Opinion: The problem with teachers quitting is parents

Mar 7, 2023, 11:39 AM | Updated: Mar 13, 2023, 2:01 pm
teacher in a calm room at sunset elementary...
A calm room at Sunset Elementary (Photo courtesy of KSLTV.com)
(Photo courtesy of KSLTV.com)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom. 

More teachers are quitting. In fact, more teachers quit in Washington state last year than at any time in the last 30 years. Utah is feeling it, too. We’ve seen an increase in underqualified teachers, larger class sizes and a critical need in some schools for support staff.

May I offer a couple of observations from the cheap seats? I substitute teach four afternoons each week on average. I’m in elementary, middle and high classes in the Salt Lake and Jordan School Districts. I am noticing some real problems, but not in the teaching – in the parents.

“This is triggering me!”

I hear students, even as young as second and third graders, regularly saying things like this: “That’s triggering me.” “I can’t do that. That triggers me.” “You can’t make me do that. My Mom said.”

A 3rd grader is absolutely convinced that she can’t participate in her class, that I must stop class and cater to her for as long as she demands because her parents told her so.

Are you kidding me right now?

And to be clear, I’m not talking about a child in resource or the special education department. I’m talking about a regular child with no medical diagnosis in a regular class.

Enter the “calm room”

What have the schools done to address these demands?

One of the things many schools are trying, and I am absolutely sure this idea came from a good place, is failing miserably. More than a few schools I’ve been in have “calm rooms.” They go by different names, but the gist of them is they are a “safe space” where a child can go any time, for any reason, just to calm down.

On its face, that may seem like a good idea. I’m sure there are examples of this tool being very helpful, but here’s how it works most of the time: Kids line up to go to the calm room. They work the system. Of course, they do. They’re smart!

From the minute class begins, there is a waiting list for the calm room. Do any of these kids seem overwhelmed or upset? Rarely. They just want to get out of class. (Full disclosure – I’m sure I would have been first on the list to get out of class, too.) One after another, students leave the class.

Not only do they miss the work we’re doing, but other students are focused on when they get back and how soon it is to their turn. I have no idea how much actual learning is lost, but it feels considerable to my limited eye.

Teachers are quitting because of parental fails 

Teachers can only do the best they can in the 7+ hours they have five days a week. They cannot be expected to perform miracles with kids who have absolutely no respect for authority.

I have seen a kid throw a computer across the room. Kids frequently just say, “No!” to a request to do work. I’ve had more than a few “Oh yeah? Make me!” responses to a request to work on an assignment. Last week I had a girl call me a b**** to my face because I wouldn’t mark her on time when she was late. And this is to say nothing of the frequent lies: “I did it” when they didn’t; “I’m working on it” when they’re not.

I learned a few months into my substituting that it’s never worth getting into a fight with a kid, but I am shocked at how little respect and discipline these children have been taught. What they seem to have been taught is: 1) they are the boss, 2) they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do, and 3) the teachers are there to serve them, and I mean serve them like an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen.

Parents are failing, miserably, to teach their children to respect their teachers.

If we want to know why teachers are quitting, we need to look in the mirror.

Amanda Dickson is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and A Woman’s View.

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Opinion: The problem with teachers quitting is parents