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Ed Tech Thoughts on the Space Coast

Norwegian School Places Parents Under the Tutelage of Educators

photo credit: Jim Forest,
A former student and friend shared a Norwegian news article with me and asked me what I thought… a Facebook question and response turned into a blog post. You may want to start with the new article:

The school has a new task, namely to educate parents

Even though this article reports on education in Norway, we have seen similar policies in the good old U.S. of A. We have often said that student success has a high correlation with stable, healthy home environments and supportive, educated parents. So the big question is can (or should) teachers be held responsible or accountable for parent learning or educational involvement?

The Denmark regulation states: The school and now will: facilitate cooperation with the home and ensure that parents / guardians share responsibility in schools. Good teachers should already be doing that. The concern is when it becomes law and must be documented, assessed and enforced.

On one hand it makes sense that parents should bear equal (or greater) responsibility for learning – but it is hard to legislate that. We cannot require parents to engage their teen children in intelligent discussion around the dinner table, or read to their primary children several times a week. Nor can we fine they provide their children with enriching experiences like vacations to historical sites, natural wonders... and exactly how should educators demand, reward, or 'grade' parenting skills? Will administrators look at a portfolio of parent achievement and involvement before promoting a student to the next grade?

How do we penalize parents for bad attitudes towards learning, school, homework, teachers, administrators, teaching resources? This is a huge part of the problem for poor achievers or learning challenged students, their parents reinforce bad attitudes, enabling irresponsibility, making excuses for their children rather than developing a positive solution for growth.

Although I think the parents have the majority of the responsibility for the quality and aptitude for learning of their children, the libertarian part of me says, stay out of my home. And be careful about what you teach my children about religion, sex, and your version of political correctness.

So that takes us to the teacher part of the equation. I think a good learning community provides opportunities for the parents to learn alongside their children. At Stone Magnet Middle School, we need to have a more open campus, encourage parent volunteerism, provide learning opportunities for parents in technology literacy, access to learning materials. But we also need to guard against 'helicopter parents' that smother the child's independence. (I found it interesting that the article actually translates this term, which I would imagine originated in the US.)

The most alarming part of this, and clearly a main point in the Norwegian article, is the question of implementation. When you establish policy, you need to be able to assess compliance. So now our good teachers who are doing as much as they can already for each individual student, have a new checkbox/task that has to be addressed for each individual student. Teachers either comply with this new responsibility and give something else important up, or they risk losing their job, pay, or professional standing.

photo credit: John Gulliver
There is always more one should do as an educator. Adding parents to the equation might calculate to over tripling the responsibilities of the educator, when you add in a mother, father, and/or significant other (stepfather/mother, boyfriend, girlfriend). Did I mention how hard it is to get a hold of those who don't walk through the door of your classroom? If your current class size is 24, this becomes now 72 people to contact, counsel, evaluate, listen and communicate with, etc. For secondary teachers, the relationships will expand from 120 to 360 (on average). Personalized education is not like a factory that you can retool and ramp up production with the same manpower.

It appears that the conclusion of the article is that excellent teachers are already overwhelmed with responsibility and will leave their profession with its ever expanding burden of stress and accountability. They will leave their passion and calling for a job where they can put in a solid 50 hour workweek, turn out the light and lock the work door behind them. Can you blame them?
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