The Loss of Common Sense in Education

Teacher Kathy Kenney-Marshall mourns the lack of common sense in education and shares some stories which highlight the double standards of some parents:

Lately though, one particular sentence repeats itself in my head when I read my school email. The line says, “Common Sense took a turn for the worse when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.”

I find this to be all too common as my teaching career marks nearly a quarter of a century. This includes, but is not limited to, expecting that kids do their homework.

Recently for example a parent was incensed when her child was not given a sticker on a homework assignment that was not completed according to directions! A sticker!!

It happened every once in a while when I was newer to the profession; a child on the verge of permanent punishment made up a story to “get me in trouble”: “MOM! The teacher is making me write every spelling word from the whole year 5,000 times each and it’s May!” “MOM! She’s making me write a 17-page paper on the 17 countries in West Africa…by TOMORROW!”

Most of the time the parents of these embellishment makers, will write a note asking why I am torturing children, but for the most part, I get a very nice call or note letting me know about the tall tales that are coming home to deflect the attention off themselves and whatever it is they have or haven’t done, and onto me, the evil teacher in room B29.

But, as I spend more and more time in the classroom, I find myself addressing situations that make me believe that Common Sense is, if not dead, rushing out the doors of many homes. Not too long ago, I had a parent call me to say that she was having trouble putting her child to bed. She asked what I could do to help her. I thought perhaps she dialed the wrong number and really meant to call the pediatrician. But sadly, I was mistaken.

She literally asked me if I could come to her home to help her put her unruly-at-home son to bed because I didn’t seem to have trouble with him at school.

Another day, I received a phone call from a distraught mother whose child was new to our school. She was upset because her very bright daughter wrote a very messy essay and reported, “Mrs. KKM said to do it this way.”

The mother berated me for forcing her child to do a bad job. It didn’t take long to figure out the confusion; I asked the children to do a rough draft, but since they are only 8, and I like to rhyme, I call it a “sloppy copy” and apparently I failed to explain the term properly to an appropriately literal third- grader. The mother and I had a laugh and so did the student the next day.One of my favorites of late was a parent of a child who transferred from a very religious private school. The parent called to inquire about a discussion that her son relayed to her from the day. The conversation went something like this:

Parent: “Are you teaching about the family in school?”

Me: “No, there is a family/community unit in first grade, but not in third.”

P: “Well are you teaching about alternative lifestyles?” (Now I was interested)

M: “Hmm….no. I can’t figure out where you’re going with this, why do you ask?”

P: “Mrs. Kenney-Marshall! We are a very conservative and religious family! Are you teaching homosexuality?!” (I almost choked on my water.)

What I wanted to say and almost did, but MY Common Sense took over just in time, “No, Ma’am, that’s not until fourth grade.” After a few more questions from me, I realized what she was talking about; in math class, I had talked about how certain numbers are related. For example; 4, 3, and 12 are related in multiplication and division. She was immensely relieved, but as I hung up the phone, I shook my head and found myself missing my good friend Common Sense who had apparently vacated her home that day.


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2 Responses to “The Loss of Common Sense in Education”

  1. alundeberg Says:

    Classic! Love the one about the one who wanted you to put her kid to bed. I have found myself giving parenting advice to my students’ parents and I’m not even a parent! But at the high school level I’m lucky if I get a hold of a parent.

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