Tonight I attended an open house at the junior high school one of my boys attend. I've been to a lot of school open houses being a mom of 5. It's always fun to see the kids' classrooms, meet the teachers and other parents, explore the desks and their learning environment and see the work they've been doing that hangs on bulletin boards. There was much of that going on. But, there was one part of the evening I didn't expect.
The open house opened in the gym with the principal at a podium and all the teachers, staff and district administration. After brief introductions, the principal went on to talk about what a great job the kids are doing starting off the year by following the rules, behaving in a respectful manner and getting into the routines. Parents appeared to be beaming with that praise. He mentioned one behavioral incident since the school started and expressed displeasure that the school often gets a bad rap. He let us know that we, as parents, could change that by spreading the good news about what happens there. Suddenly, we were the ones getting the assignment. And it didn't stop there.
He said that we might not like hearing the next part. Then he sailed in on us. He told us that the adult behavior in the parking lot was "a joke." He told us that our kids were modeling that behavior that they see. That behavior - these are my words, not his - involves a lack of patience and consideration and even sometimes is elevated to profanity and yelling and on the verge of physical altercations.
He talked about the dress code and that the kids have been complying (no more saggy pants on the boys and no revealing outfits on the girls.) Then he went on to say that he sees parents coming in to the school not complying with those same rules.
He talked about the need for parent involvement and made a bold, brave and probably very unpopular statement that at all the PTA meetings last year, he saw only one African-American parent, even though the population of the school is 60 percent African-American.
He called us out. He told us what needed to be improved at the school. And I think a lot of the parents were surprised to hear that we, the parents, are in need of more work than the students.
He said that there are no bad parents. Everyone loves their kids, he said, but not everyone knows how to be a good parent - because some didn't learn how to be. He even suggested that a class in parenting should be required of high school students. There were a lot of nods in agreement to that one.
I'm sure some were offended by some of what he said. And those may be the ones who needed to hear it most.
He even said something along the lines of - he's done his part in cleaning up the school and now the parents need to do their part at home. And he said that if that can't happen, he needs to look for a new job.
I really wish I would have recorded the speech on video. I could see it going viral in no time.
When it was over I really wanted to go hug him or high five him or fist bump him or something, just to let him know that there was at least one parent in his corner. He said what a lot of administrators and teachers think in their heads, but are reluctant to say out loud or express to parents. He told us that our kids' success is as much our responsibility as theirs. That we are as much teachers in our children's lives as the educators in the classrooms. That while our kids are earning A's, we are probably earning C's at best and it's the kids we are failing.