Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The View from between a Rock and a Hard Place: A Classroom Teacher's Perspective

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The View from between a Rock and a Hard Place: A Classroom Teacher's Perspective

Article excerpt

Mr. Well, a classroom teacher, makes some recommendations that he thinks will reverse the trends of lessened parental support and diminishing public support for the public schools.

Public school teachers find themselves standing squarely between a rock and a very hard place. Classroom teachers all across the country have experienced a disheartening trend toward less parent involvement, coupled with a loss of external support for the public schools. As a result, teachers frequently find themselves caught in the middle of hostile controversies over issues of education reform and the funding of public schools.

Expected to be more than experts in content and instruction, today's classroom teachers contend every day with some of society's largest and most compelling problems. Furthermore, many of the recent education reform efforts have placed teachers in the unenviable position of trying to defend policies and practices developed far from the classroom and then having to circumvent those same policies within their classrooms in order to continue providing high-quality education. Consequently, each year the view from the classroom becomes less and less ideal; it has become obstructed with the jagged rocks of education reform and the futility of trying to do more, given waning public support.

The Rock

All schools, whether public or private, must deal with diminished parent support. This is not to say that today's parents are not as committed to the education of their children as were parents in the past. Quite the contrary- most parents understand that education is more important today than ever before. However, many of today's parents are unable to determine their role in their children's education. And who can blame them? Schools, believing that many of the concerns expressed by their constituents could be addressed by simply expanding the schools' mission, have assumed many of the roles that have traditionally belonged to parents.

It has been relatively easy for schools to expand their roles for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that, in order to make ends meet, parents find themselves working more hours than ever before. Not only do more parents work outside the home, but the demands on their time at their jobs have increased. Consequently, through no fault of their own, parents are unable to be as involved in the education of their children as they would like to be. Realizing this, schools have actively pursued a larger role in the overall education of their students.

The line demarcating the schools' responsibility from the parents' responsibility has eroded to the point of obliteration. Schools, and consequently classroom teachers, find themselves working with poorly articulated visions and missions. The definition of the teacher's job oscillates back and forth, depending on place and time or, more frequently, on who is doing the talking and who is doing the listening. Ultimately, teachers have felt compelled to adopt a "be all things" mentality that has become a necessity for survival in the classroom. However, trying to please everyone often results in failure to satisfy anyone - a situation that many of today's classroom teachers understand all too well.

One consequence of the public schools' having assumed more of a parental role is that the responsibility for education has shifted from being shared to being borne preponderantly by the schools. Just a few years ago, education was considered the collective effort of parents, the community, and the schools. As schools have accepted more of the responsibility, many of them have subconsciously adopted an "us against the world" philosophy.

Ironically, the public schools themselves created the situation whereby they have become almost solely responsible for educating young people. When societal problems found their way into the schools, the schools enthusiastically accepted the challenge of managing those problems within the existing school framework. …

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