Maureen Downey, moderator/writer of the always interesting Get Schooled Blog on AJC.com, published a letter written by an elementary school administrator, Mr. Dorce. He writes about the tale of a young man he mentored. After attending the young man's graduation and asking about his future, Mr. Dorce realized that all was not as it seemed. Long story short, Mr. Dorce ends with the line, "...I was supposed to help." Please take the time to read the post.
After reading the post and then the comments, the message that I received from the (non-hatred spewing) majority was that the blame for the young man's fate was the parent(s), the young man himself, or both. Many of these comments came from teachers. However, two statements stuck out to me from Mr. Dorce's letter concerning blame for the young man's situation:
"I do not blame anyone in particular for many adults failed Robert, including me."
"Robert is not guiltless. There was plenty that was his responsibility. He could have and should have gotten help for his reading struggles. Lots of people throughout our schools are willing, able and eager to help. He was a child, however, when he started to push back and mask his reading deficiencies."
As you see, Mr. Dorce does not point out anyone group of people or specific person for Robert's plight, including Robert himself. He does acknowledge that there were several actions Robert could have taken to give himself a better shot at earning his diploma. (He does not discuss the obvious precautionary measures Robert could have taken to avoid fathering children, but I digress.) With all this considered, here's my question.
Because the blame goes wide and deep, what does assigning blame accomplish, especially when it is assigned to parents and/or students?
To examine this question, let's go back to the PTSR and look at it from the teacher's perspective. I'm well aware of the teacher role, as I'm the teacher! I have direct control over this part, so no problems. The student role is a little trickier; I know what the student should be doing. In reality, this does not always happen. I'll venture a guess and say that students often push back against their role...which is where the teacher role becomes important. As the teacher, I have an element of control here. What I do in my classroom and with my students can have a direct effect on the students.
To keep score, the teachers have control in two roles in the PTSR: the teacher role and the student role. Granted, the teacher's control of the student role is not 100%, but there are ways of highly stacking the odds in our favor. Continuing on...
The last role is that of the parent. I have a prototype in mind for the parent role, but it's just that, a prototype. It's not real. Different parents have different ideas of the parent role in PTSR. That's not to say there aren't fantastic parents. I have a plethora of examples of fantastic parenting (my parents, for one). Sometimes, though, we have parents of students that are severely lacking. I can meet with them and communicate with them as often as possible and still they won't budge. Needless to say, teachers do not have much control, if any, of the parent role.
- Blaming students accomplishes nothing, because the teacher has an element of control over the student role. The amount of control of the student role depends on the individual teacher. We can do something here!
- Blaming parents accomplishes nothing, because there is nothing to little that can be done to control parents. Sorry, it's fact. The overly involved parents will almost always continue to be overly involved. The minimally involved parents will almost always continue to be minimally involved.
The PTSR is important, and I know that I will be discussing it more when I start teaching. When discussing our children's education, instead of being problem-oriented, we should be solutions-oriented. Currently when there's a problem, we try to diagnose to assign blame, not to solve the problem. In keeping with my philosophy, I'm not going to assign blame for the PTSR blame game when failures in our system happen. However, I will offer my first solution of this whole enterprise:
Eliminate the blame game from education all together. In lieu, use the PTSR and the school community to find workable solutions to problems that arise.
This includes blaming ourselves, because there is nothing to gain by doing so. (Someone will probably need to remind of this in the coming months.) Reflect and problem-solve. Repeat, if necessary.