Thursday, September 15, 2011

What Parents Really Want to Tell Teachers: What You Do Hurts Our Children

Guest Post by Laurie A. Couture.  This article was originally posted here and shared with permission at The Innovative Educator blog.               

Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs (Image by Factoryjoe)
Many parents are shaking their heads at the audacity and insolence of the CNN article, What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents by Disney-and-Oprah-endorsed teacher, Ron Clark. His article is dangerous because it represents how the majority of traditional school teachers view children, parents and teachers’ roles as authorities over children’s lives. In my post, What Teachers Really Need to Hear From Parents, I challenge Ron Clark to consider the dehumanization of children and the undermining of the parent-child bond in the institution he represents.

Most parents in industrialized societies are conditioned by their own schooling to be obedient and unquestioning of their children’s schools and the so-called authorities therein. A frightening majority of parents are unaware that most everything that traditional school teachers do is developmentally inappropriate and even harmful for youth of all ages. However, a growing movement of parents are parenting through awareness, consciousness and connection to their children’s needs. Many of these parents are opting out of public and traditional schools are are seeking refuge for their children in child-centered and democratic schools or through homeschooling and unschooling. 

As a mother of an unschooling teen son, and based on the years of complaints I have heard from parents and their children about traditional schools, I have compiled a list of  concerns and presented them to teachers in the context of their own education:

1. In college and Grad school, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was an elementary principle that you learned. Maslow stated that if basic physical and emotional needs are not met, a child cannot properly attend to higher level functions such as learning. Yet, despite your “education”, you hurt our children’s bodies, emotions, minds and spirits every day in the name of routines, rules and “classroom management”. 

Here’s how:

2. As “trained professionals”, you seem to be ignorant about the basic functioning of the human body. You deny our children their right to eat when hungry, causing their blood sugar to drop and putting them at risk for fatigue, nausea and mood instability. You deny our children their right to use the toilet when needed, causing them intense pain and desperation and putting them at risk for urinary and gastrointestinal dysfunction and damage. You deny them  hydration, causing them to dehydrate and putting them at risk for headaches, mental fog, lethargy and medical problems. You deny our children physical activity at their will, causing them distress and putting them at risk for hyperactivity, challenging behavior, inability to focus and obesity, weakness and medical problems. You also act oblivious as to how preoccupying and awkward sexual development can be in a school setting for our teen boys and girls, putting them at risk for shame, distress and early sexual activity.

3. You are responsible for referring our children to the mental health system to be labeled as “learning disabled”, “mentally ill” and “special needs”. Our children are prescribed  powerful chemicals that alter their natural neurological functioning and do harm to every system of their bodies. You do this rather than deal with the fact that children need touch, movement and play and are not meant to be away from their families all day or learn in the conditions you force upon them. (In 19 states, you actually legally assault our children! It is unconscionable that you have failed to learn from your Master’s-level training that violence physically and psychologically traumatizes children.)

4. Through your studies in college and Grad school you should be aware that  play is the very means by which all mammal children learn. You are aware that children learned for millennia through play and community interaction and that many of our world’s greatest minds were minimally or not schooled. You also observe every day how children long and beg to play and will, at all ages, risk getting into trouble to steal a moment of play. Yet, you refuse to allow our children to do as nature drives them to do- Play, move, jump, run, climb, explore, create and have fun. You seem to take the joy out of everything you give children to do and then you punish them when they act like children.

5. You know that one of the most dreadful times of the day for parents and children is homework time. You know that our children have been cooped up all day, away from their families, homes, friends, the outdoors, our communities and their interests. Yet despite the research that indicates that homework is not beneficial for children, you make our evenings at home a nightmare by forcing our children to do reading, paperwork and projects for you. You seem callous to the tears, tantrums and distress our children suffer every night and the helplessness we feel to be able to give them the time they need to be kids.

6. You are aware from your training that there are at least seven forms of human intelligence and at least three modalities of learning. You are aware that most children, especially our boys, are kinesthetic, hands-on learners. Yet you insist upon keeping children sedentary, all doing the same work, in the same auditory, linguistic or mathematical manner. You are aware that this sets up many children, especially our boys, for failure. You view most of our boys and our children who are artistic, musical, kinesthetic, creative, athletic, introspective, extroverted, quirky or perseverant as underachievers, lazy, learning disabled, mentally ill, behavioral problems or having “ADHD”. You view their passions as “hobbies” that do not count as “academics” and you rule out seeing that their “hobbies” are often more intricately academic than anything you are “teaching”.

7. You take our children away from us. They will be children for less than two decades out of a long adulthood, but you steal those critical years from us. Our children are touch and love starved all day in school. Your academic training taught you the vital importance of parent-child attachment and how a disruption can cause psychological problems. But you disrupt the parent-child bond by infringing upon our family time, causing emotional disconnection to deepen with each year. You subordinate children, causing them to form and focus on toxic peer networks. You can do little to protect our peer-tormented children because you have set yourselves apart from children, like another species. By the time our children are in their mid-teens, they are so depressed, angry and overwhelmed with busywork, pop-culture escapes and peer expectations that society has to write books to try to convince us that “pulling away” is natural in the teen years when in fact, it is not.

8. You talk to us as if you know our children, their needs and what is best for them better than we do. We assure you, you do not! Despite learning about Maslow, Bowlby, Ainsworth, Montagu, Harlow, Gardner and others in college and Grad school and despite your own common sense observations about children, you seem to do everything opposite of what our children need. Then, you gravely misjudge and punish their distress signals and define their humanity by their behavior.  You treat our children without respect, empathy, compassion or love unless they behave according to your rules and expectations. You seem oblivious to their pain, vulnerability and distress.

9. You cause so many of our most creative, spirited children to hate learning and to lose their passion, creativity, interests, motivation and their charismatic or poetic personalities. Everything you expect takes their attention away from what they were born to do. You replace that with some federal agenda to do homogenized work, pass one-dimensional tests and seamlessly usher children into taking their “place” in the economy, either as perpetual students, workers, laborers or drop outs. Children processed by your system have no time to make up all of the living they missed from preschool through high school graduation. From there on, unless they find themselves, they will have a life of perpetual work and consumption until they die.

