Teachers Tired of Being Blamed: Part 2

In Teachers Say They’re Tired of Being Blamed: Part I, I explained how this Facebook Group discussion came about.

Before I even had a chance to finish writing this, I received a private Facebook message which I viewed as an attempt to silence me.  I was forbidden to comment on a thread I had created, even though people were still engaging.  I was accused of being antagonistic.  I was not.  I was called a data miner, harvesting info and quotes from them for my personal benefit.  At no point was I disrespectful. The problem with all these behind closed doors conversations is that they remain secret and agenda specific, which does not help people as a whole, even when it could. If I was sharing their input, respecting the sensitive nature of the content, and protecting each person’s identity, including the group as a whole, why lash out at me and accuse me of doing this for my own benefit? You know what would benefit me right now? Working on that sponsored post sitting in my inbox.  Writing about a product I love, that I can enjoy with my kids, and even get paid to write about.  That. That would benefit me.  Writing this, is not about me.  It’s about us.  In the middle of this, when the message woman said they protect and support parents, my head almost exploded. What am I? A Parent, who is not only a mother of 5, 4 with SN/modified education, but in a position to share their perspective objectively, for the mutual benefit of parents, teachers, and more importantly, the kids.  I have 16, 393 quite a few teacher friends. Most of them are willing to share their thoughts about education and the things that put parents, teachers, and administrators on opposing sides.  I chose to bring the discussion to that group because I am an open minded person, interested in hearing NEW ideas and opinions.  I want and try to use my influence for good, with solutions focused discussions, as is my entire goal when sharing. What is this site about, again? Yep! #SimpleSolutions for Complicated Lives

Although the whole ordeal made me cry tears of frustration, I am very grateful for the input I’m about to share.  Here is a combination of my thoughts and feedback from the group.

I may be removed from the group because of this post.  I hope they will instead feel understood and properly represented.  Most people were very nice. Within the threads, no one said something mean, disrespectful, or offensive.  There were a few people who were skeptical about my intentions.  I tried to reassure them.  They were cordial.  The group is very protective of what can best be described as, their “intellectual property.”  They have a mission and are very invested in causing and creating change.

So, then, WHAT are they AFRAID of?

That can be better answered by asking, what are they not afraid of? What they ARE afraid of is almost everything.  They are afraid of doing their jobs, not doing their jobs, saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, being accused of a million things, and especially of being blamed.  They are tired of being blamed.  After reading through the many comments and heartfelt responses, this is what I took away from it all.

  • A teacher’s job is no joke.

  • A good teacher won’t lie to parents.  So, teachers often refer parents to administrators. They are left with only one other option; avoid the question. For example, if a parent asks a teacher why their student didn’t have a 1:1 aide that day, the previous day, and the day before that, per an established IEP,the teacher might actually have the same question.  Instead, they are placed in a position of having to answer to a parent when they have no answer to offer.  They have been asking the same question and waiting, just like the parent, for a response.

  • Many teachers are parents, too!

  • Even when a teacher has done everything right, things often go terribly wrong.

  • Even when there is no one at fault, the public often not only demands accountability, such as a person to blame, they demand reprimand and consequence against that person.  Blame often goes to a teacher by default and not due to any fault of their own.

  • Many teachers are NOT allowed to restrain a child, EVEN IF THAT CHILD HAS ELOPED FROM THE SCHOOL.  They are not allowed to physically take that child back to school or the classroom.  Doing so could cause them to lose their jobs, licenses, and be grounds for litigation by parents, EVEN WHEN the teacher had the child’s best interest at heart. Even when they may have removed a child from danger or potentially saved a child’s life.

  • Even in schools where physical restraint is permitted under certain circumstances, only a handful of people within the school are trained and authorized.  Even picking a child up from the hallway and setting him down in the classroom could be considered physical restraint.

  • Many teachers have risked all of that to retrieve a child who has eloped, and have been left abandoned by administrators when it came time to defend their actions.

  • Many Fire Department regulations prevent a teacher from locking classroom doors, even when they have students who are a high risk for elopement.

  • Many teachers will lock the doors anyway because they fear for a child’s safety.

  • Many teachers can be reprimanded and even fired if they are caught mentoring, advising, or coaching parents on their rights, and especially for suggesting that a parent take action to enforce their children’s rights.

  • Many teachers’ requests for student evaluations for special education qualifications are never addressed, even when teachers have made repeated requests to have a student assessed.

  • Teachers often present low-cost and  innovative ideas to administrators, which are likely to improve student performance and safety.  Often times, when a great teacher offers solutions, they are labeled and treated as a problem maker.

