Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Teacher's Plea to Helicopter Moms

I talk a lot about my job on this blog. It's hard. And fun. And rewarding. And stressful. And insane. And full; full of joy, integrity, tears, pain, love, support…

There are a lot of things that make teaching difficult: legislation by people who have no idea what it's like to be in a classroom, administrators who are more worried about impressing their superiors than supporting their teachers, students who are disrespectful and don't care about their futures...but one of the most detrimental aspects of my career is the Helicopter Mom. 

You don't have to be a teacher to have experience with a Helicopter Mom. She is a ruthless Mama Bear who will protect her Cub at all costs. She is someone who peaked in high school, and because of that she will never allow her baby to have anything less than a perfect and spotless high school career. Helicopter Moms don't just feel obligated to fight their children's battles, they thrive on it. 
I’ve created a list of the most common traits of Helicopter Moms. If any of these look like you, on behalf of teachers everywhere . . . please stop.


1. You frequently email or call your kid's teachers to "discuss" a bad grade, missing assignment, or perceived mistreatment.
How often do you contact your kid's teachers? When you do, do you subtly question or criticize those teacher's methods? Do you believe that they may not have your child's best interest at heart? Is your first reaction to attack or question said teacher, instead of asking questions in order to get to the root of whatever the issue is? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you might be a Helicopter Mom. When a teacher contacts you about your child’s struggling grade, do your responses look anything like these (and these are paraphrases of actual responses I’ve gotten when trying to talk to a parent about their child’s failing grade)?
  • Well, little Johnny tells me he just doesn't understand the work. Maybe it would help if you made your expectations more clear. How can he turn it in if it's that difficult for him? If you could just set aside some time to help him during class I'm sure that would solve the problem.
    • You're right! It would be no problem to stop class and ignore the other 29 students to make sure that Johnny is completely comfortable before we move on. And don't worry, there's no need for him to talk to me - ever - or express any of his struggles, or come to me for help before or after school when I can give him my full attention. I can read his mind, so I'll automatically know if he doesn't get it. It's certainly acceptable to never say a word, never turn anything in, and expect me to just inherently understand what he needs from me.
  • I don't know what you expect me to do about it. She tells me she doesn't have any homework. Talk to her.
    • You're right. Why would I expect you to have an actual conversation with the fruit of your loins, the child you love and care for? My bad.
  • Sweet Susie has a 504 plan that requires you to give her extra time to complete her assignments. If you were giving her the time she's required then she wouldn't be failing.
    • You know what, maybe the time and a half she’s given that the 504 requires just isn't enough. What if we let Susie turn in all of her assignments on the last day of school? Better yet, how about we just give her until she graduates to do any of her work? I'm sure she'll never have a job that requires any kind of accountability or deadlines, so it won't be an issue.


2. You insert yourself into your child's "friend drama."
Do you find yourself texting for your child? Do you contact the parents of his or her peers to discuss less than cordial incidents between your children? I've seen instances, where mothers text their kid's friends from their own phones in order to gossip about another friend that isn't very popular at that particular moment, or a mother text-harassing a boy her daughter liked in order to determine why he wasn't texting her daughter back in a timely fashion. Are you more interested in your kid's drama than you are in your own personal life? You might be a Helicopter Mom.


3. Your first instinct is to believe it isn't your baby's fault.
Have you ever gotten a call from a fellow parent or your child's school to let you know that there's been an incident and it appears that your precious little cherub is to blame? Have you ever been notified of a failing grade due to incomplete or missing work? What is your first reaction? Is it anger or denial? Do you lash out at the person delivering the bad news? Do you blame the authority figure of the time the incident occurred? If this is your first reaction, you might be a Helicopter Mom.



We take away our children's responsibilities and then we are surprised when they don't learn how to be responsible.
We never let them fail, and so they don't know how to try. 

