What do you mean I can’t teach your child…

I usually complain that parents don’t take enough interest in their child’s education. Well, I was made a liar today! Okay let me explain.  First of all I have an open door policy in my class, which means I invite parents to come sit in my class if they want. I created a website specially for parents and students so they know what we do in class.  In fact my class website is located here at wordpress as well.  Anyway, I am a firm believer in motivating parents to give me ideas, suggestions, and feedback about their child’s education because I want their input, I want to do the best I can for their child. Now that I explained my view, let me tell you my story.

After school today an irate parent came to the school to complain about me.  One of my co-worker (whose son is also in my Advanced Placement United States History class) told me while she was in the office, a dad came in asking for the history department head.  So my co-worker asked who was he looking specifically for and the parent said, he wanted to talk to Ms. A (me).  My friend told the man, “Oh, my son has her for class, she’s a great teacher!” The man angrily looks at her and said, ” I’m not here to praise her, I’m here to complain about her doing debates in class!”  He told her he was upset with me because I was setting his kid up for failure… he said I should be focusing on history.  The debate he was upset about was the election issues. On Fridays we do current events, and I told my students we would do debates about election issues until the election so they know what is going on.  The dad was upset about this and wanted me to stop doing debates. At least that is what he told my co-worker.  Tomorrow I’m sure I will find out the full story.

As a teacher, we are not permitted to talk about religion or political views.  I don’t tell my students what my views are on those two issues.  They have asked but I always tell them my views are not important but theirs are because they have to form their opinions themselves. In my class, I do not censor my student’s views because it would be hypocritical of me to teach them about the First Amendment one day and the next take those rights from them.  It’s ironic, but one of my students had told the class during our discussion of freedom of speech that she felt that students had more freedom of speech than teachers.  I had asked her, how?  She said, ” Ms. A, it’s sad but I can say what I feel or think about any topic in class, but you are not allowed to because of rules preventing you.”

Are parents threatened by free speech? Are some parents afraid to let their child think for themselves? Are they worried their child will rebel if they are exposed to different ideas and thoughts?  From a teacher’s stand point, I believe in encouraging students to express their opinions and ideas without fear or discrimination.  Education is not regurgitation… in order for them to be prepared for the  “world’ classroom they have to be able to think for themselves and not me telling them what to believe.

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10 thoughts on “What do you mean I can’t teach your child…

  1. Christopher

    I found your blog by chance. It is very exciting to read about other Laotians. I am 100% Laotian. My father is Hmong. I cannot speak Lao. I understand it barely and speak it poorly. I always wondered how other Laotians lived.

    The Laotian community made fun of me for being “Americanized” and my family was looked down upon because we were very liberal and not the traditional Laotian family. My sisters had it worse, there were rumors and people talked about them because they were not the babysitting-cooking-cleaning type, that somehow, automatically made them sluts.
    My parents got divorce when I was 4 months old. I have two older sisters, I am the youngest and only male. I am 22 and just recently graduated from a private institution. I received my B.F.A in Studio Art. I am studying for the GMAT so I can continue my education and hopefully obtain a MBA (if finances do not kill me [ plus, I paid for my own education without my parents { they do not make a lot of money}] )
    Even with all the rumors and lies from our own community, they look up to us now! My sisters and I have the most RESPECT for our mother and father. We will take care of them until the day we day (which we are supposed too as Laotians). We show our love and affection; we are the hugging and kissing type of family. We laugh. We cry. Our mother and father are also our friends. In the Laotian community I grew up in the families do not have THAT which makes me glad that I was raised differently.

    I am sorry for writing so much. I am just venting.
    Keep up the writing and I will continuing reading and living vicuriously through you…

  2. Laotian Teacher

    Hello, Chris! Thank you for making my day. I love to hear about other Laotians or cultures. That is the main reason why I started this blog so that I can tell about my experience, share my thoughts and ideas with others. I love hearing stories like yours because it shows that there are strong positive and educated Southeast Asian people out there.

    You should be very proud of yourself for completing a degree and paying for it yourself. We need more young people to step up and respect our culture and people in a positive way. We need to show other people that within our own culture there is still so much diversity.

    As for people gossiping about your sisters, they are just haters and some are plain jealous. That is one thing I don’t miss about living in a Laotian community, the gossip. It gets old real fast!

