4 Huge Concerns You Should Have About Your Child's Elementary School Teacher

Updated on October 2, 2018
letstalkabouteduc profile image

The author is a former preschool and kindergarten teacher with a master's degree in special education. She writes on early childhood.

No Child Left Behind and Common Core have reduced children to test scores.
No Child Left Behind and Common Core have reduced children to test scores. | Source

Are You Worried That Your Child's Elementary School Teacher Is Overburdened?

  • Does it seem your child's teacher knows all about her test scores but little else about her?
  • Do you get frustrated when your child's teacher compares her to other students but fails to recognize her uniqueness?
  • Do you get lost when your child's teacher communicates with you because she uses language you don't understand?
  • Do you get concerned that one or two disruptive students are taking up too much of the teacher's time and energy?

If you're nodding your head, you're not alone. In this age of standardized testing, academic rigor, and "earlier is better," many parents worry about our one-size-fits-all education system and how the creativity and individuality of students is minimized. Elementary school teachers are facing huge demands to get results like never before in history. As a result, it's important that parents advocate for their kids, making sure they're not getting hurt by an education system that's becoming less child-centered.

In Today's School Climate, Parents Need to Speak Up

First, let me come clean; I'm both a teacher and a parent. I know the long hours educators put into their jobs without receiving the compensation and respect they deserve. With the rise of standardized testing, they're under tremendous pressure to prepare students for these high-stakes exams. Test preparation takes up a good deal of their teaching time, reducing their autonomy and creativity in the classroom.

Most tragically, teachers of young children are forced to instruct in ways that are developmentally inappropriate, neglecting the uniqueness of each student and downplaying the enormous value of play, exploration, and social interaction. Educators despise reducing children to test scores, but the current climate in our country often makes them do just that. With this in mind, parents need to be more vigilant than ever, speaking up and advocating for their youngsters.

As an education writer for the past twelve years and as a parent talking to other parents, I’ve seen how high-stakes standardized tests are stunting children’s spirits, adding stress to family life, demoralizing teachers, undermining schools, paralyzing the education debate, and gutting our country’s future competitiveness.

— Anya Kamenetz, author of "The Test: Why Our Schools Are Obsessed With Standardized Testing"

Concern #1:Reducing Students to Test Scores

When I started teaching kindergarten 25 years ago, parent-teacher conferences focused on the whole child—body, mind, and spirit. We'd touch on a wide-range of topics: the child's ability to make friends and handle conflicts, her motivation to use class time productively, and her budding talents in art, math, science, and reading. Sadly, conferences today typically involve teachers explaining standardized test results and reviewing student assessments. Parents often walk away feeling unsatisfied and wondering if the teacher knows their youngster in any meaningful way.

These meetings, so limited in scope, indicate how deep learning is declining in our country. They reflect the need for parents to get more involved and to speak up about their concerns. Anya Kamenetz, who covers school issues for NPR, says that standardized testing has negatively impacted the entire educational landscape. She reports that children in grades three through 10 spend up to 25% of the year preparing for standardized tests. This greatly reduces the time for meaningful activities that promote critical and creative thinking and prepare youngsters for a future where those skills will be desperately needed.

What Should Parents Do?

When my son was in second grade, he was a smart and capable student but didn't interact with peers at recess. I became concerned about this so I arrived at his conference determined to discuss it. When his teacher wanted to stick to the script about test results, I pushed her to discuss the recess situation until we reached a solution. In my mind, what was happening outside with his classmates was just as important (if not more) than what was happening in the classroom.

Parents need to let teachers know that they want the scope of education to be broadened, not increasingly narrowed. If they don't let their voices be heard, educators will continue to focus solely on the cognitive development of their students and not the social, physical, and emotional.

The "earlier is better" mindset hurts young children.
The "earlier is better" mindset hurts young children. | Source

Concern #2: Neglecting the Uniqueness of Each Child

Sadly, elementary school teachers today don't always do a good job of articulating (and celebrating) the individual differences among their students. Because of standardized testing and classroom assessments, they focus too much on comparing a child's progress to those of her peers and communicating that information to parents. Then, when moms and dads find out that their youngster is behind, they panic. They sign her up for after school tutoring, drill her with flashcards, torture her with long homework sessions, buy her workbooks, and send her to summer school. This results in a youngster who feels like a failure, is getting turned off to learning, and is gradually checking out of the academic world, believing it's not for her.

We need to respect children’s individual developmental timelines. The idea that 'earlier is better' for reading instruction is simply not supported by research evidence. Children’s long-term achievement and self-identities as readers and students can be damaged when they are introduced to reading and literacy too early.

— Dr. Jessica Smock, author and educator

What Should Parents Do?

Parents need to realize that children learn at different rates and times and the one-size-fit-all approach in education is unrealistic and harmful. Nowhere is this more evident than in today's kindergarten classrooms where teachers push for every child to read by the end of the school year. This goal, established by the Common Core standards, goes against overwhelming evidence that shows there's no benefit to early reading instruction.