10. Know that a growing movement is showing us that our children do not have to live this way. There are joyful, free ways for our children to learn; ways they can play, thrive and feel happy, safe and good in their own skin… Ways they can manifest lives of passion, creativity and ingenuity in their own ways… We also want you to know that you do not have to be a part of the school system. If you truly love children, you could help us raise awareness to how the education system harms children. You could work in a democratic school or become a caring mentor to children in need. If you agree with us that the system does not allow you to meet our children’s needs, then work to restore childhood back to our children.

Laurie A. Couture is an unschooling, alternative education and attachment parenting coach and consultant. She is the author of Instead of Medicating and Punishing: Healing the Causes of Our Children’s Acting-Out Behavior by Parenting and Educating the Way Nature Intended which was chosen as a finalist in the ForeWord Magazine Book-of- the-Year Awards in 2009. She appears as an expert in the documentary film, The War On Kids (2009) and is the host of The Free and Joyful Childhood Radio Show. Laurie was a recipient of the 2010 Manchester Union Leader’s Forty Under 40 honors.  Visit her website at  

Further Reading:
Read the conversation on my Facebook page about this topic here and here.
Read the Adventures in Learning blog reaction to this piece here.
Reactions to Ron Clark's initial piece
Read learning expert Linda Dobson's reaction to Ron Clark, Oprah and Disney here.


  1. 1. You blame teachers for rules that they themselves have no control over. You should place your criticism at the feet of principals and other administrators.

    2. Again, I've happily tried to allow my students to eat in the classroom responsibly. But it is the administration that we have to fight against.

    3/4. You are railing against the loss of PE and recess in schools caused by a very narrow, single-minded focus of the state and federal governments on high stakes testing. Few teachers I know see this as a good thing. I know I'd be happy to see kids being more active, but the testing is sucking up all funding. And it is parents who have allowed the governments to sucker them into believing that testing = learning. And you rail against schools packing so many students into a classroom that there is little room to do anything else but sit.

    5. Homework is often, but not always, another prescribed part of a mandated curriculum. Teachers do not have the luxury of setting their own lessons anymore. Much of what is done is required by some governing body. If parents want to change education, they should start by voting for politicians that will allow, heck even encourage educational methods like those you promote. Be aware that what you want requires money - lots of it to reduce class sizes, raise the quality of teacher instruction and provide more classroom space and materials.

    6. See #5 again. Especially the part about voting and money. Remember that most homeschooled kids are in a very small group setting.

    7. Most parents choose schooling because it is free day care. I don't see the majority of parents changing their mind about that.

    8. For your kids, you are probably right. But there are parents who don't know their own kids. They come home from work after 6 and spend less than 3 hours a day with them. Teachers often spend up to 8 hours a day with those kids. Some children are angels at home, but when removed from their parents oversight - they behave differently. Teachers can not allow some students to harm others or behave in a way that would be detrimental to others. And if parents think the school is the problem, should remove their student as you have and become personally responsible for their education.

    9. Again, you blame teachers for the scripted, test driven culture that has been mandated on us. Take your fight to the legislature and make real change and stop yelling at teachers who can not control those who pay the bills and our salaries.

    10. I agree, but I doubt the majority will pull their kids out of school. Most do not have the drive or the ability to educate their own kids. Many work and want their kids in a school all day, for free (as they see it). I wish more parents were as motivated as those who homeschool, but it just isn't that way.

  2. I feel very sorry for most teachers.

  3. While I disagree with Ron Clark's post, I often (as a teacher) feel attacked by home-schoolers, un-schoolers and parent advocates. They rarely differentiate between systemic issues and the teachers on the front lines fighting the battle to improve the system.

    How about a thank you note instead?

    How about a "thanks for the fact that you abolished grades in your class?"

    How about a "thanks for putting in extra hours planning lessons that allow students to explore their natural curiosity?"

    Painting all teachers with the same broad stroke will cause a larger group (perhaps a majority) of teachers who turn their back and ignore you. We're fighting the same battle against industrialized education. Quit making an enemy of us.

  4. Case in point:
    "you steal those critical years from us."

    Teachers have been compared to thieves, criminals, prison wardens and slave drivers on this blog.

  5. While the post is spot-on when talking about the impact of schools on kids, I agree with the commenters, above; blaming teachers isn't the answer. In fact, blaming teachers points us even further from the solution. Consider that the passions of teachers, too, are stifled under the current system.

  6. Several commenters are asking that this parent not blame the teachers for what they do, in essence because someone else is making them do this to children, however they are still doing it. I think the point is that if you choose to implement orders that hurt children, even if they are someone else's, you are to blame.

    This parent is pissed off, as are many others, who see how children are being treated. The author is asking for a call to action to rise up against those who are making them hurt children. I think that is what folks need to focus on.

  7. @John T Spencer,
    I have featured several people on my blog who do indeed feel that school stole time from us and forced us to engage in meaningless work. Most recently Aaron Iba and Travis Allen come to mind. Schools wanted to drug up Aaron telling him he was a multiple problem child because he didn't want to sit at a desk all day doing stuff that wasn't interesting. School treated Travis Allen like a prisoner who wasn't allowed to connect or communicate with the world using the powerful learning tool he owned...his cell phone. They did steal learning opportunities from these students and others.

    I felt the same way. I was indeed stuck in the boring prison of school doing meaningless work that had no real-world value. I graduated high school without the opportunity to discover what my talents, passions, and interests were and no one ever bothered to ask. Not a single person. I was a good little producer of data, and then they handed me my diploma never to be seen again.

    I understand the anger. We are wasting children's time in many public schools today. They know it, their teachers know it, their parents know it, and folks need to stand up and not allow it to continue.

    1. "School treated Travis Allen like a prisoner who wasn't allowed to connect or communicate with the world using the powerful learning tool he owned...his cell phone"

      How is a cell phone a powerful learning tool when all they are doing is talking to or texting their friends?

      "We are wasting children's time in many public schools today. They know it, their teachers know it, their parents know it, and folks need to stand up and not allow it to continue."

      I see your point on a lot of matters, but HOW can parents not allow it to continue?

