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Quiet Desperation

Decades in classrooms taught a lesson about weak parenting


The illusion of a schoolteacher, like the ones I knew, is long gone.

Modern teachers are still expected to be capable of teaching all of the subjects I was taught. On top of that, they are required to manage and maintain a palette of behavioral quirks and conditions, and to have a footing in psychology. Some are being trained to be sharpshooters as well.

Whenever I hear our schools are failing our students, I never hear the word “parenting.”

All of our learning does not happen in the classroom.

It’s unreasonable to expect learning to begin in the classroom. Learning begins in the home.

How do the people in the home treat each other? What values are evident?

What is discussed? What is watched, read, listened to?

Is the father present? Is mom sober?

Is the home an unconventional arrangement of guardianship?

If the home is an uneven environment, and there are so many possibilities for that these days, Junior will be a challenge, a big challenge, for someone who has a teaching certificate to teach.

I taught for over 30 years without any kind of certification.

My sister taught grade school, and she had to be certified and re-certified.

I taught college students, even though I was never taught how to teach. I learned on the job. It still doesn’t make sense to me, but I went along with it.

What walked in my door? Students who may have wanted to learn how to draw, but among them there were many special needs beyond my training.

Which was none.

I had to manage student behavior based on observations of life.

Then along came workshops. We were counseled in sexual harassment, racial discrimination, you name it.

I didn’t have a background in psychology or sociology but I picked up minors in them, virtually, on the run.

Even at the college level, I worked with students who didn’t know how to study, how to commit, follow through, show up on time, or show up at all.

I was made right after the war (World War II).

I am sure that on some conscious or subconscious level, I was aware of what was going on in our home, and that I was obtaining valuable learning skills.

This may be an unpopular thought: Parents (or guardians) should expect more of themselves when it comes Junior learning how to learn.

By the time Junior is dropped off at his very first school, a lot has already gone into that little head.

Expecting an educator to make up for indifferences and fumbles in the home is absurd.

Accountability increased the longer I taught. I had more paperwork to do every year. Eventually I was doing almost as much paperwork as teaching.

I was asked why my students were failing or dropping out. It must be my fault. What could I do about it? My answer was always the same: I could only lead the horse to water.

It took a toll. My metal fatigued, and I got out.

Were my incoming students capable of learning? Did they get off to a good start at home in the first place, before P.S. 101?

I don’t like it when people point fingers at teachers. Teachers aren’t the first teachers.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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