This is what makes my job hard. Because it doesn't matter how many times I tell your kid that working hard matters. If they go home and you validate every whine, complaint, and lazy decision, then all of my work goes down the drain. It doesn't matter if I punish your kid for disrespectful behavior, if they go home knowing that you've called the principal and complained - without even checking with me first to verify what happened - then they will never learn respect. Your child's teachers can't be the only ones trying to instill in them a belief in integrity and responsibility. If it isn't reinforced at home, then I am preaching to the choir. 

Sometimes your child will fail at things. Sometimes, it will be your kid's fault if something goes wrong. And that's OK! No one is perfect. Failures are learning opportunities. Help me be the best teacher I can be and stop insisting on feeling threatened by your students' teachers and administrators and start viewing us as partners. We want your child to succeed almost as much as you do. 

Try to remember that the next time you decide to send a hateful email questioning whether or not we are capable of doing our jobs, or when you deny us the professional courtesy of actually talking to us and instead decide to go above our heads in an attempt to undermine our authority in our classrooms, or switch your student into a different teacher's class because you believe we are prejudiced against him or her. 

I believe I represent the majority of teachers when I say we are pleading with you to be our partners and not our enemies. We shouldn't be set against each other, we should be working together to ensure that your kid gets as much out of his or her education as possible.

A Teacher's Plea to Helicopter Moms

I talk a lot about my job on this blog. It's hard. And fun. And rewarding. And stressful. And insane. And full; full of joy, integrity, tears, pain, love, support…

There are a lot of things that make teaching difficult: legislation by people who have no idea what it's like to be in a classroom, administrators who are more worried about impressing their superiors than supporting their teachers, students who are disrespectful and don't care about their futures...but one of the most detrimental aspects of my career is the Helicopter Mom. 

You don't have to be a teacher to have experience with a Helicopter Mom. She is a ruthless Mama Bear who will protect her Cub at all costs. She is someone who peaked in high school, and because of that she will never allow her baby to have anything less than a perfect and spotless high school career. Helicopter Moms don't just feel obligated to fight their children's battles, they thrive on it. 
I’ve created a list of the most common traits of Helicopter Moms. If any of these look like you, on behalf of teachers everywhere . . . please stop.


1. You frequently email or call your kid's teachers to "discuss" a bad grade, missing assignment, or perceived mistreatment.
How often do you contact your kid's teachers? When you do, do you subtly question or criticize those teacher's methods? Do you believe that they may not have your child's best interest at heart? Is your first reaction to attack or question said teacher, instead of asking questions in order to get to the root of whatever the issue is? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you might be a Helicopter Mom. When a teacher contacts you about your child’s struggling grade, do your responses look anything like these (and these are paraphrases of actual responses I’ve gotten when trying to talk to a parent about their child’s failing grade)?
  • Well, little Johnny tells me he just doesn't understand the work. Maybe it would help if you made your expectations more clear. How can he turn it in if it's that difficult for him? If you could just set aside some time to help him during class I'm sure that would solve the problem.
    • You're right! It would be no problem to stop class and ignore the other 29 students to make sure that Johnny is completely comfortable before we move on. And don't worry, there's no need for him to talk to me - ever - or express any of his struggles, or come to me for help before or after school when I can give him my full attention. I can read his mind, so I'll automatically know if he doesn't get it. It's certainly acceptable to never say a word, never turn anything in, and expect me to just inherently understand what he needs from me.
  • I don't know what you expect me to do about it. She tells me she doesn't have any homework. Talk to her.
    • You're right. Why would I expect you to have an actual conversation with the fruit of your loins, the child you love and care for? My bad.
  • Sweet Susie has a 504 plan that requires you to give her extra time to complete her assignments. If you were giving her the time she's required then she wouldn't be failing.
    • You know what, maybe the time and a half she’s given that the 504 requires just isn't enough. What if we let Susie turn in all of her assignments on the last day of school? Better yet, how about we just give her until she graduates to do any of her work? I'm sure she'll never have a job that requires any kind of accountability or deadlines, so it won't be an issue.


