Don Descoteau: Teachers leaving parents in dark

I’ve been really steaming this week with the latest news out of teacherland, that the report cards my kids will bring home this month will be little more than glorified attendance records.

I’ve been really steaming this week with the latest news out of teacherland, that the report cards my kids will bring home this month will be little more than  glorified attendance records.

The idea that fully filled-out report cards, with letter grades and comments thoughtfully (I hope) prepared with my kids in mind, are strictly an administrative duty does more to damage the teachers’ public relations efforts than make any kind of negotiating point.

Sure, the ploy is a union strategy aimed at disrupting the system and making things difficult for administrators – that’s principals and vice-principals, many of whom teach too. But rather than just annoying the heck out of their bosses and leaving them with more work to do, it has the net effect of frustrating parents who look to report cards for a sign of how their children are progressing.

Perhaps the teachers’ union doesn’t realize how important these written signposts are to working parents.

These days it’s very common to see households where both parents, or the lone parent in some cases, work full time to make ends meet. Kids are expensive to feed and clothe and be provided with money for their incidental expenses, not to mention the cost of extra-curricular and out-of-school activities. The reality of that need-to-work scenario is that many parents don’t have much chance to sit down with teachers for an hour or so right after school, as the teacher’s union is suggesting they do.

For certain, email has been a great addition to the teacher-parent communication system, but not all teachers are tech-savvy or willing to take that valuable step in connecting with parents.

Luckily, my son’s teacher continues to send out updates on what the class is working on and what deadlines are coming up for class projects. In my experience over the years of my children’s schooling, this is somewhat rare – an educator who understands the demands placed on parents and makes an extra effort to involve them in the process.

For those parents who haven’t taken the opportunity to either meet with their child’s teacher or carefully read the aforementioned emails, report cards not only provide a sign of their child’s academic progress, they can be an indicator of other things that aren’t attached to a letter grade, such as work habits, social interaction or leadership abilities.

It’s nice to know whether your best efforts as a parent are paying off somehow, especially at times when the job of keeping your child on track with their schoolwork gets particularly tough.

The other day my partner and I were commiserating about how we expect our kids to be self-motivated, at least a little bit, to get their work done without near-constant supervision. We realize parents need to provide a home environment for children to be able to succeed, and need to be available as often as possible when they ask for help. But sometimes that’s easier said than done, especially when work commitments come into play, and believe me, kids rarely ask for help.

It may seem at times unfair that we rely on teachers, who spend as much time with our children as we do, to help us keep our kids on track. Given that reality, I will always argue that teachers’ work should be highly valued.

That said, I am making a plea to the teachers’ union to reverse its decision on filling out report cards, at least by next term if negotiations continue to go nowhere. Hopefully, an acknowledgement of teachers’ importance in the three-way relationship that includes students and parents will convince them to do so.

Don Descoteau is the editor

of the Oak Bay News.

editor@oakbaynews.com

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