  8. Much like John said, I disagree with Ron Clark's post that parents need to listen to us much like listening to a doctor. However, this post feels like the blanket approach that education already uses in so many ways, and blames all of us. We are more than aware that there are teachers in education that shouldn't be because they simply don't care about children. But as much as I like to rock the boat and not follow rules, I also still like my job and want to keep that job. If I don't follow these prescribed methods and scripted curriculum, then I will lose my job. Unfortunately I'm not the decision-maker. If I were, then I would make changes that were appropriate for children. If you want it to be more like you say is best, then help empower parents to lobby for change in education and stop believing that standardized testing actually means learning. We can only fight the giant alone for so long.

  9. The defense of "I was just following orders" has been used by people in control of other people to justify all types of human rights violations. Children are hostages to the system, teachers are NOT. Teachers do NOT have to follow any orders that harm children or go against children's needs. If every teacher refused to follow policy, the policies would cease. Teachers perpetuate the system by going along with it. Teachers can choose to leave the system and help communities come up with alternatives that are in line with children's needs and their happiness. It is so disheartening to hear people defend harmful practices in the name of "policy" and "rules" and "orders".

    Unfortunately, teachers are allowed to do all of the harmful practices John T. Spencer listed above: They are allowed to confiscate children's personal belongings (thieves), imprison children against their will, force them to sit in a chair, deny them the right to move, deny their bodies basic needs (prison wardens) and force them to do unpaid work against their will in school and on their own time, taking the child's right to freedom away from them (slave drivers). The things I listed above would be considered criminal if done to adults by authorities. Tragically, also, some teachers do serious criminal acts as well, such as sexually, physically or emotionally abuse children.


  10. You let the system off the hook at your peril.

    The system creates the conditions of education.

    I see teachers attacked all the time, because it seems too impossible to actually advocate for a revolution, an overthrow of the system that oppresses all of those who live in it.

    Easy to attack teachers. Easy to call them evil people who should know better. Easy to compare them to Germans in WWII. Hard to see them as people who have been jaded by a culture, by demands that cannot be fulfulled, by a system that doesn't value their humanity.

    A sweeping attack on teachers creates hostility, and an uncrossable barrier between you as an advocate of children, and what, if approached differently, could be your natural ally.

    The undemocratic system of school has its most important victims in children, but teachers have a lifetime or more of mistaken and inhumane demands as to what children need. We are all responsible for this culture, as members of the society that created the system.

    Often teachers have just not been exposed to alternative ways of doing what they do. You dismiss them as evil. (Prison guards also live within a system that created the conditions within which they work -- can they be blamed for the prison industrial complex?)

    The testing culture supports and feeds the status quo in teacher behavior. Your attack on teachers is a retreat in the larger war to save education.

    Your position is the easy way. Makes a good soundbite, gets sympathy, even outrage, against these unhuman people. As ever, the better answer is the more complex one. Change the conditions in which education lives.

  11. @The Innovative Educator: Your résumé on your blog looks impressive, but I'm curious: have you taught in a public school before?

  12. @Anonymous, yes, I have been a teacher, coach, staff developer, and administrator in public schools for more than a decade. I am currently employed to work with public school teachers, students, and administrators. My staff and I do our best to empower students to engage in authentic, passion-driven learning.

  13. @Lisa Cooley, I don't think Laurie A. Couture is letting the system off the hook. She can chime in herself if I'm wrong about that. What I think she is doing is bringing to the attention of teachers what it is they are doing to children as employees of the system. She also brings to light the fact that if the goal is to help children learn, it can be done more effectively outside the system and staying inside is a conscious choice they are making.

    1. If I leave "the system" and seek a job outside, where I will not be required to compromise what I believe to be best for children and their growing minds, who will stand between the twenty-five children an hour who inhabit my classroom and the system that wants to turn them into test scores instead of humans? Many of those children don't have parents like you who are willing to fight for them. Who fights for those children and their rights and their dignity but me, their teacher? Leaving a corrupt system to save my delicate conscience strikes me as an act of cowardice. The students whose parents are willing and able to pull them out of school and place them in alternative environments don't need me. The children who are the law, by poverty and by ignorance--those children need defenders. When you claim that "teachers" are perpetrating these acts on children, remember that speaking of all members of a class as if they were the same is only ever destructive. When you level this type of attack at a group of diverse individuals, you are guilty too.

  14. I can definitely see multiple points of view here. I taught in an impoverished urban public school, and my kids knew every minute of every school day that I cared about them and tried hard to make a difference in their lives. And the kids loved me. Still, I felt completely hamstrung by the dictates of the school. I was told, not just what to teach and when, but I was given a lot of regulations of exactly how. I wasn't trusted to create the kind of flow of activities that would have best suited my students. Worst of all, after teaching my kids math for 90 minutes in three prescribed half-hour sessions, I had to send them next door for 90 minutes of prescribed instruction in reading, while I got the next door children for more math. I wouldn't have minded this student-sharing system, except for the fact that my "flip teacher" was a bitter, rage-filled, bigoted person. My kids hated the reading teacher and hated reading. Yikes!

    Anyway, as much as I tried to make these kids' lives better in big ways and little, I felt that I was doing more harm than good because of all the regulations I had to follow. I just couldn't keep doing it - the one year was more than enough, and I changed careers, going into education writing and editing and later teaching in private venues. When I had my own kids, like so many other teachers, I taught them at home.

    The thing is, I DIDN'T participate in what I thought of as a bad system that harms kids; I advocated for children through a variety of means, including writing articles back when the word "blog" hadn't been invented; I helped many kids struggling in the system by tutoring them and giving them and their parents information about learning, education, and alternatives; I gave my own kids a great education....but the system only got worse, not better, and countless kids continued to be ill-served by it... I can see that people who bravely stayed in the system and tried and tried and continued to try made a real difference in their students' lives. I don't regret my choices, of course, but how can I denigrate others'?

    Still, the schools are getting worse, not better. What is "the better answer," the "more complex" answer? The only thing I can think of to "change the conditions in which education lives" is to pull even more students out of The System and start numerous homeschools and community freeschools and innovative virtual academies and even more innovative learning consortiums.

