Last night on Boston Legal a character played by Michael J. Fox used the term “helicopter parents” to describe some parents on the show. This was the second time I had heard the term. The first time I heard the term it was at my daughter’s open house at school. The teacher said they didn’t want “helicopter parents” at the school. I mistakenly thought they meant parents who, like helicopters swoop in, drop off the kids and leave.
Noooo. They meant parents who “hover”.
As a matter of fact the school doesn’t want parents involved at all. I know, I tried to get an “appointment” with her teachers. An appointment! I’m used to marching right into the school and sitting down with the principal, talking to the teachers in the hallway and even visiting the classroom from time to time. And to be told that the teachers are too “busy” to meet with me during lunch time or even between classes is something I’m not used to.
The other things that the teachers did that I’m not used to is giving weird extra credit. Her English teacher gave extra credit for bringing in boxes that they use to store the 3 ring binders that all the kids have. Her Science teacher gave extra credit for attending any school sponsored event including football games, he also gave extra credit for any event so long as the students participated, ie. my daughter’s weekend soccer games counted, so long as she played. The only thing that he required is that they write about the event. I can see English class giving credit for writing. I could see PE giving credit for sports events, I could even stretch that to watching said events. I could see Social Studies giving credit if they were to write about the social interactions of others… as a kind of study. I could even – perhaps especially – see some kind of Journalism class. But Science?
I went to a football game at NAU. It was fun. I saw my friends there. We ate popcorn and looked at the players.
I even went to talk to her counselor at the school. You see my daughter has had a bit of a rough year personally speaking, and I wanted her counselor to be aware of the issues. I was told by the counselor after a weekly grade check that maybe we should let my daughter slide this year and get her back on track the following year. This is six weeks into the school year. Let’s just give up, tell her we’re sorry life is so rough and let her just fail. Maybe next year will be better. Yeah… and as Garth would say, “…and monkeys might fly out my butt!” I’m just not one of those people who says it’s OK to give up just because life has been a little rough. Besides we are all defined by everything in our lives and to allow someone to be defined by a very small portion of their life – when it can be worked through – isn’t fair to that person (something I told my little brother more than once – but that’s another story).
It was my daughter’s choice to go to Mount Elden Middle School, despite my reservations on a number of levels. I told her that she could keep going to the school, if she maintained certain grades. I told her this before school ever started.
We had looked a program that was at Flagstaff Middle School called TELC – Technology Enhanced Learning Center (everyone calls it NASA due to major funding by NASA). I was very impressed with the program. They want to teach children how to learn. And they do so by placing real world expectations on the children. Sometimes that means turning in an assignment late, sometimes it means redoing it and sometimes it means staying after to work on assignments. The teachers are available by phone until around 9pm, but they don’t take lame excuses about the kids not understanding the work – if the child understands the material in class they are nudged back to that knowledge and get right back to work – I know my kids (all of them) can really drag out an, “I don’t understand”. The teachers are extremely supportive of parents. The school in general seems a more parent friendly place. I am able to stop in whenever I like and I have the numbers to her primary – or “core” teachers. I can even call straight to the “pod” or the central phone for the classroom area. Her teachers even seek me out to talk to me about how she’s doing, sometimes two to three times per week.
I have talked to other parents about MEMS, and the responses are similar. Parents whose choice would be different if they could do it over. Parents who have moved their kids – just like I did – because they weren’t happy with their treatment there. And one – he happens to be a County Detective – who tells me that he just walks right in and talks to the teachers. Who’s going to stop a detective?
Any teacher that uses the phrase “helicopter parents” should take a better look in the mirror. It’s not just the parents who have “issues”. After all, unless they are crazy, there’s probably a reason that they are so interested in what their kids do.