In this back-to-school season, a few ideas for how the working parent-teacher relationship might function more smoothly:
1. Working moms don't appreciate Mommy Homework. I'm not sure any moms do, actually. Mommy Homework includes building ancestor dolls that require a trip to crafts stores. (Note to teachers: Most of your second graders don't yet drive, which means they must be driven there to spend their parents' hard-earned money on Styrofoam shapes and fabrics.) Mommy Homework is also building volcanoes for science and California missions for fourth grade social studies. Mommy Homework is anything that cannot actually be completely done by the child, your student. Mommies are not your students. Please go write that on the blackboard.
2. Working parents really cannot volunteer in your classroom. We'd like to, but we have jobs to go to -- the same as you do. We do not ask you to come to our offices and help us do our work and we would appreciate not being expected to come to your office -- the classroom -- to help you do yours. Yes, we know about budget cuts and overcrowded classrooms. We also know that taking time off in the middle of our work day will either eat into our paltry allotted vacation time or cost us our job entirely. Please don't make those of us who must work for a living feel guilty about our inability to participate in the classroom. Our contributions are called paying our taxes. P.S. to every PTA in America: We'd like to join you and have our voices be heard, so maybe you could actually hold your meetings in the evening? In 2008, there were 9,753,000 single mothers raising kids and 70.7% of those mothers were employed. That's a lot of missed PTA meetings.
3. Field trips should be meaningful, and not absurdly expensive. Disneyland is not a field trip. Nor is the local water park, the bowling alley or Chuck E. Cheese. Field trips should be educational. Period. Museums, generally free for school groups, are a field trip. So are trips for first graders to the public library where they can get library cards. Field trips can be community service projects, say to the local soup kitchen. A field trip is not to the Apple store so our children can come home asking for the newest iMac.
4. Teachers do a lot for our children and the good ones should be thanked profusely. They should not be expected to spend their own money on classroom supplies, not should they expect a class gift at Christmas, again on Teacher Appreciation Day, and then again at the close of school. School districts should cap the amount/value of the gifts their employees are allowed to accept. Diamond stud earrings are excessive. Parents are too-often pressured by class moms to donate when they can't afford to. The school board should take the pressure off by disallowing excessive gifts altogether.
5. Let's agree to keep the fund-raising to a limit this year. Having us ask our friends to buy overpriced gift wrap when they are out of work and won't be buying their own children gifts, let alone the gift wrap to present them, makes everyone uncomfortable. Everyone is making do with less, and like it or not, so our classrooms must as well. Teach the kids to use both sides of the paper. Teach them when a pencil breaks, we sharpen it not toss it out. Teach the kids to clean up the playground after themselves instead of expecting the janitor to do it.
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