  15. I enjoyed this post for its comedic value.

    I'm also removing this blog from my RSS because of it.

  16. LOLOL!! I have said it before and I will say it again, TEACHERS SUCK!! and all the comments here highlight that point exactly.

    "it's the system" "It's not us." "We don't have a choice." "It's the state." "How about a thank you note instead?" "

    Yadda yadda yadda yadda...

    Teacher, YOU are what keeps the system alive. YOU are the problem. YOU have a choice. Stop making excuses and if you really want to inspire, motivate and support children's learning.. than DO THAT. Teachers prove over and over again that they are NOT any agents of change, they are pawns of the system. The very system they support and endorse every day.

  17. I'm sorry you will be leaving @middleson. I understand though that for some, it is very difficult to face the fact that there are parents and former students who blame teachers for following orders that they know hurt children.

    There are some teachers like New York Teacher of The Year John Taylor Gatto who openly acknowledge that the job of the teacher hurts children and they resign or fight back. If you have not yet unsubscribed, you might be interested in knowing why that particular award-winning teacher quit his job as a result of what he was being forced to do to kids. You can read about it here

  18. I'm with Desiree and I'll accept the onus of Godwin's Law by commenting that the NAZI camp guards didn't create the death camps, they only did their job and followed orders.

  19. I have taught in both the private and public school systems for the past 11 years. I am also a foster parent. In that time, the majority of teachers I have had the pleasure of working with did their best to meet the needs of their students. In my classroom, students are people and are treated as such.

    "You treat our children without respect, empathy, compassion or love unless they behave according to your rules and expectations. You seem oblivious to their pain, vulnerability and distress."

    Reading such an extremist statement about the people who truly do dedicate their lives to children, leads me to doubt the credibility of the author in general. Blanket statements are often used by people trying to impress their narrow view on others, especially when their claims are founded on emotion instead of data.

  20. This isn't half silly.

  21. @AmyLynn6981, I think Laurie is talking about the particular teachers who do that. I experienced many as a teacher and as a student. It is not all teachers. I agree. Those that don't are often fighting the system. I was often told I would get in trouble for treating my students like my family. I took the risk and did it anyway because loving children is what is right for children.

    Many teachers do love children and treat them with respect, empathy, and compassion, and unfortunately we/they often have to do that discretely.

    I certainly agree that not all pub ed teachers do the things that Laurie shares in this post, but those that don't often get in trouble or leave the system leaving behind many others who do those very things she is lashing out against.

  22. As Lisa said above, when you have to do your job discretely, it is time to leave! I could no longer live a lie. Because I had a very non-traditional classroom where kids had a say in what and when they were learning, I had adminstrators peeking in my door many times during the day. Despite good performance reviews, which are a bunch of $#@! anyway, I still got those little hints that I should "follow the rules better".

    I couldn't stand it anymore. I left and gave a lot up! My husband was incensed that I would give up my decent salary, retirement, and benefits.

    One person who commented above said that she likes her job and doesn't want to lose it. Ok, that is where the problem and, I hate to say it, selfishness. You can't have it all. You can't remain a teacher in the "system" and truly be doing what is right for children. As far as I'm concerned, you are either "in" or you're "out"!

  23. So who is willing to pay more in taxes to pay for smaller classes and more individual attention to students. I will, will you?

    Please try to think of a solution that doesn't involve just destroying the entire public school system. If you just complain but don't offer any solutions, how is that helping?

  24. @Anonymous,
    This blog is full of tons of free solutions to the issue. Take a look around. You can start with this

    We certainly don't need more money to fix the problem. To start we can save billions that currently is wasted on useless testing. Next we can save a bundle by ditching useless textbooks. After that ditch the pre-packaged curriculum.

    Making learning real-world and relevant does not add an expense.

    Treating children as those who have passions to be discovered and honored is also free.

    All the answers cost nothing in money but instead require folks to stand up and fight for what is right for children.

  25. I'm also a parent who blogged about this the other day:

    I kept my kids in our excellent local public schools. They weren't perfect, but most teachers, administrators, parents and students were doing their best to make them as good as they could be. It was frustrating, however, when there were teachers who didn't do their job, or had no respect for the students.

    I wish it wasn't us vs. them. We all need to work together.

  26. As a teacher, I am deeply saddened by this post. It is unfortunate that some parents have given up on trying to partner with teachers to improve education. I can't understand how a fellow educator can allow this vitriol to be posted on their blog. I (like many others I'm sure) am removing this blog from my RSS feeder.

  27. An anonymous comment requested solutions. I have two ideas that will probably evoke instant "no way" responses, but I think would make sweeping-and-necessary changes: (1) get rid of compulsory education laws and (2) get rid of tenure.

    (1) By having compulsory education laws, not only do we cramp the freedom of students and families, but we also hamstring public schools. Public schools could be run along the lines of public libraries: here are some resources - yes, it's free, go ahead and use it - no, that's not how you treat a book - no, that's not how to use a computer - okay, if you can't follow these rules, you're going to have to leave. There would be resources and space and staff. Certainly there would be common-sense rules that protect people's safety and property. Using the resources would be everyone's right - but they would have to behave responsibly as well. And nobody HAS to use the resources.

    Some people think that kids wouldn't learn if not forced to. First, you can't force people to learn things. Second, kids learn all the time, continuously - although often they learn things like "math is hard," "I'm no good at math," or "math is stupid," rather than math itself! Third, kids of course care about their own future and about a lot of other things, too. Parents care about their kids' future. Unschoolers and other homeschoolers have proven over the past few decades that, released from assignments and grades, kids still learn tons and achieve lots.

    (2) The tenure system had its roots in universities and academic freedom. Within the university system, tenure is not conferred on people automatically for "time served." The tenure system within modern public schools does a disservice to kids and therefore to communities and, I would argue, to all good teachers. Tenure only helps out bad teachers - and we don't need it. Other organizations and many businesses have other models in place - as do private schools - that make it hard to whimsically fire good employees for bad reasons, and I believe that public schools should drop tenure in favor of these sorts of hiring/firing systems.