2. You insert yourself into your child's "friend drama."
Do you find yourself texting for your child? Do you contact the parents of his or her peers to discuss less than cordial incidents between your children? I've seen instances, where mothers text their kid's friends from their own phones in order to gossip about another friend that isn't very popular at that particular moment, or a mother text-harassing a boy her daughter liked in order to determine why he wasn't texting her daughter back in a timely fashion. Are you more interested in your kid's drama than you are in your own personal life? You might be a Helicopter Mom.


3. Your first instinct is to believe it isn't your baby's fault.
Have you ever gotten a call from a fellow parent or your child's school to let you know that there's been an incident and it appears that your precious little cherub is to blame? Have you ever been notified of a failing grade due to incomplete or missing work? What is your first reaction? Is it anger or denial? Do you lash out at the person delivering the bad news? Do you blame the authority figure of the time the incident occurred? If this is your first reaction, you might be a Helicopter Mom.



We take away our children's responsibilities and then we are surprised when they don't learn how to be responsible.
We never let them fail, and so they don't know how to try. 

This is what makes my job hard. Because it doesn't matter how many times I tell your kid that working hard matters. If they go home and you validate every whine, complaint, and lazy decision, then all of my work goes down the drain. It doesn't matter if I punish your kid for disrespectful behavior, if they go home knowing that you've called the principal and complained - without even checking with me first to verify what happened - then they will never learn respect. Your child's teachers can't be the only ones trying to instill in them a belief in integrity and responsibility. If it isn't reinforced at home, then I am preaching to the choir. 

Sometimes your child will fail at things. Sometimes, it will be your kid's fault if something goes wrong. And that's OK! No one is perfect. Failures are learning opportunities. Help me be the best teacher I can be and stop insisting on feeling threatened by your students' teachers and administrators and start viewing us as partners. We want your child to succeed almost as much as you do. 

Try to remember that the next time you decide to send a hateful email questioning whether or not we are capable of doing our jobs, or when you deny us the professional courtesy of actually talking to us and instead decide to go above our heads in an attempt to undermine our authority in our classrooms, or switch your student into a different teacher's class because you believe we are prejudiced against him or her. 

I believe I represent the majority of teachers when I say we are pleading with you to be our partners and not our enemies. We shouldn't be set against each other, we should be working together to ensure that your kid gets as much out of his or her education as possible.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Inferiority Complex


As a teacher, I hear a lot of anti-bullying campaigns. Our school has one. I'm pretty sure just about every school in America has one. These are campaigns that encourage students not to be bullies and/or to stand up for students who are being bullied. 
While I completely agree with the sentiment, I think we might be focusing too much on only one side of the issue. 

Yes, bullying is bad. We should be kind to each other and not belittle others in a sad, pathetic attempt to make ourselves feel like we are worth more. It's called being a decent human being, and the world often seems to be in short supply of those.

Here is my problem with anti-bullying campaigns: we focus too much on the wrong side of the bullying equation. The problem with mean people is that they're mean. Part of the requirements of being a mean person is that you don't care that you need to treat people with decency and respect. Now, I know that bullies don't all fit one mold. I know that a lot of kids belittle others out of deep-seeded insecurity. There could be a serious underlying issue involved. I also want to make sure to note that I recognize there can be some extreme cases of bullying that heap on severe mental or physical abuse, and those need to be dealt with by professionals. I'm not arguing against anti-bulling campaigns. They absolutely should exist. I don't want to get rid of them. I just think we need to add another component.

Instead of spending all of our time focusing on trying to teach mean kids not to be bullies, how about we focus on teaching all kids not to be victims? That doesn't mean we teach them to pick fights will bullies and punch their way out of situations. That's not the way to avoid being a victim. Maybe a few years ago that would've worked, but the nature of bullying has changed, and our society is too litigious. Bullies today don't steal your lunch money or beat you up in the playground after school. Bullies today create fake Twitter accounts for the "fat" girl in class or post demeaning comments on your Instagram posts. Bullies whisper behind your back while they smile to your face. The most destructive weapons in a bully's arsenal are words. 

