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One and a half days of school left for the year.  One and a half days left until I spend an entire year contemplating if I should return to the classroom. 

One and a half days to enjoy what has been my passion for the last twenty some years before a huge life move.  But instead of reveling in it, I’m left reading Facebook posts about school that are 100% disheartening. 

Even though the post in question on my school group has nothing to do with me or my students, I’m still completely confused and saddened. 

Do you want to know why teachers are burned out? 

Because I assure you, we aren’t leaving burned out because of the teaching part.

We are burned out because we are spending somewhere upwards of 8 hours a day trying to teach 30 students how to be motivated, goal-driven, good citizens, and then some of them go home and have parents who completely undo everything we’ve done all day in an instant.

A handful of parents (again, not mine, but they might as well be since I see my colleagues as family) are upset because students who did not meet their individualized reading goals didn’t get to participate in the fun water party today. 

Yes, you read that right. 

Individualized.  To somewhere around 600 students.  Personalized levels, points, and books. 

But some parents are mad to the point of publicly stating that even though they aren’t “everyone gets a trophy” parents, their children would be pulled out of school today to do something fun since they were not being included in the reward party.  Parents spent time making Facebook comments because they don’t think it’s right that some children would be sad today when their friends (who worked their tails off to meet their goals) got rewarded. 

So, should we, instead, disregard the work from the students who DID meet their goal?  This doesn’t make sense, and I assure you that even my “sad” fourth graders today would agree that even though they missed the party, it would not be right to reward everyone. 

They are ten-years-old, and they understand this. 

How do parents not get it?

How would these parents feel if their child had worked incredibly hard for something, and then we decided that it didn’t matter who did the work and gave everyone the same prize?

Students were not being included today because they didn’t meet the goal that they had more than eight weeks to meet.  The goal parents were notified about at the beginning of the nine-week marking period.  The goal that is personalized to their reading level (despite their grade) and their comprehension level.  The goal that every student in the school is encouraged to meet. 

Students get encouragement from their teacher weekly as they remind students to test over their books and read each night for homework.  Encouragement from the principal and dean of students during morning assemblies.  Encouragement with fun dress up days that the entire school DOES get to participate in for whole school word count goals.  Encouragement from aides, intervention teachers, and special education teachers.  But still these parents accuse us of damaging their child’s mental health by not including them in the party for the goal they didn’t meet.

It makes me want to cry.  It literally hurts.

If I’m being honest, I don’t even know the particular children the post is talking about or the parents in question.  I don’t know which teacher it is, and I don’t really care.  What I do care about is that children are being sent the message that they will get rewarded regardless of what they do. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I think all children should be included in fun school events.  Fall Festival, absolutely!  Classroom holiday and end-of-year parties, without a doubt.  Classroom reward parties for behaving with the substitute, God yes.

But if we are saying that all children should be included in a reward party for a specific goal, then would those same parents agree that children who got suspended from school for behavior should be allowed to come for class parties?

I mean, if we can’t leave anyone out for fear of sadness, then that kid who punched your child and called her a “not-so-nice” name should still be allowed to go on the field trip the next day, right? 

And the kiddo who is severe ADHD and didn’t get his meds this morning so he lost his temper and shoved your kid down on the concrete, he should get to come to the party too, right?  I mean, it isn’t their fault if they learn social skills at a different rate than their peers. 

How about Honor Roll?  I know your child worked to overcome a lot of challenges, but shouldn’t we give the Honor Roll certificate to everyone who tried hard?  Perfect attendance should also count if you missed school for a valid reason, right?  I mean, even if little Johnny misses school every Friday, it’s not his fault that his parents work nights and don’t bring him to school.  He should also get perfect attendance so he doesn’t feel left out.

I know, I know.  That’s pretty extreme, but somehow I feel that if those same parents were given these scenarios, they might have a different opinion.

Now, before you go wondering and jumping to conclusions, let me assure you.  My OWN children who have gone to the same school and have even been in MY class before have missed out on these parties.  Were they sad?  Sometimes.  Did I make excuses for them?  Hell, no.

As a parent, my job is to teach them that some things in life are really tough to earn, hard work pays off, life isn’t about what’s fair, and sometimes you’ll be sad and regret decisions you’ve made.  So, when my kids didn’t meet the goal, they didn’t go to the party.  And they DEFINITELY did not get a special reward at home because they were sad.  Instead, they got a life lesson, a hug, and a “we’ll just try harder next quarter” speech.  Because that’s what good parents should provide.  Encouragement, counsel, and love.  Not excuses.

I’m sure there are many people out there who disagree with me.  What if they are just starting school as a Kindergartener?  What if they have a reading disability?  What if they don’t have parents at home to support them? 

What if I told you that as a teacher, we consider and compensate for all of that?  Yes, for all 30 of them as best we can.