    I think if we could make big changes like getting rid of compulsory ed. and tenure, maybe we could re-envision the schools. Of course I would get rid of compulsory standardized testing and the narrowness of letter grades as any sort of sensible assessment tool...but I think those sorts of changes would inevitably follow from getting rid of compulsory ed. I believe that, just as more workers (but not all workers) stay at home at least part of the time and use technology to accomplish their work, many students will stay at home at least part of the time and use technology to accomplish THEIR work - and in a non-compulsory system, that is automatically allowed.

    I think we need big, sweeping changes. Otherwise, as the saying goes, we are just rearranging the deck chairs of the Titanic (or, as Stephen Colbert put it, rearranging furniture of the Hindenburg).

  28. @anonymous who will be unsubscribing,
    I believe it is important to share the voices of parents who believe the system and the teachers who work within it are hurting their children. There are many parents who would love to have their children participate in publicly funded learning if it also didn't come along with things that are hurting children.

    As a former student and present educator I have witnessed a system filled with teachers that are hurting children in the way Laurie describes. Rather than turning our heads and getting upset that parents are voicing their concerns, it seems to me a much better option is to seriously listen, learn, and do what we can to affect dramatic change.

  29. It is sad to hear and see most of the comments, which are just about critics, hatred, violence.
    It is so easy to blame others.
    It is like most of the people hate teachers because they tell them to do something they dont want to do or they don't share the same ideas.
    If you go to a doctor, do you criticize what he tells you to do? you do it. because you trust in the doctors. But it is like people nowadays don't trust in teachers, and for that reason there is no respect.
    Would you like to teach 30 to 40 or more students who don't want to learn, in the same room?
    I hope more people can understand what it means being a teacher.
    I really think we must work together for the same reason, for one reason. But it is like there is a war between all. Sad.
    Parents don't like teachers, they believe that teachers don't know their children. Probably, but parents just must know 2 or 3 childre, we must know more than 200. Can we do that? Impossible if we dont have the help of the family. Are teachers a problem? Probably, but where is the family to help? Isnt it a work team?

  30. @Julian VM,
    I would never blindly trust a doctor. I have encountered many experiences with horrible doctors who have given wrong or bad advice/treatment. I also often investigate alternative medical options. Just because someone has a medical license, does not mean they are doing what is best for patients.

    I highly doubt 30 or 40 students don't want to learn. Instead I would believe they don't want to sit on their butts all day being forced to listen to and do things they don't care about and that have little to no relevance for success in the world. When children are freed from these shackles, such problems disappear.

    I think Laurie and others are onto something smart. Teachers are being used as and responding as pawns. We shouldn't work together in a system that is hurting kids. Kids know they are being hurt, parents know their kids are being hurt and teachers know that the system is asking them to hurt kids.

    Instead of being defensive, parents and educators need to speak out and stand up for what is right for children.

  31. Regardless of what her intent was, the writer of this post was extremely disrespectful towards teachers in general. What is most disheartening about this post is that it is still so very obvious that a real solution to the problems that our public education system faces is still a fleeting hope on the horizon. Homeschooling is not the solution. Many parents cannot afford, nor can they mentally handle the job of homeschool teacher/parent. Saying the teacher "sucks" and walking out on the system is for cowards who don't want to stand up for the system, a system even though flawed has provided millions of children chances to succeed that they would not have had if it did not exist. Stop blaming those teachers who stay and try to fight for what is right, but rather point your fingers at rich business and congressmen who really make the decisions about your child's education. In a democratic society, you have the right to voice your opinions to them and actually possibly affect change! Bad mouthing teachers and the rules their forced to follow is not going to change the system. We have no power! Trust me, we could all walk out tomorrow, and it would still be the same! Education is directly a part of the American government, which as you should well know is always slow to change!

    I too will be dropping this blog from my feed. I followed it because I wanted a source of positive information about 21st century education strategies, specifically tech ideas. Instead I have to read through article after article bad mouthing the public education system and teachers. This article really only continues to degrade the already dwindling relationship between parents and teachers. It is sad as a public employee of the New York educational system that you would support this type of disregard for teacher/parent relationships. Sad...SMH.

  32. Why do we continue to push the us vs them? What does the hatred posted here and ignorance posted in the Ron Clark article do to help change the system?

  33. @Pernilleripp,
    I don't see this as us vs them or hatred. I see this as a parent who is identifying what some teachers are doing in public schools. I don't know of a single public school who doesn't have teachers who have been guilty of some of these behaviors. I also don't know a public school student who has not been victim of some of these behaviors. Laurie is bringing to the attention of readers that this is a sick system that results in hurting children.

    You have not read all of Laurie's work, but if you did you would find that she speaks and writes about many healthy alternatives for children and teachers in environments that do not result hurting children.

    1. We are all well aware they you "don't see this" as what it is- a hateful and self-righteous rant without logic or solution behind it. And please, don't bother pointing me in the direction of any other blogs on this site- I wouldn't touch anything that had your stamp of approval with a ten-foot pole.

  34. @Krafty Kyzer, the writer of this post identified what is happening to children at public schools at the hands of teachers. Laurie and I have a ton of ideas for solutions. These behaviors which are seen so frequently, are clearly not a part of the solution. You say that many parents can’t afford to homeschool. Laurie is a single mom who figured out how to home educate her son because she felt it was best for him. A parent can afford and prioritize what they care about. Laurie and many other parents aren’t worried about being called cowards by teachers like you. They are fiercely concerned about ensuring their children are happy, healthy, and pursuing their passions at a pace and level customized to heir needs.

    As Laurie points out, teachers who stay in a system that promotes such actions are not helping children. Read Laurie’s blog, this blog, or others and you will see there are many learning environments where children can succeed without being hurt by the system.

    Sorry to see you go, but this blog is not meant for those who want to ignore the voices of parents frustrated by the system. This is a place where I will do my best to share the voices of parents, students, and teachers who are both happy and frustrated and then work to make things better.

  35. I know many teachers who are as upset with the system as fact, many teachers are also parents! is the system, the government, our elected officials...and I do believe it is an oppress by providing poor education to the masses, so that they will do the dirty work while those who can afford a more customized education, and the education and adventures of a well-heeled life go about running the world. I used to feel embarrassed by my "conspiracy theory" so much.

