The other day, I asked if I was unreasonable to find it inappropriate for a curriculum-driven teacher to take classroom time to go hiking. It occurred to me after asking the question that, in relying on my child’s take on events, I could be doing the teacher a disservice. The little Bookworm tries to be accurate, but isn’t always. I therefore sent a politely phrased (and entirely unaccusatory) question to school administration asking if the teacher was ill. My daughter reported to me that the teacher told her (a) that she was hiking and (b) that “your mommy should stay out of her [the teacher’s] business. ” After reminding my daughter that my daughter’s classroom was my business, I let the subject drop.
As it is, since my daughter was accurate in her reportage the first time around (that is, the teacher was hiking), I’m going to assume that she was accurate this time as well. Another reality check may therefore be called for here: Is it me, or does the teacher sound a bit defensive?
UPDATE: I spent a large part of last night brooding about this situation, and realized that a few things were really bothering me. All of your comments were very helpful in clarifying these issues.
Earl hit the first issue, which was the administration’s staggering breach of confidence. The administration had no business whatsoever passing along my identity to the teacher.
The next thing that really bothers me is that the teacher didn’t approach me directly but, instead, spoke of me in a derogatory fashion to my daughter.
The last big problem for me ties in with the comments Helen left regarding the fact that, if the teacher has the time, she should take it. Thus, if its obvious that the teacher was acting within her benefits package when she vanished for several classroom days, she did nothing wrong. (DQ made the same point, by the way.) This is a world that sees the benefit package limitations as controlling the situation, rather than the classroom needs.
Helen writes of a time, which I remember well from my father’s days as a teacher, when teachers were paid starvation wage. (And, usually, administrators made out like bandits.) This kind of salary abuse makes for disenchanted people who will do anything to work the system. Helen made the ethical decision to drop out of teaching altogether. It clearly was an untenable situation.
In my world, teachers get excellent pay packages, excellent benefit packages and a fairly light, very time-limited work load. In the private sector, this would be a dream job. And it’s that private sector factor that I’m thinking about. The private sector is product oriented. If you do well with your product, you do well in the marketplace. Fail at your product and you’re out of there. In a school, the product is the child. The teacher’s job — the thing for which he or she gets paid — is creating the well-educated child.
In the private sector, you can’t say, “I know I have an important product job to do right now, but I’m entitled to a ‘personal day,’ so I’m off.” (This is the situation where the benefit package limitations define job responsibilities.) Private sector employees understand that you use personal days for emergencies, or for slow times. (This is the product orientation approach.) Their jobs hinge on this understanding.
The nature of public school, with its heavy unionization, which makes it virtually impossible to fire a teacher who fails at the product level, is that the benefit package limitation dominates conduct. If your benefits allow it, you do it, regardless of your action’s effect on the product. In a world that’s structured this way, there’s nothing unethical in following your bliss and, indeed, a teacher would be a fool not to take advantage of the freedom this offers. In other words, as a teacher, the product is you.
As a parent, well, … sigh …. sigh ….