Words have so much power. A well-placed and genuine compliment can leave a person glowing while an ill-timed and inconsiderate comment can leave them shattered. We often don't give words the credit they deserve. They can cause devastation. They can tear a person down until there is nothing left. Words can be used to create something beautiful, but they can also be used to create something vile and ugly. 

The thing about words, though, is that they only have as much power over us as we allow. 

Most of the time, the people who are going to be bullies are the people who don't care about listening to an anti-bullying campaign. So, maybe we should focus our efforts on showing students that sometimes the best offense is a good defense (or something like that...sports have never been my thing). 
The fact of the matter is, we need to learn how to grow thicker skin. Bullying would be much less of an issue if we stopped allowing bullies to make us feel bad about ourselves. Our society coddles victims, and in our society, everyone is a victim. 
This "Oh you poor baby! How dare she say that about you?" attitude we have is crippling us. And as much as I hate to admit it--because I feel like everyone is getting really tired of the "E" word--I think it all goes back to this feeling of entitlement. The reason why we need anti-bullying campaigns more now than we did 50 years ago is because each generation seems to feel more entitled than the one before. I know I shouldn't speak in generalizations, but for the most part, this seems to be the case.

We don't need to be teaching kids that they should be treated like glass. Humans aren't as fragile as we like to think. We need to teach them to be confident. We need to teach them that sometimes people are going to say awful things. Sometimes people are going to belittle you and cut you down. Sometimes people aren't going to like you and they may not have a good reason for it. 

Sometimes life isn't fair and people are just plain mean.

Mind. Blown.
Write that one down. It's a game-changer.

You can't control what other people do or say, but you can control how you react. You can learn not to give other people the power to tell you how you should feel about yourself. Bullying shouldn't be tolerated. Period. But while we are working on eradicating that issue (which is a pipe dream and everyone knows it), how about we learn how to put our big girl panties on and deal with it? Don't be a victim. A victim, by definition, will always be victimized. The more we can teach our children and our students to quit caring what people say the less likely it is that they will be bullied. Because bullies only bully if someone lets them. We let them when we care what they say and when we get upset by their words. Once a bully sees that his victim isn't affected by his words, he will (most likely) move on to a more vulnerable target. 

**Once again, I want to note the disclaimer that there are exceptions to this because in severe cases of bullying the issue is not the victim's attitude.**

Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." People might not ever stop bullying you, but if you stop giving them the power to make you feel inferior then it won't matter. 


We need to teach students to be confident. We need to empower them with the skills that help them cultivate thick skin and a positive attitude. Confidence is empowering. We can put up thousands of posters that say, "Bullying stops here," or "It isn't big to make others feel small," or "Don't stand by, stand up, stand strong, stand together. Stamp out bullying." But that isn't the way to take away a bully's power. The best way to do that is to teach ourselves to move past it and to quit giving bullies an inch. The only way to strip a bully of his or her power is simply not to hand over that power. Don't give a bully the ability to make you feel different about yourself. 

We need to teach our students and children that only they have the power to make themselves feel inferior and that as long as they don't give that power away the bullies will never win.

Inferiority Complex


As a teacher, I hear a lot of anti-bullying campaigns. Our school has one. I'm pretty sure just about every school in America has one. These are campaigns that encourage students not to be bullies and/or to stand up for students who are being bullied. 
While I completely agree with the sentiment, I think we might be focusing too much on only one side of the issue. 

Yes, bullying is bad. We should be kind to each other and not belittle others in a sad, pathetic attempt to make ourselves feel like we are worth more. It's called being a decent human being, and the world often seems to be in short supply of those.

Here is my problem with anti-bullying campaigns: we focus too much on the wrong side of the bullying equation. The problem with mean people is that they're mean. Part of the requirements of being a mean person is that you don't care that you need to treat people with decency and respect. Now, I know that bullies don't all fit one mold. I know that a lot of kids belittle others out of deep-seeded insecurity. There could be a serious underlying issue involved. I also want to make sure to note that I recognize there can be some extreme cases of bullying that heap on severe mental or physical abuse, and those need to be dealt with by professionals. I'm not arguing against anti-bulling campaigns. They absolutely should exist. I don't want to get rid of them. I just think we need to add another component.

