I'm standing at my podium in English class in North Carolina. It's the last period of the day and my ninth graders are mostly paying attention to my explanation about diagramming sentences. They're learning it; I'm really excited because it gives them a good command of grammar and writing if they learn to do it well. Then the phone rings-it's a parent wanting to pick up her son, most likely to take him out to eat and do a little shopping. He's going to miss this very important explanation. I'm so irritated, but the parent has the authority to disrupt her child's education if she wishes. He'll be lost when we diagram sentences on the test and his irate mother will probably fuss at him for making an F.
Sometimes I'm interrupted 3-4 times by other parents taking their children out of class for trivial reasons. The phone rings; the secretary tells me "So-and so's mother is here to pick up her child. Please send him to the office to leave." This happens a lot during my fourth period class. I find myself answering the phone with a gruff "hello" until I remember the secretary's just doing her job. I've written a note on all my students' progress reports , explaining how taking their child out of class really messes up their learning, and should only be done for things like doctor's or dentist's appointments they can't get at any other time. Those notes seem to fall on deaf ears.
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These students have to pass a difficult End-of-Course English test to move on to the next grade. When they leave class often, they get gaps in their knowledge and may never learn enough to pass the test, read well, reason well, or make adequate progress in high school. Some parents do this habitually. Many students rarely make up the work they miss, or do it incorrectly because they miss the explanation. I wonder if these same parents are the ones who loudly criticize the education system or complain that teachers aren't doing a good job. Wake up parents! Send your children to school and let them stay long enough to learn! Joyce A. Lane, NC high school English teacher