Home > Parents, Practical Ideas > Ron Clark Needs a Lesson

Ron Clark Needs a Lesson

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments
 I just read the article by Ron Clark,http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/06/living/teachers-want-to-tell-parents/index.html and felt my blood start to boil. I found him to come across as arrogant and presumptuous, not at all like the author I loved when I read The Essential 55. I don’t know if Ron Clark is a parent, but the way he states things in his article along with his lack of empathy, leads me to believe that he doesn’t have children.   
In my many years in the field of education, I worked with thousands of parents, some involved, some, less involved, some who defended their child, others who never listened to what their child had to say, some who were hostile to the school and wanted to fight, others who wanted to work with the school and brought ideas to the table. Though I am far from an expert in working with parents, I feel that I can share some of my thoughts, based on over 30 years of experience in the field of education, first as a teacher, then as an assistant principal, and finally as a principal. Also, by the way, I am a parent of two adult children, both teachers, both special educators.
Working With Parents is Not Always Easy
So how do we try to make it easier? I learned that it is essential to make the parent feel welcome. Treat them as though they are an invited guest at your house. If they want to bring an advocate along to a meeting, good for them. The more heads that work together, the more ideas that are developed. I learned that the attitude that we transmit as a school is critical to the success of the meeting. Parents know who the professionals are, it’s not something that has to be repeated over and over. Though everyone may not agree initially, setting up an us versus them situation doesn’t work. If there is hostility on any one’s part, the child loses. It’s so important to keep in mind the purpose of the school working with the parent and vice versa, to make things better for the child. 
Parents Voices Must be Heard
I learned that parents need to be acknowledged and their voices have to be heard. I learned to listen and hear what they were saying before I made my points. I learned that I do not know their child the same way they do. I see the child in school and they see their child at home, very different settings and situations. I learned that parents know their child best and I have no right to judge their parenting or tell them what to do. I learned that sharing strategies that worked with other children sometimes spurred them to try things with their own children.
Parents in Partnership With the School
I learned that it’s critical to develop relationships that work so the child can be supported. There have to be healthy, productive, respectful conversations with agreeing to disagree, in order to get to the most important outcome, assisting the child to thrive academically and socially.
 After reading his article it is clear to me that Ron Clark is concerned about teacher bashing. I am too. I feel that teachers get blamed for so many things that are not within their control.I feel that often teachers are not valued for the hard work and effort that they consistently put into their profession. It’s not an easy field to be in and I truly understand why some teachers and administrators leave. It’s unfortunate that we lose some of our best and brightest educators but not everyone can get past the obstacles that are thrown their way.
 I know that Ron Clark has strong ideas. His accomplishments with his students are admirable and have received well deserved national recognition. So why bash parents? Hasn’t Mr. Clark learned that parents’ can be strong allies to further the needs of the school community? Hasn’t he learned that they can advocate for things that he can’t ask for? Hasn’t Mr. Clark learned that it’s a different game when working with parents? It seems to me that he wants what he wants and that’s that. But that’s not the way to do business with parents. There has to be mutual respect, ongoing dialogue,  give and take, and planning together to support the child in school and at home. Learn, Mr, Clark, that being didactic and teacher directed is not the way to go.
For a parent’s perspective, please read A Letter to Ron Clark: What Parents Really Want to Tell Teachers http://t.co/evcEFx3 via @SpecialEdAdvice.
Categories: Parents, Practical Ideas
  1. Michelle Baldwin
    September 11, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Thank you!! I wrote a very similar post- http://avenue4learning.com/2011/09/07/what-caring-teachers-want-to-tell-parents/.

    I think there are more educators that feel the way we do, so we need to keep sharing our stories. Great post!

    • September 11, 2011 at 9:20 pm


      I just read your blog and posted a comment. It is a terrific post and shows us that those of us wno really want to work with parents figured out how to do it in a positive way.We could teach Ron Clark a few things.

      Best, Gail

  2. September 11, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Hi Gail,

    Great blog and right on point as always. Thanks for the mention at the bottom.

    The more I think about this I come to the conclusion that anyone who thinks they have all the answers has lost sight of the question. Expect a new blog from me in the next few days on that topic.


    • September 12, 2011 at 8:45 am


      Thanks for reading and commenting. It’s your blog that got me to Ron Clark’s blog which spurred me to action.

      I love ” The more I think about this I come to the conclusion that anyone who thinks they have all the answers has lost sight of the question.” I’m sure I will be repeating this mantra to my student teachers throughout the semester. I wish that Ron Clark and other know it alls realized that.

      Looking forward to reading your new blog.


  3. September 14, 2011 at 3:38 am

    Its great that an administrator existrs who thinks this way. Very seldom do administrators see anything more important in their job than defending the institution. If that’s compatible with taking care of the kid, OK, but otherwise the kid and his parents be damned.

    Even when it would be easier and cheaper for the district to do the right thing, you have to throw a complaint or a hearing request at them just to get their attention. You’re making great sense. There’s afair number of good teahers out there, but administrators that think like you are about as common as chicken lips.

  4. September 14, 2011 at 6:00 pm


    Thanks for your comments. I really am flattered.

    It’s very tough to spew the philosophy of the district, superintendent, Dept of Education, etc, when you don’t feel that they always have the best interest of the child in mind. But, of course, principals are expected to do thatn Here’s a blog that I wrote about those frustrations. https://teachersbagoftricks.wordpress.com/2010/12/.
    That being said, the team at my school would try to find ways to give the parents the information and contacts that they needed so they could advocate for their child. Once they set the process in motion, we, as a school, could assist and support them..

    It took me years to develop my philosophy and mindset regarding working with parents Believe me, when I was new to the field I thought I knew it all. I think what helped to frame my thinking was becoming a parent myself and dealing with some teachers and administrators that I would have liked to strangle. I saw how it was being on the other side ( I wrote a blog about that too) and knew that I had to change. Ergo, the evolution.

    Please be assured, there are a lot of administrators out there who work with parents in ways similar to me. I hope that you are able to find the ones who will support you and your child. If i can be of any help, please let me know.



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