February 22, 2018

Parents are Major Reason for Teacher Burn Out

Here is a piece written for CNN by Ron Clark (a past “American Teacher of the Year” winner), which sums up what teachers really want parents to know: the parents are a major reason why many of them lose their passion to be educators. I applauded in my own living room at the end of reading it!  I’ll never forget the parent who harassed me over her daughter’s grade to the point I felt my desire to teach drain right out of me.  Thank goodness I had a principal and English department chairperson who supported me 100%.

Clark’s piece reinforces an article I wrote last year called “Expectations Can Never Be Too High.”  It was a retort to the Amy Chua, Tiger Mother feeding frenzy against too strict parents. Also, take a look at the more recent “Ostrich Parenting Ostracizes Kids,” which is more about parental discipline, or lack thereof.  I would love to know your thoughts on these issues


  1. Society’s lack of trust in teachers is indeed a fundamental problem with public education today. And by society, I mean parents plus politicians and general tax payers as well. Another perhaps even more fundamental problem is society’s lack of trust in children to take charge of their own learning. But that may be a topic for another article. I’m sure Ron Clark would have some wise opinions on that issue as well. I understand where he is coming from when he identifies parents as a source of teacher burnout, and he mentions some important ways that parents anywhere can support their children’s teachers. Taking this to the next level, there are models of public education where parents are very involved in the school and classroom communities, where teachers compassionately communicate specific ways that parents can provide support, and then involved parents can help PREVENT teacher burnout. Unfortunately these schools seem to be few and far between, but my daughter goes to one, Orangevale Open K-8.

  2. There are as many different types of teachers as there are parents out there. I come from a family full of teachers, and their parent (and student) horror stories are high entertainment at the dinner table. Mr. Clark’s article is a great reminder of how helicopter parents can get in the way of their child’s best education.

    HOWEVER, I think he pushes the envelope too far by suggesting that we always trust the teacher. The unfortunate fact is that there are far too many children in the classroom for the teacher to know children very well or to see the full picture in an incident. I would never dictate consequences to my child without seeking their thoughts/perspective. If I did trust the teacher, I would likely weigh the adult’s thoughts over the child’s. Sadly, many of us know teachers who confess to “not liking some kids” or assuming behaviors on others.

    I’m going to jump on a limb and hope Mr. Clark is also writing tongue-in-cheek (ala Mrs. Chua) by insinuating that there is no room for flexibility with children’s assignments and personal needs. While we aren’t told the details of that “horrific July of family issues” one parent explains, but no, I don’t feel his pain one bit. I only empathize with that mother.

    What Mr. Clark misses, as do those obnoxious parents he’s targeting, is that the only way to truly meet our children’s educational needs is to build an active and respectful partnership between parent and teacher. Parents: celebrate, support, and respect teachers who are reaching out for our children. If your child is truly needing something that this teacher/school isn’t providing, consider other options. Our communities are full of educational options, from public schools to magnets, charters, private, and homeschool options.

    Teachers: respect that these parents want to step up into the role as their children’s primary educators. Listen to them, take a second look at their needs, and then put them to work in your classrooms. A parent and a bad teacher can be like ex-spouses fighting over the petty issues, but at the end of the day, where do both need to refocus their attention? On the best needs of each child.

    • Well said, Lisa. I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for your thoughtful contributions to the site. I was going to copy/paste what I liked about your comments, but the whole thing makes so much common sense. I see another guest post for you, perhaps? :)

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