  36. Fascinating, everyone is busy getting offended and deleting blogs but no one takes the few brain cells still left after a day of government schooling to address the points Cathy made about what "CAN" be done to improve things. And why is that? Because teachers do not want to improve anything. Pension, job security, tenure, other than that... teachers do not care.

    If you are so interested in alternatives and "how to's" than take the time to READ and build something. Or you can "delete" what is so offensive to your sensitive teacher ears. But stop pretending you really want to see some change.

    You support the system. You work for the system. And you resent anyone or anything that tells you wake the hell up and create something for your community that actually benefits the children you claim to care about. Forget the pension, advocate for the kids.

  37. Advice from a teacher...

    Find the schooling that fits your child and the child will flourish. If your child does not fit in public school, don't put your child there; pull them out and find an alternative that works for your family. Public education is the free version of schooling. Look to other options. If you can't afford something else, then get as involved as you can. Talk to the teacher and get to know him/her as a person. Advocate for your child, but don't be rude or argumentative or accusing. Look for solutions. Ask for help.

    Just because public school is not the best fit for all children doesn't make it evil. There are a LOT of good public school teachers out there who strive to make learning meaningful and fun for kids. Really, most teachers I know like kids.

    Tenure should go away. So should standardized testing and grades. There should be more Charter and specialty schools with small class sizes.

    Laurie is an extremist. I can't take her opinion seriously because of it. I'm sorry I wasted so much time reading this post tonight.

  38. @the last anonymous post. Well put!
    @the innovative educator try selling your line of bull crap to the poor kid whose parents are addicted meth and forms of illegal substances. Do you think he or she really wants their parent to homeschool them? Or the parents who were direct special education in school growing up. Do you think a parent who can barely read a simple sentence of five or more words can educate their children at home when they probably lack the simple organizational skills to even keep their child focused andvon track? Your solutions are very narrow-minded and will most likely only work for those parents who are middle class or were well educated themselves.

  39. @Krafty Kyzer, I have not said home education is the best route for all children. You are confusing arguments. For some children that is a great option and for many it is not.

    I have lived and worked in Harlem for more than ten years. I am quite familiar with students that are not from middle class households. What I have spent many years doing in the public school system is helping provide passion driven learning opportunities for children with programs like the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, the Workshop Model, and other options that value children as individuals whose passions, not just value as data points, are honored.

    There are many wonderful learning models that value and support children, but unfortunately, in the current climate, most no longer qualify for public funding. Sadly, today, I am often approached by teachers who are no longer willing to hurt children in the way demanded by our system and they are seeking environments where children can thrive in healthy ways. If this is of interest to you, I invite you to read the following post on the topic

  40. @Anonymous Advice from a Teacher...

    Public schooling is FAR from free. People like me who are in the nation’s highest tax bracket have paid a BUNDLE for public schools. When society is forced to pay for public schooling, then parents and students should have a choice in how those schools are funded.

    Public dollars should not be allocated only for schools that group children by date of manufacture and assess them with outdated measurements. The teachers in the system know it is wrong, the students know it is wrong, and the parents know it is wrong, yet per your advice, those who don’t like this should look to other options? Why? Why not instead demand that children have access to learning environments that are best for them? Why not demand models like Montessori or Democratic schools be eligible for public funding if that is what parents and their children feel is best?

    Why relinquish control of children to the government rather than empower parents to choose how to best allocate dollars for their child’s learning?

  41. @Desiree,
    I agree. Rather than defending teachers who engage in the practices required of the system why not focus on how to change it?

    Cathy has good suggestions. Especially #1. I've never been much concerned with tenure as the reality is you can get bad teachers out in today's climate but, often what the system defines as "bad" many of us would define as good :-p

    I applaud you Desiree for always encouraging complaining teachers, parents, and students to stand up and start something that is great for kids.

    I started a group designed to do just that which anyone can join at This is a place for folks to come together and dream, and then turn those dreams into reality.

  42. @Desiree says "If you are so interested in alternatives and "how to's" than take the time to READ and build something. Or you can "delete" what is so offensive to your sensitive teacher ears. But stop pretending you really want to see some change."

    Again, blanket statements about a very large group of people. I work for the "system" and still managed to create an alternative program that allows students to flourish. My kids are loved, cared for, have their needs met, educated, encouraged, and taught as individuals. Our learning environment includes their families, and I work with them almost as often as I do their kids. I know many other teachers who do the same. I am involved in making changes to our systems, but I refuse to leave my students behind in order to do so. I believe as an educator, I can do both. We can all teach AND work towards change.

    I find it hard to believe that bashing teachers as a whole, and that IS what Laurie was doing in her article, will lead to any positive changes. Don't we all preach constructive criticism? Would we encourage our students to write a persuasive article with such nasty tones? Would we be proud of a response that says "Teachers SUCK!"?

  43. @AmyLynn6981, I disagree with your assessment. Desiree is directing her comment at a specific type of teacher which she identifies.

    Laurie's post is in response to what Ron Clark wants parents to know. Laurie is responding with what parents want teachers like Ron Clark to know. Laurie talks about gem teachers as I have mentioned before. This post was not for those teachers. It was for the teachers like Ron Clark.

    You speak about not leaving children behind. I don't believe anyone here has ever suggested that. Instead they have suggested finding optimal environments for children to flourish.

    Perhaps you are fortunate to exist in a school where you can engage in subversive teaching. Unfortunately, in more and more cities across our nation, teachers are being subjected to drive by test prep collection and not treating children like widgets and data results in getting a letter in your file which can lead to termination.

  44. I find it interesting that there are so many teachers writing on these anti-Ron Clark blog posts that claim they are different. They don't act like that. They have a different kind of classroom. "Their" kids flourish. "Their" kids learn. They really do care about "their" kids.

    I NEVER in 13 years of school had a teacher like that. Not. One.

    I had plenty that acted the way Laurie described.

    I call bull$hit.