    Write as much as you want anytime because that is what this blog is about: our shared experiences. You have just inspired me to write more stories!:)

  3. Dallas

    I don’t think the debate on a current political matter should be in a history class. If it was a speech class or class on politic, it would fit better. But I would not react like that parent.

  4. Laotian Teacher

    Dallas, I include debate on the current political issues to make connections to past history. For example, in our history class we have covered immigration pattern from colonial period up to revolution. We discussed reasons why people immigranted to America as early as 1600: religious freedom, better life, liberty etc. When we debated the immigration issue I asked them to compare and contrast immigration during colonial time to modern time. We discussed changes in policy from then to now. I wanted them to see the change over time in polictics, religion, society, technology and intellectual factors.

    Also, I feel as a history teacher, it is my responsibility to help students be aware of what’s going on in America especially if they are going to lead the way. Some of my kids are going to be able to vote in November and yes, I feel that they need to know what they are voting for. They need to know what is the differences between a democrat and a republican from colonial period to now and how that party developed and evolve.

    Students, these days are always wanting to know why they are learning something and how it is going to benefit them in the future. I feel that the election is important especially this is the most historical election in our history. These kids can one day tell their kids what the election was like, how did people feel etc. Learning has to be revelant to them or they will ask why are we learning this?

    Current political matter is a part of history, it’s our present history. On Fridays, I do current events because on their AP exam they have to do modern history as well. Debating gives them a good practice of seeing both side of an issue, any issue. How does a bebate help them? Our class debates usually turns into an argumentative essay.

  5. Dallas

    I am not saying you should not talk about current issue. I am saying would it be better to split them into group and discuss the topic rather than debate about it?

    Maybe debating and discussing is the same thing. I don’t know.

  6. Laotian Teacher

    Hi, Dallas. Actually we do both. The discussion is called a seminar and that is when we discuss all different sides. The debate is different because they actually have to use facts to back up their points. In a debate one side is trying to win the “argument”. By the way are you going to watch the McCain and Obama debate tonight?

  7. Rob

    Correct me if I am wrong but in the debates as you have in your history class, students must be ready to argue either side of an issue and they don’t know which side they will be on until just before the debate. It’s in researching both sides that they have to familiarize themselves with all perspectives of an issue.

    The debate such as last night is much less of a true debate in that there are no judges and there is no scoring as to who presented their points in a better light.

    I watched the entire debate. I also watched most of the debates in both the Republican and the Democratic primaries. I watched on public TV without seeing the preliminary discussions and turned off the television afterwards. I thought the debate a draw. I was familiar with the positions of both candidates and their debating styles.

    I was surprised when I turned on my computer this morning the polling by CNN and CBS conducted among undecideds immediately after and during the debates showed an overwhelming trend in Obama’s direction. I think many undecided voters hadn’t heard Obama before and were pleasantly surprised that he seemed so calm and “presidential”. Of course these debates and the voting itself are not about issues or substance but rather about perceptions and feelings.

    As for the appropriateness of current events in history class, I can think of no more important place for it. I remember a long time ago walking into my history class and discussing the recent broadening of the war by invading Cambodia and Laos without approval from congress.

  8. Laotian Teacher

    Hi Rob! In my history class we do debates on different issues. The first one we did was a presidential one. My students are in groups of four. I told them we are going to do a presidential debate. As a group, they decide who they want to be, Obama or McCain. Then they pick one team member to be it. Then I tell them they have a week to prepare to give a speech then be prepared to debate an election issue. I link websites for both sides for them to help them become familiar with the issues, all election issues. However, I do not tell them which one we are going to do before hand because I want them to become familiar with all issues. They have to have facts to back up their points. You explained it when you said, “It’s in researching both sides that they have to familiarize themselves with all perspectives of an issue.” This is exactly want and why I do debates. I want my students to look at a topic from all perspective so it can help them make a sound judgement about something.

    On the day of the debate in class, my students are it, the “candidates” because they get into it. Some of the kids dressed the part, had the mannerism, diction and expression of Obama and McCain down pat.

    In a real debate, you are correct that scores would be given. Also, there is a format that the debaters must follow as well as the proctor. Have you ever watch the movie, “The Great Debaters”? Denzel Washington is in it and it’s a perfect example of how debating is done.

    Right now we are discussing the American Revolution and they are going to have to decide which side they are on: the patriots, loyalist or neutralist. We will have a class seminar on this.

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