While I will never claim to teach Kindergarten (I’ll leave that up to the experts), do you really think any Kinder teacher would set a goal for a five-year-old with the expectation that they fail and are sad?  Anyone who thinks this has never personally known a Kindergarten teacher. 

What I can claim is that I’ve had special education students, struggling readers who read two grade levels below their grade, and students who basically parent themselves, ALL meet their reading goal and attend the party.  Is it easy?  No.  Does it require effort and motivation from the child?  Absolutely.  Would any teacher I work with make some allowances for circumstances like this to help support students who genuinely do everything they can to meet the goal?  Of course we do.  Does that mean that every child meets the goal every quarter?  No. 

As a parent, do these people really think we WANT to see students who are sad because they missed a fun event?  Do they think we punish their child for not meeting their goal?

Last quarter, I had about ten students that did not meet their goal in my class.  Did I punish them during the party so they would feel bad about themselves?  Nope.  Instead, we watched a motivational video about setting goals.  I worked with each one of them individually to set their new goal.  We picked out books together that were interesting to them.  We made a calendar that broke each child’s book goal down into daily page amounts.  Guess how many of those students met their goal this time?  Almost every single child.  And guess what, they were proud of themselves and absolutely deserved the water party today.

Do I believe that every other teacher I work with also has some type of system to help and motivate children who really want to meet their goals?  Without a doubt.  Does that mean that every child will do the work and read the books and take the tests?  No. 

We are teachers, not magicians.

So, while I cry behind my glasses about those students who will never learn the power of hard work and goal setting, I’ll also choose to scroll right past the rest of those comments on Facebook.  I’ll say an extra prayer for the teachers who were accused of not helping the children in question try to meet their goal. 

Yes, I’ll choose to scroll past the Facebook comments, but it still makes my teacher heart feel hurt and damaged. 

If you want to know why teachers are burned out, it isn’t because of the teaching.  Honestly, it isn’t even because of the workload, and I’d even go so far as to say it isn’t because of the Covid crisis we are still cleaning up.  In my opinion, it is because the very work we put in for nine weeks straight can be completely undone in a day by one parent. 

Being a parent is tough.  Being a parent to 30 kids, even tougher.  Trying to teach 30 kids life skills to make them successful as an adult?  Burn-out worthy when you don’t have parent support.

Today, my own child got to attend the party.  It was (in her words) “SO FUN!”  I’m proud of her working hard to meet her own personal goal, and I completely support every parent who either congratulated their happy child or counseled their own sad child through the tough love this afternoon after school.  For those of you who gave a hug, dried some tears (both theirs and yours), and continued on teaching your child important life skills, YOU are the reason I will return to teaching. 

Be grateful (for parents who give tough love), water your own grass,

…and drink coffee. 

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8 Comments

  1. Amen!!! I shed my tears. I was in charge of the program at my former school. And I’ve helped run it for the last (what it is 8 years?) at our school. It was not the most fun send off to have parents cranky about it today after I’ve spent all this extra time helping out of the goodness of my heart, for zero extra pay. Thanks for the fun send off! 😢I’m glad the kids had a great time though!
    I’m going to follow your lead and even delete my Facebook app for a while.
    Continue teaching those sweet kids to have grit and accomplish their goals. Those lessons will last a lifetime!
    My own children have missed parties in the past, and it majorly motivated them to get their butts in gear next quarter.
    I’m so grateful you taught my kids. They are better people because of your example! We love you!!!

    1. You, Brianne are one of a kind. You and Ashlyn are the reason my own daughter finally got to start going to those parties that year. Both of your teaching, patience, and encouragement and that of her other amazing teachers is why she is a reader today. Today was epic, and those kids loved it. You will be sorely missed. Thank you for sharing your love of reading and books with so many young lives. You have made such a difference. ❤️

  2. You are an amazing teacher that understands that teaching goes far beyond academics. Teaching these life lessons will help our students become successful in life, not just school. Thank you for your open and honest post. Not only teachers should read this, parents should as well. Don’t ever stop teaching. You have impacted so many lives! My own daughter continually tells me how you are the best teacher in the world and one day she want to be a teacher like you!

  3. I totally agree with everything that was stated here. Parents are more of a problem these days then their children. When are adult parents going to realize that their children need to be taught how to be focused, driven, and earn their own accomplishments in order to be successful and happy?

    1. Thank you! I am thankful that the majority of parents that I work with agree as well. It is a tough world, and we are all trying our best to prepare them! If parents could see it that way, maybe they would be more apt to let their child fail when they have the safety net of all of us that can coach them along.

  4. Thank you for this. I felt like you were talking about me. If only parents knew how demoralizing it is to be blamed for students who don’t meet their goals.

    There’s nothing like a negative comment when you’ve been working you tail off to help students succeed to send a teacher spiraling down.

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