Parents need to learn the facts and not just assume that earlier is better when, in fact, it can do a lot of damage. In their report "Reading Instruction in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose," the authors warn: "When children have educational experiences that are not geared to their developmental level or in tune with their learning needs and cultures, it can cause them great harm, including feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and confusion."

Concern #3: Not Communicating Effectively With Parents

Like any profession, education has its own lingo with words going in and out of vogue. Some elementary school teachers, trying to sound impressive, use this specialized language when talking with parents and don't take the time to explain it. Some of today's buzz words include: mainstreaming, less restrictive environment, inclusion, phonological awareness, whole language, sight words, math manipulatives, cooperative learning, and best practices.

While most teachers are humble, down-to-earth people who enjoy interacting with parents, there are some who are quite patronizing. Having a son with autism opened my eyes to this problem. When teachers spoke with me about my boy, they didn't know I possessed both a teaching credential and a master's degree in special education. In a way, I was undercover and became thoroughly disheartened by some who talked to me in a high-and-mighty manner with no compassion for my situation.

These teachers acted as if I had a low high I.Q. because my son had special needs. They took the stance that they had all the answers, knew my child better than I did, and needed to "educate" me about the proper services for him. In her article "Talking to Parents: What Every Teacher Needs to Know," Amy Mascott addresses this problem, writing: "Speak kindly to parents without being condescending. Leave your 'kindergarten' voice in the classroom and use a different tone with adults than you may use when speaking to younger children."

What Should Parents Do?

When teachers toss about unfamiliar terms, parents should immediately stop them and ask for clarification. They should feel free to ask as many questions as necessary until they understand. They can also bring an advocate—someone who knows more about the topic than they do and who can help bring about clarity. Since teachers tend to talk rapidly at meetings, parents should ask them to slow down. Everyone is busy these days—both teachers and parents—so you want to make the most out of a meeting and ensure progress is being made for the child.

Parents shouldn't let teachers use jargon without explaining it.
Parents shouldn't let teachers use jargon without explaining it. | Source

Concern #4: Letting One Student Take Up Too Much of Their Time and Energy

My biggest complaint as both a parent and an educator is when one or two disruptive students take up too much of the teacher's time and energy. Sadly, this happens far too often and parents, unless they volunteer in the classroom, have no idea how severe the problem is and how much class time it wastes.

Even with classroom management systems in place, a disruptive student can grind learning to a halt. Some elementary school teachers (especially rookies) are hesitant to ask for help from administrators, fearing they'll be negatively labeled as "someone who can't handle her class." Others simply know that administrators don't want to be bothered with discipline problems, expecting teachers to handle them on their own.

What Should Parents Do?

This is when parents should advocate for the teachers. They should go to the principal and state their concerns: “We think Mr. Jones is an outstanding educator and we're so thrilled our daughter is in his class. However, we see that one disruptive student is taking up too much of his time. What can be done so Mr. Jones gets the support he needs and deserves?” With enough pressure from parents, the principal will take the steps necessary to improve the situation. After all, that is his job!

What do you think?

What do you believe is the most important quality in an elementary school teacher?

See results
The Test: Why Our Schools are Obsessed with Standardized Testing–But You Don't Have to Be
The Test: Why Our Schools are Obsessed with Standardized Testing–But You Don't Have to Be

This is the book we parents need to understand what's happening at schools today. High-stakes standardized testing permeates every area of our education system and drives how teachers teach and what students learn. As the type of teachers we knew as kids retire (those that focused on the whole child), we're left with a whole new generation who are convinced that academic rigor, testing, and higher scores are what matter most. As our children now face higher rates of depression and anxiety, we parents needs to be aware of the academic pressures they deal with and how to counteract them. As a mom, I'm glad to have this information so my sons and I can have discussions about standardized tests and put them in perspective.

 

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 McKenna Meyers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        20 months ago from Bend, OR

        I agree that homeschooling is an excellent option these days. I know many parents who do it successfully, combining traditional learning with online resources. I wouldn't characterize them as helicopter moms and dads but involved parents who realize that schools often teach to the lowest common denominator. They saw that their kids weren't getting challenged and were in classrooms with students who were disruptive and unmotivated. This seems to be especially true in middle school when many students check out and it's cool not to try. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • profile image

        John 

        20 months ago

        It is easy to pontificate. If being involved in your child's education is so important consider homeschooling. It's a win win, the parent controls and is in charge and the teachers do what my taxpayer dollars are meant to do: educate children, not cater to helicopter adults.

      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        2 years ago from Bend, OR

        Yes. I hope parents will feel more empowered to get involved and speak up. In this climate of "rigorous learning" and standardized testing, teachers need support from parents. There's a lot of evidence out there that says young children learn best by playing/doing, but our country is moving in the opposite direction.

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 

        2 years ago from the short journey

        Excellent! So surprised I'm the first commenter. Parents need more information like this and more encouragement to remember that they are the parent!

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, wehavekids.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://wehavekids.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)