Are We Telling the Smaller Stories?

Yesterday, I went to Facebook and noticed a trend. Many of my teacher friends were vocal in their criticisms of their child’s teachers. I saw posts like, “Can you believe the ridiculous homework packet he gets?” and “My son said his teacher sits behind her desk all day. Ugh.”

My first reaction to seeing those posts was, “Have you talked to the teacher first?”

I can’t help but think that as a teacher I would want to be confronted one-on-one rather than publicly shamed by a member of my profession. But maybe I’m just oversensitive.

I realize that I’ve had moments when I have been really critical about my older son’s teacher because I disagree with homework or packets or multiple choice tests. And yet . . . he loves that class. He loves learning. He’s being challenged to think more deeply. He’s learning the honest reality of history. When I talk to him, I am reminded that teachers can be “wrong” about certain things and still get it so right.

For every time he tells me about a frustrating math packet, there are ten times he tells me about something funny she said or a time he learned something cool or a moment she encouraged him in a way that affirmed who he is as a person.

Last night my son read aloud three short stories he had written. I watched him get into the zone as he focussed on the fourth. As I stepped back and watched it, I felt grateful for his teacher. I knew the hours it took for her to edit the work. I knew the lessons she had to teach to get him to develop better word choice and sentence fluency. It has me thinking that there are a lot of little stories (the kind that don’t end up on keynote slides or blog posts) that still add up to something powerful. He loves writing due in large part to his teacher.

I mention this because I regret the times in the past when I posted my frustration about my son’s homework. I regret the fact that I only told the critical stories. I regret the tone of superiority that I took. Because here’s the thing: my kid can read. I have no idea how phonics and blending and all of that work. But he can read. My son is learning two step equations and he’s learning it in a conceptual way that is so much better than the way I learned it. I didn’t teach him those things. His teacher did.

I get the need to point out bad practices. I get the need to tell your child’s story. However, I wonder if we’re not doing enough of telling the stories of all the little things that our kids’ teachers are doing right. Great things are happening in our schools. Are we sharing those stories?


John Spencer

John Spencer

Phoenix, Arizona

In my sophomore year of college, I began tutoring a fifth-grader in a Title One, inner city Phoenix school. What began as a weekly endeavor of teaching fractions and editing essays grew into an awareness of the power of education to transform lives. My involvement in a non-profit propelled a passion for learning as an act of empowerment.

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