  45. I find it interesting that many teachers applauded the Ron Clark article to parents but have a problem when a parent writes a similar article to teachers. Both sides have been equally and incredibly offended. And everyone is quick to point out the exceptions on both sides... the teachers that don't fit this author's example... the meth head parents... Nobody wants to talk about the MAJORITY. It's like: if this isn't your experience then you're not open to hearing about it. It's not possible it could exist elsewhere. Head in sand...

    I have been a teacher, a foster parent and a homeschooling parent. I taught high school electives--which are NOT test-driven--and STILL got crap for just stepping SLIGHTLY out of the box. Part of the problem was that I GOT RESULTS and that scared the people around me... so they tried to oust me. It's ridiculous. I finally left.

    My kids (a portion were AP students, a portion needed the credit to graduate and then the majority were in between) knew that they were wasting their time. They resented being treated like infants or prisoners. They longed to pursue their passions. I took just a tiny bit of time to get to know them and then offered suggestions on how they could tailor my required "evidence of learning" to incorporate their skills, interests or passions.

    IT'S NOT HARD. I did that as a first-year teacher.

    Treating them with respect is not hard (and no matter how many teachers argue that it won't--it absolutely begets respect. I was not their friend or "one of them" by any stretch)

    Giving them options on how to show evidence of learning is not hard.

    Appealing to multiple learning styles is not hard.

    However, doing all of this and producing good results pisses off people who don't enjoy being inadvertently "shown up"... and yes, that could threaten your job. Because the politics of working in the system is disgusting.

    But to blame how you choose to do your job, which forms and affects the future citizens of our country, on JOB SECURITY is unbelievable.

    Parents don't have the same choices. It is easier for an unhappy teacher to find a new job than it is for a parent to simply sell their house and haul off to a better district (possibly multiple times before finding one that really IS good) or pay for private school when the equivalent of tuition is already being shelled out via property taxes to the local school district (except where the voucher systems exist--which is a wonderful step forward) or suddenly drop an entire income when they realize how imminently difficult the public school classroom is for their kid.

    And frankly, I see more parents REACTING to provocation (as in this response to a Ron Clark article) than I see initiating any "teacher bashing".

    I taught in a great district. One of the top in my state and a place that teachers desperately wanted "in" to for it's technology, pay scale and perceived prestige. I loved my students. They loved my classes--and despite being what my district deemed "fluff", they worked for me.

    But to say that the larger picture of what was going on was right is a lie. This is not an "at risk"/inner city community problem. Pointing out our own single classroom exceptions will not make us the majority. However, ignoring what is out there is simply not going to change it.

  46. I know many many teachers who do no harm at all. Learning together is not harmful. We need not point fingers. Freedom does not mean no limits. Even the Free schooler at summerhill have limits. I still not sure I understand the attack on teachers. Parent by far do more harm to kids than teachers. I know kids who had so called “great” parents who have been damaged by their parents more than any school or teacher could. Yet you don’t see me saying abolish families and parents….

    Can the system of school be reinvent sure… But honestly so can homeschooling and unschooling. There are many children that are doing worksheets, meaningless work, being bored and not experiencing life at home.

    We want meaningful learning and meaningful relationships that support learning. I think teachers often great at this, but so are some parents and some community members and some time just being alone.

    Harmless relationships that is one thing. Changing the system of school or reinventing it all together sure. But freedom is not license, and teachers are not giving a whip when they enter the classroom. Come on. I went though 12 years of public school and the majority of the years their were heaven compared to my home life. I learned a lot, met some great teachers, and made lots of friends. a handful of my teachers are still friends with me. They did no harm and only added to my life.

    Stop attacking teachers, stop attacking parents, and start moving forward towards the future you want.


  47. This comment has been removed by the author.

  48. Hi Laurie,

    (I am posting this here because it is not approved yet on Laurie blog)

    After reading your responses and comments from others, including here and my own blog, where I posted a link…. I disheartened by Lauries and Lisa's responses and your lack of nuance. This article is not helpful. It helps to divide, not to bring together. You know I went through 12 plus years of Public school and was never harmed in anyway that you describe, many of my favorite moments in life came from being in school. Your claim that the system of schooling is like a prison, and I would challenge you to look at all the harm and pain that the system of family has done to children. You say there are Gem teachers, and I would counter their is also gem parents and gem families, but honestly talk to any adult or teenager and ask them were they would rather be, at home with their parents or at school. There are hundreds and hundreds of great schools in this country including a huge network of alternative schools, and millions of teachers who do not spend their day harming children or supporting the system. School is not prison.

    Some schools are prison like, some teachers wound children, but so does society, so does parents, so do peers. Lets be real and stop generalizing, it helps no one. Ron Clark is a jerk, that does not mean we have to be a jerky back.

    Tell us the types of learning relationships you support, in school or not, that is what is important.

    I am support unschooling and homeschooling, but I don’t support attacking teaching and school in generalized blanket statements, but education and schooling is complex. Ron Clark was a wrong, but push back with nuance, not generalization.

    We need more bridge builders not division.

    You don’t help change the system by demeaning teachers. Offer suggestions that help to build positive relationship between children and adults.

    Unschooling is just one option, but I believe learning is social and humans are drawn to learning communities, and right now for a majority of children school is the best and only option for them.

    I defend unschooling on my blog when others attacks it, and I will support teachers and schools when people attack with generalization.

    If you have personal wounds tell your story, name names even. If you son or daughter was wounded, let them tell their stories. What is being lost in all this, is that this article should be called "What Children really want to tell teachers and parents"...

    To be honest I tired of listening to adults arguing about what sucks. Start talking about what works or what your doing that is awesome.

    Teachers are not the problem, parents are not the problem, the test is really not even the problem.

    The problem is we stopped working together and stopped trying to make life better for children and adults. If you are a teacher or a parent or a community member or children, this is what matters.

    There is truth in Ron Clark's Post and truth in Laurie's post, but any truth is hidden behind so much generalization. One might be Fox New but the other is Micheal Moore... They work to make people angry but do little to solve any of the real problems.

    Lets solve problems and stop fighting!



  49. The ridiculousness of this post can be found in your second point and here's my equally ridiculous response: the other day, I signed several bathroom passes within a 45-minute period. Then, toward the end of said period when a student asked me why I was looking at the clock so much, I said, "I have to go to the bathroom."

