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Who's word wins: Teacher or Student?


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BioTeach August 16, 2011


I am a high school teacher with no kids of my own, so I don't truly understand where the parents of my students are coming from. Due to my communication with parents, the above question seems to not be a clear cut answer (of course to me it should be). Since the parents on this website are the ones that will actually give correct information on a contact sheet and do care about their student's success, my question to you is the following:

A teacher contacts you about a negative event in class involving your student... let's say disrupting instruction... and gives details about what happened. When you talk to your student, he/she claims a different set of details, that puts a negative light on the teacher.

Whose word do you place more trust in?

Please explain why.


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MagnetMom August 17, 2011


Absolutely, both.

I will listen to both sides. Hopefully I have actually met this teacher before my child has had this issue, so I know where the teacher is coming from.

What do they say, there are three sides to the story--yours, mine, and the truth?

I've always taught my children to be respectful and listen to authority. I've also known teachers who have absolutely overstepped their bounds or didn't have all the details. I will discipline my child, but I also will listen to my child's concerns.

It sounds like you had a really awful experience with a child & parent, and for that I'm sorry. All teachers should be held with great respect.


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TeacherParent September 2, 2011


As a teacher I'd have to say - I don't understand this approach to problem-solving. Something happened that you want the parent to know about - why? What is it you hope to gain from informing the parent?

It seems to me that your hope is this one phone call will solve the problem and your hope seems to be that the parent will do something or say something to the student so that whatever happens never happens again.

Did you tell the student you were going to call their parents? Of course you tried to work this out with the student yourself first and that must have failed for you to feel the need to call the parent.

Kindly and gently I'd say - you're thinking of the old days and I don't know that the old days were really good. Teacher called home, our parents went absolutely ballistic on us and we went back to school scared to death.

Was that really good that it came down like that? In those good old days, we were really teaching problem-solving and how to get along with others? Were we fostering dialogue between teachers and students?

The very idea of students and teachers having a dialogue was unheard of in the old days and your phone call to parents and the wording of your post suggest strongly that you're not looking for dialogue. You're looking to solve the problem in the old way which was just shut up and do what your teacher says.

First off, that's unrealistic in modern America. We're not a just shut up society anymore. We're supposed to be a participatory democracy with an active, involved citizenry. The judges in our courts are supposed to listen to both sides of the story without prejudice but your post suggests you wants parents to automatically accept only your perspective because you're an adult?

The very wording 'Whose word wins' suggests the old-fashioned 'win or lose' rather than a healthier let's figure out a solution to this. Let's talk about our different needs and perspectives and get to resolution. As a parent, I'd be happy to hear from you and happy to participate in getting the problem solved. But as a teacher, I don't think that's what your approach is going for. Wins what?? If the parent accepts everything you say as full truth, then what next?

If all you're hoping to gain from your phone call home is a "Thank you for calling Ms. Jones" fine. But if you really want to try to solve the problem, many of them can't be solved in the 'win/lose' way of thinking.

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BioTeach September 2, 2011


To Reply to TeacherParent:

The original post was typed in the observation that through my recent experiences and through the look at some of the other posts on this site, I am seeing what you somewhat kindly put it as "Modern America" not putting faith that the teacher is being straight forward, but what my question is is why when a student has shown behavior through out the year, and the communication is simply "Mrs. ________ your son was disrupting the class today, so will need to serve detention." that a parent would reply with something along the lines "That's very funny. My student will not be serving because you are unwilling to let him express hisas he feels. You can expect to hear from my lawyer, if this happens again"?

I wish I was exaggerating about the above, but that represents some of responses I have received in the previous 3 years.

As for the who wins wording: If a parole claimed innocence, while a police officer claimed otherwise.... would you not tend to lean towards the police officer on face value since the officer's job is to enforce the law? That is why a teacher is not simply "an adult" but is the authority figure in the room who must follow regulations and probably has more stake in what happens in the classroom that the teenager speaking in opposition. Hence why I find it odd that the teacher's word is not given the benefit of the reasonable doubt.

My hope with a communication home, is that a parent would talk to the student about the incident, and hopefully mention that they will follow up with me in a week to make sure that I have noticed improvement or instead of a follow up at least respond with an "I'll be sure to talk to him/her." I am looking for a change in the student towards the better. That's why I call home.To start working towards a solution, not to chit chat. I got to the band concerts, football games, volleyball games, and plays to chit chat with parents. Besides all the democratic (which a school is definitely not... closest it gets to is a benevolent dictatorship <--- quoting a colleague) discussion in the world, is still striving to find a solution so that the problem is solved.

I will say that 7 out of 10 times my hope is realized. It is the 3 out of 10 that perplex me.

Just in case I neglected to mention it, this is at a public school. Private would be a different case since the parents are nearly always right if you want to keep your job.



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TeacherParent September 4, 2011


I taught my own children that they needed to get along with their teachers - whether they liked them or not or whether the teachers seemed like good teachers or not or whether their teachers seemed like good people or not. It was smart, not stupid, to work to get along with their teachers. I do however think it was easier for my kids to do that because they weren't angry kids, they weren't harboring lots of resentment, their needs were basically being happily met every day - none of which is true of every kid. There are some angry kids out there. Anger can't be commanded away by teachers or by parents. And angry kids tend to have angry parents though their anger may well not be caused by you but they will turn on you or any other person who adds yet another task or negative message to their day.

Safely said too, we don't all think alike and some people are quick to take offense and are easily offended. Some people live on the edge and it takes only a whisper to push them over that edge. If 25 years of teaching taught me anything, it taught me that.

So, no, not everybody automatically leans towards believing the policeman and in fact, some lead the other way and they tend to believe that those in authority are always inclined to abuse their authority. You teach biology... the brain has trillions of pathways and they don't all lead to the same conclusion or the same behaviors. I once had a student insist to me that the French invented the Rocky Mountains.

And in modern America, so many people threaten legal action as a response to everything. Until we have tort reform or write some laws against frivolous lawsuits, that's likely to continue.

I stopped calling parents for the most part. I came to have a very Midwest 'the buck stops with me' approach to teaching. My parents were wonderful people for the most part with a few nuts thrown in but I asked myself why did I need to call parents? What if the kids had no parents, I mused, and it was just me and them?

And by the way, any examination of modern history, shows that sadly the police are not always telling the truth. We have people in pretty high places in America not telling the truth. It is their job to enforce the law. We brought Clinton to impeachment process for not telling the truth, we considered doing the same with Nixon and there's been talk about Bush. Lately the sainted Nelson Mandela looks to have been involved in his times in an illegal arms trade.

Why would anybody really think that a person whose job it is to enforce the law would be more likely to tell the truth when we've had glaring examples at the highest level of the law that people don't always tell the truth or they sure see their own version of the truth? If you teach current events or modern American history, you see some lying among those who are to enforce the law. Indeed, you see lying among those who are to exemplify proper respect and adherence to the law.

Maybe it would help to think a bit more about history even while teaching biology.



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