  • There is a new loan program being marketed to teachers, so they can take out personal loans, to buy classroom supplies.  Many teachers are given a mere $100.00 stipend for the year and are expected to use their own paper for all printing needs.  Many teachers have made the difficult decision to stop spending their own money from their underpaid salaries to buy supplies for the classrooms.  They simply go without.  Many are also offended by this new loan program, and see it as a sign of public expectation that it’s a teacher’s job to finance their own classrooms.

  • Every aspect of a teachers actions are often scrutinized by the public and education system, including things not relevant to their teaching ability and practices. Teachers have been fired for speaking up about the illegal actions or practices of administrators.

  • Even in classrooms with a very high teacher ratio, such as one teacher per two or three students, a single student having a very difficult behavior day can monopolize staff’s time and attention just trying to keep that one student safe or calm.

  • When teachers or aides are out for the day, there is often no substitute put in the classroom, and the staff working that day must simply do their best to make it through the day with limited support.

  • Teachers have an increasing amount of administrative duties, especially when involved in the special education department.

  • Teachers are being increasingly forced to adhere to standardized lessons and their students expected to excel in standardized testing.

  • Teacher’s ability to teach at the students’ pace, make  creative and class specific lesson plans, and adjust these things as they see fit are being replaced with specific and restrictive requirements.

  • Not all schools have a specific protocol and training for elopement. That means that the teachers are put in a position of having to just react in an emergency, rather than taking action on an existing plan.  It is not easy to react on your feet when a crisis occurs, especially when the crisis involves a child eloping.

  • Lack of funding is a huge issue.  That does not excuse poor teacher performance but it is often the thing keeping a good teacher from being able to do an even better job.  Suppose a child simply needs sound-blocking headphones that the parents can’t afford and school won’t provide.  Maybe those sound blocking headphones help keep the child calm, focused, and learning.  Instead, the child is startled ten times per day by the clickety clank sounds of an old building, nearby construction, or student population buzz as they walk the halls between each class.  If it takes ten minutes to calm a child down who has been agitated by sound, and that happens ten times per day, that would take ONE HOUR and FIFTY MINUTES out of the teachers’ and students’ day, just to calm one child.  Now imagine that other students are now agitated by the first student, and a day can easily be spent keeping the peace in the class, when $20.00 could have resolved the ongoing problem, altogether. Just an example.

Parents should not be so quick to assume a teacher is to blame, for any issue.  I hate feeling attacked.  Imagine waking up each day to go to a public service job, where all you want to do is support your community and the children, only to be micromanaged by administrators, abused by parents, and terrified that today might be the day you lose your job for something you don’t even have control over.  Personally, I might find another job or another career.  So many teachers deal with this  every day.  They keep going back, because they care, no matter how much the public rejects that notion.   I am not suggesting that there aren’t a few rotten apples out there.  

I am only suggesting that as parents, we cannot be great advocates for our children without also being great advocates for teachers!

  • Does your school  have a specific policy on when or how to  notify parents if a child attempts to or is successful at eloping?
  • Does your school have a specific policy on whether or not to notify the police if a child attempts to elope, or when and how to notify the police if a child is successful at eloping?  If you have an IEP, you could discuss these things and add agreed upon procedures into the IEP. You could also ensure and add into the IEP that your child always wears or carries some form of identification.
  • Does your school identify students who are at risk of eloping?
  • Appropriate school staff and volunteers, such as the office, security, hall monitors, may not know that your child is at risk of eloping.  Does your school have a policy on this? Do you know what it is? Do you have it in writing? Is it included in your child’s IEP? There are so many privacy laws that can make it difficult for schools to share this information with anyone who is not an administrator or your child’s teacher, even if it is in the best interest of your child.  This is why a parent must ask the questions and include the agreements on the IEP.
  • Does your school have an an established search team with outlined actions for each team member, in case of elopement? Do they run rescue drills to make sure everyone is properly trained and as prepared as possible?

Until teachers can have open discussions without fear of judgement, persecution, and retaliation, they will continue to be afraid. As much as I was insulted by the private messages I received, I understand why they were sent.  A group like this that is causing and creating change doesn’t take their hard work and successes lightly.  It’s understandable that they would worry about me “harvesting info and quotes,” from the group, for my own personal benefit.  

By:  Alicia Gonzalez

Editor’s Note: This Article is the third part of a series of three related posts.  See also:

Teachers Say They’re Tired Of Being Blamed: Part I

Autistic Boy Escapes From School: Mom Was Told, “It Happens”