world that helped me better support my children. The experience left me able to understand and be kind when they had had a bad day with Mrs. James, or to be less than sympathetic when they had forgotten an assignment because I knew it was probably posted up there in the left-hand corner of the board.

A friend of mine just reported that her trip to school this morning included watching a child with disabilities fall apart and have to be taken out of the room. She had a new appreciation for the dynamics of her son's classroom and what the teacher had to juggle.

I would love to hear comments from parents here who have been to classrooms this week. Give us a short description of your experiences. And go ahead and criticize me for chickening out and not going during those later years of high school. I can take the heat.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 1:57 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Around the Region


I am surprised to see that no parents have written about their experience in the classroom during American Education Week. I guess that pretty much sums it all up doesn't it - parent lethargy = failing student performance. Here's the good news - you can visit your kid's school ANY time! Its actually a much more accurate picture when you show up unexpected rather than during the "dog and pony" show antics during american ed week. Unless you have taken the time to tour a school as a parent, you have NO right to comment about the daily goings on, much less argue with experienced educators as I have seen in numerours ed blogs. If folks hung out in a hallway during a typical change of classes in just about any of our public middle or high schools they would probably storm Greenwood. Unless kids are in honors, GT or AP courses, I guarantee that their days are characterized by violence, chaos, and frustration - trust me - I see it every day.

@realteacher -
Your conclusion of apathy is based on pretty thin evidence - no comments on this blog. As far as I can tell there is one parent (me) who has posted comments on this blog in the last few weeks. There is I&EP, but I'm fairly sure his kids are through with school so coming in to school isn't an option. So against my better judgement I'll respond to your comment.

I've got kids not in AP/honors classes (not all students are in high school, by the way). Between my spouse and myself there are daily hours being put in at at least one school, so I didn't try to schedule vacation to come in for the "dog and pony show". I've got a pretty fair idea of daily life in my kids' schools. I am not in the state of despair that you are. If that makes me a bad parent in your book, so be it.

@A Parent-I have been following this blog for a while. I am a parent and a teacher.You are an exceptional parent which is evidenced in all your posts and in your own blog.I somehow think your kids,while all in different settings, are probably not in the sort of settings realteacher is experiencing. But please believe us when we tell you the chaos and violence is terrible in places with incredibly hard working, skilled, caring staff.I think the importance of this blog is to hear all perspectives and probably accept most as truth so that we all have a place to share and hopefully solve a problem or two.

NPR did a story out of Chicago called 50/50 about the school culture;it is worth reading the transcript.

@wise educator -

Thanks for the vote of confidence. I'm often worrying about my kids' futures, but I suppose that's my job.

I hope my last post didn't come across as doubting what "realteacher" is seeing in his/her school. I know that there is a lot of school violence and I worry about it. What I take exception to is the idea that City School parents can be generalized about and are the "real" source of problems in our schools. I don't think I've ever generalized about "bad teachers" on this blog, and that's not because my kids have never had any. I just don't think that it leads to constructive conversation.

Thanks for the NPR tip - I'll look it up.

@A Parent - definitely not throwing darts - heck - you are obviously one of the good ones! Just wish there were more energized folks like you out there to shake up the system. By the way - my experiences are in county schools throughout Maryland and PA. I have worked with teachers in several city schools in Baltimore and DC. All in all - I think folks have very limited knowledge of the realities of schools these days. Would love to see this change!

As a parent who has always volunteered in my childrens schools, I do agree that parents need to try to take more time to find out firsthand what their childs school is about as well as what there child is doing when mom,dad,granparent etc. is not around. Going to a school only for Back to School Night, Report Cards or a graduation let alone when something negative happens is not the only times parents should arrive unannounced to a school. True, it is hard to get off work for some of us, but if you have a one hour lunch break, take the time if you can to stop by and find out what is really going on at your childs school. It's best to be visible now then to find out later that your child doesn't even come to school as you may have thought he/she did.
I see far too many students at Lexington Market/Edmondson Village and the Harbor etc. during school time, with bookbags just wandering the streets of Baltimore. All of us as parents must continue to stay involved in schools even if your children no longer attend. Its good for the community as well as those children who need to see a smile and a nod from someone. I know I have said alot of this before and I will continue to do so until I see the difference between parents visiting schools and parents who do not visit but complain about the schools.

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