Bad Parents, Exemplary Teachers

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - December 06, 2006
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In a recent column I quoted an e-mail from a reader detailing a scene she had witnessed at a local Sam’s Club. Here’s what she saw and heard: “The mother placed her order, and when the counter girl turned her back and walked to the back to get their order, the mother reached in and took an extra soda cup and passed it to her daughter to hold below the view of the counter window ...

She then “shooed” her daughter away before the girl came back with the rest of her order.”

Now, here is an e-mail I received a few days later: “This is in response to your Nov.1, 2006 Moonlighting column. I could-n’t help but to think you were really grasping for subject matter with this one. How are we to assume that the cup was not paid for? Maybe the woman was just helping to expedite her order by getting the cup herself.”


The reader signs off as “a conscientious mother of 6.”

Well, I understand her point. And it certainly is true that my original letter-writer could have been mistaken about what she saw. I wasn’t there myself, so I have to trust her account of what occurred. But the larger point remains the same: We are our kids’ primary role models.

If we cheat, tell little lies or otherwise behave in ways that are less than ethical, our children will absorb the lessons and will do the same. No matter what you tell your child, it’s your actions that count. So if you tell your children not to lie, but they see you calling in sick when you’re not, they’ll remember. If you tell them not to steal, but they observe you stuffing the hotel towel in your overnight bag, they’ll remember that, too.

Your words are effectively nullified by your concrete example of what is actually acceptable to you.

three star

Now - another letter from a reader, this one heaping praise on her son’s school. Donna Kusaka and her husband are teachers in two different Oahu public schools, but they have no affiliation with the one their son attends.

Here’s what she says:

“Prior to my son attending Wahiawa Middle School, I could not even count on one hand the number of good things I had heard about it. All I knew was that it had a not-so-good reputation and that it was in ‘restructuring.’ My husband and I decided to have my son go there anyway and just see how everything went.”

Kusaka makes a point that I think we tend to overlook these days. Schools that are in restructuring have specific issues to work through. That doesn’t mean they are terrible schools with incompetent staffs. It means they need help meeting the requirements of the federal law.

There are individuals working in the schools who care deeply about what happens to their students. If these teachers need help - be it from the government or from parents themselves - they should get it. What they don’t need is blanket criticism.

“Morale is often low in schools where more and more is put upon the teachers with less and less time in which to do it. Media reports about our public schools are sometimes discouraging and result in widespread public grumbling.”

Many of the politicians who won office this past election say one of their priorities is to take another look at the No Child Left Behind law. By now I think it’s pretty obvious to a lot of people that, while the law has the right intentions, it needs a good retooling in order to be effective and to be fair. A cookie-cutter approach is proving not to be the answer. The same could be said for cookie-cutter labeling. Restructuring does not mean lousy.


When I talk with teachers, most say the same thing: They are stressed out. They want to meet the requirements; they are working hard at it. But at the same time it would be nice to get a little credit for what they are doing right.

Kusaka says, “I think these teachers (and I’m sure many more who are equally as wonderful) deserve at the very least recognition for what they do every day to make learning a very enjoyable experience for our children.”

I agree.

It’s good to grumble if you see something wrong. How else would the problems come to light? And if we don’t know how bad things are, how do we fix them?

But it’s equally important to praise the many who go above and beyond the job description. These teachers need support. Otherwise, they may just give up and go away.

And then where would we be?

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