    I'm not robbing anyone of a biological function, trust me. In fact, sometimes it seems like it's the opposite.

  50. I can certainly see the validity of some of Laurie's points. She's obviously been witness to much more rigid conditions than I have. For that reality alone, I feel a great sense of sorrow for everyone involved. I'm curious as to anyone's plans for a different method/system of education. I support homeschooling/unschooling, but with the economic reality of the past several decades in the United States most families can't afford one parent to stay at home. I'm all ears for an alternative to today's educational system.

  51. While I don't entirely agree with Ron Clark's opinion in the CNN article, this seems to swing wildly the other way in favor of the parent. It seems that assigning blame to the "other side" is the name of the game nowadays. I realize that both parents and teachers are on the same side, but I also realize the difficulties of trying to cultivate a healthy relationship with my child's teacher in a stressful environment.

    Both parents and teachers are under an incredible amount of pressure and need to cut each other some slack. We all make mistakes. We all have different priorities. If we can just have some open and honest communication, without inserting some of the hurtful language that has been tossed around, we would all have a bigger and better positive influence on our children.

    Maybe both parents and teachers should write on the chalkboard 100x "We are on the same side." :)

  52. It is yet another mistaken assumption that parents and teachers are on the same side. Some teachers are decidedly not on the students side as are some parents that are not on their own child's side. There are very clearly different sides in this discussion.

    To keep shoveling the propaganda that we need to work together is useless. Teacher bashing happened specifically due to Ron Clark's blind devotional defense to the system. He says, "We just ask -- and beg of you -- to trust us, support us and work with the system, not against it."

    Laurie appropriately responds and points out the very TRUE flaws of the system. So some of you may not come from a school that has metal detectors and armed officers walking around enforcing Zero Tolerance, but the system that harbors Ron Clark and his pain over a missed assignment being more important than a student's family issues is the SAME system.

    There is the axiom that teachers stick to: An education (as the kind that is offered by the modern schooling system) is necessary for success. Teachers seem to think that the 3 million home schoolers and the 15% yearly attrition from conventional schooling to home education should not negate the axiom. You forget - It only takes ONE exception to disprove the axiom!

    Or... did you not learn that in school?

  53. I think it is interesting that nobody has caught onto the fact that Ron Clark is no longer working in public education. He has his own school and he makes money on the side doing speaking engagements. Being middle of the road is not going to get him attention. Being middle of the road is not going to sell his books or get people to hire him to speak. I wonder how many deals he will be making off of all of this attention.

    Not to leave people out, I think it would be good to look at what Laurie does for a living. She is a consultant and a book writer. Being middle of the road will not piss people off and get her attention. Being middle of the road is not going to sell books or get her speaking engagements.

    I think it is interesting to see how up in arms people are getting over all of these comments and articles. Clark and Couture have a vested stake in keeping people pissed off. They have a vested interest in getting attention. That is how they earn their living. Couture wants people to be pissed off at schools so she can come in and offer her consulting services to save families from the evil schools. Where would she be if she did not scare people? For that matter, where would Clark be if he didn't rile people up?

    Just a thought. . .me thinks that the all mighty dollar has more to do with Clark and Couture than either of them will ever admit.

  54. Could say a lot, but want to focus on this one point:

    3. You are responsible for referring our children to the mental health system to be labeled as “learning disabled”, “mentally ill” and “special needs”. Our children are prescribed powerful chemicals that alter their natural neurological functioning and do harm to every system of their bodies. You do this rather than deal with the fact that children need touch, movement and play and are not meant to be away from their families all day or learn in the conditions you force upon them...

    This makes it seem as if teachers are practically prescribing drugs. As far as I know, only parents can make that decision with doctors. It's true the educational system directs some students into special education programs, but it's an attempt to help the ones who legitimately need it most. It's not a perfect system, and it takes parent involvement to make it work. But it's a bit ridiculous to associate special ed programs at school with prescription medicine that parents have total control over.

  55. Also wish to address point 3. Diagnosing is the first test to treatment. When I say your child is learning disabled, I'm not shoving him into a box marked "stupid" and closing the door. I'm pointing out that there is a gap between what he *should* be able to achieve, based on the bright kid we know he is, versus what he is achieving.
    Then I sit down and ask myself, and you, and the principal, and your kid: what is stopping you from succeeding? Do you need more time to test? A quieter environment? Do you need me to repeat myself just one more time, or prepare bullet points for you to review before class? Do you need to model what we're discussing? If you do, maybe we can assign that to bring up your grade. And so on. And any and all of these options require far, far more work on my part- work for which, by the way, I am not paid, since I do it at home, on my own time. But I'll do it to help you, because seeing you succeed is worth it.
    Yes, I know there are different learning styles and modalities. So I have a choice: use them, and run out of time to teach all my curriculum, meaning your child will not be prepared for the Regent? Or use lecturing mixed with some other modalities, which, although not as effective, will let me cover all the material?
    Also, much of what you suggest costs extra money. And I do it. I spend it. Extra, from my own salary, that oh so extravagant 12,000 a year.
    Quit blaming the teachers alone for what is happening here. We all bear some responsibility.

  56. The broad over-generalization of teachers is appalling in this post. Many wonderful teachers exist, who attempt to fight the system they work within, and make the best of their situation. It is incredibly frustrating to be a teacher, but you have to know that there are so many genuine, caring teachers who only want what is best for your child.
    Perhaps work with teachers instead of accusing them?

  57. Please tell me this is American? I just went through University to become a teacher. I love kids that's why the profession choice. I would never harm a child. I was taught in Australia and teaching there is wonderful, but standardized testing is there also. Teachers in school where the testing showed low results were the schools where the teachers didn't have parent support. When I have my classroom, if I ever get to be a teacher, my kids WILL learn in a wide range of ways. Desks will be used, but I also plan to spend time outside learning, or push the desks aside and use pillows once in a while. But curriculum is needed as guidelines for learning. They learn a lot about and wide range of things. When they get to university they can pick a more specialized field. I'm sorry teachers look bad, and I'm sorry parents are upset.