Sunday, March 13, 2011

Having Value

Last week I held my eighth round of parent/teacher conferences since coming to Colombia.  Since the inaugural round of conferences my first year here, my Spanish has improved greatly and I have little hesitation giving compliments, offering positive feedback, and discussing goals.  Even "bad" conferences are easier than before - especially when the parent is on my side!

Grade 9: Working with "alleles"
However, something a new colleague said to me during a break in the day struck me.  She questioned how or what these parents did for a living that allowed them all - we have near 100% attendance during the two days devoted to conferences - to leave work and sacrifice several hours of their day walking around campus and talking to eight different teachers.  Sure, some of our families are financially well-off and are either at the top of a company, executively speaking, or run their own businesses, thus being their own boss and setting their own hours.  But not nearly all of them!  And yet they all find a way to show up, dressed as if they simply walked away from their desks elsewhere.

I'm sure their are some deeper, more complex sociological factors at play here and I'm not willing to dive into those at the moment. (The idea that educated people support their children more than less-educated people, and that this is a private school versus a public one so the parents want to see where their money is going both work in here I'm sure.)  In the end, though, I think that education is simply valued more.

With the recent current events going on in the U.S. regarding education and the powers that be that fund and support it, it is an interesting topic to examine. (Those links in the previous sentence don't even cover Wisconsin!)  I feel as though people in the U.S., parents specifically, say they value education, but in reality its like telling a four year old that Santa Claus is real; you almost have to say that.  As the old adage goes: actions speak louder than words.  Except for this Tampa Bay mother:

The truth is, other cultures value education more than the collective entity of the U.S.  Ironically, high school graduates from all over the globe clammer for a chance to study at a U.S. university, despite the constant budget cutting and "what's the point?" news and rhetoric of those saying college is less about academics today than it is about socializing.

Pre-AP Biology: botany scavenger hunt
So, why am I stuck sitting talking to parents - mostly two a time - for two consecutive days, twice a school year during regular business hours?  How have these parents been allowed to walk away from their jobs, sacrificing several hours of their respective companies' time to visit their childrens' teachers?  In my head I imagine a different type of boss with a different type of bottom line.  In my head the dialogue goes something like this: "Sir, I have my son's parent/teacher conference scheduled for tomorrow at 9am..."  "For your son's education?  Certainly!  Take the whole morning if you have to!"

But maybe it's "family" that is actually being valued here.  In my ideal little world though, when your family is being schooled, there are some residual effects and, if one is valued, so is the other, even if by catalystic default.  I don't think as many people in the U.S. would answer as quickly and adamantly that the "family" is held in high regard as they would claim "education" is.

Regardless, I have yet another reason to enjoy teaching internationally.  When I sit with a student's family across the table from me - regardless of the meeting's tone - I feel respected for what I do on a daily basis.  I feel valued.

NOTE:  If I have presented the idea that, while teaching in the States, I felt under-valued or disrespected in any professional capacity, I did not.  I am simply generalizing on the perceptive state of education in the U.S. from a now outside point of view.


~Lynn~ said...

I totally agree with what you say here. Why should we question the type of parents that actually MAKE THE TIME to go to PT conferences? Our society should be questioning the parents who are NOT showing up for their kids. If the US valued education OR family, you are right...we would show it through our actions (macro- AND micro-level). Gr :)

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