Instead of spending all of our time focusing on trying to teach mean kids not to be bullies, how about we focus on teaching all kids not to be victims? That doesn't mean we teach them to pick fights will bullies and punch their way out of situations. That's not the way to avoid being a victim. Maybe a few years ago that would've worked, but the nature of bullying has changed, and our society is too litigious. Bullies today don't steal your lunch money or beat you up in the playground after school. Bullies today create fake Twitter accounts for the "fat" girl in class or post demeaning comments on your Instagram posts. Bullies whisper behind your back while they smile to your face. The most destructive weapons in a bully's arsenal are words. 

Words have so much power. A well-placed and genuine compliment can leave a person glowing while an ill-timed and inconsiderate comment can leave them shattered. We often don't give words the credit they deserve. They can cause devastation. They can tear a person down until there is nothing left. Words can be used to create something beautiful, but they can also be used to create something vile and ugly. 

The thing about words, though, is that they only have as much power over us as we allow. 

Most of the time, the people who are going to be bullies are the people who don't care about listening to an anti-bullying campaign. So, maybe we should focus our efforts on showing students that sometimes the best offense is a good defense (or something like that...sports have never been my thing). 
The fact of the matter is, we need to learn how to grow thicker skin. Bullying would be much less of an issue if we stopped allowing bullies to make us feel bad about ourselves. Our society coddles victims, and in our society, everyone is a victim. 
This "Oh you poor baby! How dare she say that about you?" attitude we have is crippling us. And as much as I hate to admit it--because I feel like everyone is getting really tired of the "E" word--I think it all goes back to this feeling of entitlement. The reason why we need anti-bullying campaigns more now than we did 50 years ago is because each generation seems to feel more entitled than the one before. I know I shouldn't speak in generalizations, but for the most part, this seems to be the case.

We don't need to be teaching kids that they should be treated like glass. Humans aren't as fragile as we like to think. We need to teach them to be confident. We need to teach them that sometimes people are going to say awful things. Sometimes people are going to belittle you and cut you down. Sometimes people aren't going to like you and they may not have a good reason for it. 

Sometimes life isn't fair and people are just plain mean.

Mind. Blown.
Write that one down. It's a game-changer.

You can't control what other people do or say, but you can control how you react. You can learn not to give other people the power to tell you how you should feel about yourself. Bullying shouldn't be tolerated. Period. But while we are working on eradicating that issue (which is a pipe dream and everyone knows it), how about we learn how to put our big girl panties on and deal with it? Don't be a victim. A victim, by definition, will always be victimized. The more we can teach our children and our students to quit caring what people say the less likely it is that they will be bullied. Because bullies only bully if someone lets them. We let them when we care what they say and when we get upset by their words. Once a bully sees that his victim isn't affected by his words, he will (most likely) move on to a more vulnerable target. 

**Once again, I want to note the disclaimer that there are exceptions to this because in severe cases of bullying the issue is not the victim's attitude.**

Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." People might not ever stop bullying you, but if you stop giving them the power to make you feel inferior then it won't matter. 


We need to teach students to be confident. We need to empower them with the skills that help them cultivate thick skin and a positive attitude. Confidence is empowering. We can put up thousands of posters that say, "Bullying stops here," or "It isn't big to make others feel small," or "Don't stand by, stand up, stand strong, stand together. Stamp out bullying." But that isn't the way to take away a bully's power. The best way to do that is to teach ourselves to move past it and to quit giving bullies an inch. The only way to strip a bully of his or her power is simply not to hand over that power. Don't give a bully the ability to make you feel different about yourself. 

We need to teach our students and children that only they have the power to make themselves feel inferior and that as long as they don't give that power away the bullies will never win.