I hope you don’t mind me starting with this: I am so disappointed right now, I find it hard to even know how to say what I feel needs to be said.
I am a parent. My kids are missing out. So many things are spinning out of control and no one seems willing to take control, or even attempt to gain control. My home province has gone from Canada’s Ocean Playground, to a playground where it has become acceptable to berate and chastise friends, family and people you don’t even know. I honestly never imagined I would see this in my lifetime.
I had the ‘pleasure’ of sitting in the staff room eating my lunch the other day and listening to a small group of coworkers talking about the current contract negotiations with teachers. One woman, who has no children of her own and hasn’t set foot in a school since she finished approximately 40 years ago, was quite vocal with her abuse of teachers. I won’t go into details, that serves no real purpose, but I will tell you how it made me feel.
First you have to understand – those teachers that she was berating, those are some of my best friends. And my one true love; my husband. After listening for a few minutes, I chimed in a comment on how much our schools have changed since we were in them and it truly is difficult for us to understand the issues. She continued on with her very abusive tirade and after another five minutes I left, not quietly though. I emphasized why I feel those teachers will never return to the same level of good they have been doing, and how our education system is going to be far worse off in the months and years to come because of the disrespect thrown at teachers.
Then I went into my office, shut the door, and cried. Why? Because I know how much my husband puts into his kids. Yes – his kids. Not ‘our kids’ – but his kids. The ones he sees five days a week for ten months of the year. The ones he jokes around with and creates a fun environment for so they will want to learn with him. The ones who cry in his office because something is going on at home and they have no one to talk to about how they feel. The ones who have been called into that same office because they have been bullying someone, or being disrespectful, or cheating on a test, and they need someone to show them the right path.
The same kids that years later, walk up to him at the grocery store or even an office party and thank him for everything he did. The ones who thank him for being there when their friend was killed in a tragic accident. The ones who thank him for helping them figure math out, so they could feel smart when they never thought they would. The ones who went on to do something with themselves because he showed them they had the ability and that they didn’t need to act like a class clown to get somewhere.
Why, all of a sudden, is it okay to publicly berate people? I grew up learning some pretty good rules. “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything.” That one proved very useful for most of my life. I admit, I have been ignoring it a little lately. When people attack my husband about his work, I get pretty defensive.
It’s really not surprising. I have watched him coach team after team and run more clubs than I could name. “There’s no parent to coach basketball? Okay fine, I don’t have time but I can’t see the kids miss out on playing.”
One year, he coached three different sports, one with a very long season, and ran an after school club that was in such demand it had to run on several days each week. Did he mind? Nope, not at all. Would he have preferred if parents had stepped up and done it? Sure thing. Why? Because he has a family of his own. But the reality is, parents have not been stepping up to do these things.
We have seen it in sports, where teachers have been picking up the slack since I was in high school (that’s 30 years ago!!). It can be seen in parent-teacher groups, where a small group of parents does the work for an entire school. A few years ago I was involved in an elementary PTA in a school with 320 kids. There were four of us moms who were the PTA. We organized everything. The fall fair, the Christmas dinner, the fundraisers to pay for class trips. And with the assistance of teachers, we were able to make things good for our schoolchildren.
But this new reality of parents turning a blind eye is catching up with us. Few of us are putting in the effort to coach. Few of us step up and ask the school if we can help. It also appears few of us are teaching our kids about respect. We are allowing our children to ‘be the man’ instead of ‘respecting the man.’ Or woman. I’m not sexist.
There are examples all over social media of adults berating, chastising and showing no respect for the very people who could be the difference-makers in their children’s lives. From inside homes to our government representatives, everyone feels it’s fair game to attack teachers.
I would ask you to remember that when you are attacking that teacher, you are attacking your friend, perhaps someone in your family, perhaps the spouse of the person sitting next to you at the staff room table. And you are setting an example for our children that will shape the future of this province.
Show them some respect. It’s okay to disagree and it’s wonderful to ask questions. But the only way to a solution is to work together. Alienating your friends, families and co-workers is not going to help us.
The solution is out there in the middle of long conversations and heartfelt respect. I hope we find it soon so we can all get back to normal in my house.