DEAR ABBY: “Chaplin, Conn., Reader” (Aug. 16) suggested that teachers should be sharing life lessons with children. Unfortunately, many people in our society believe it — including parents. Students come to us with ever-increasing deficits in many non-curricular areas. But it is not the job of public educators to teach them the importance of families, helping grandparents, caring for household pets, etc.
If these things come up in the course of the day and there is a need to address them, we try to clarify any misconceptions. But taking time to prepare and teach a lesson on any of these small but important subjects is no longer an option. The demands placed on teachers today are vast and complex. Just getting parents to follow through at home on school responsibilities is a job in itself. Many of them don’t seem to think they need to help their kids be successful in school. — SEEN IT ALL IN MICHIGAN
DEAR SEEN IT ALL: Thank you for your comments. The letter from “Chaplin, Conn. Reader” brought a huge number of responses on this issue, primarily from teachers:
DEAR ABBY: I have worked in an elementary school for nine years. A teacher is a counselor, doctor, social worker and behavioral specialist all in one. Kids come to class dirty, hungry, tired, with no manners or clue about the alphabet or counting.
Teachers have halted lessons because a child is in a meltdown. Some kids have never held a pencil or scissors, and don’t know how to share or take directions from an adult. It’s sad to hear them say they have no crayons at home or books to read. As for testing, unless the parents do their job, we will see little improvement in scores. And no, I don’t work in a big-city school district — this is a nice suburban area. — STILL LOVE MY JOB
DEAR ABBY: I spend half my teaching time on behavioral issues, social skills, bullying, how to work in a group and just trying to hold kids’ attention. Many children today are so used to constant stimulation from TV, video games, texting, etc., that their attention spans max out at 30 seconds. I practically have to sing and dance to reach them or they tune out. I suggest “Chaplin” go to a school, volunteer and try to become a part of the solution instead of adding to the burden of already overworked teachers. — TEACHING IN TACOMA
DEAR ABBY: You said parents should be the ones teaching the kinds of things the Connecticut reader wrote about. Then you asked where the parents are. Let me tell you! They’re too busy on their smartphones talking to or fighting with their latest boy- or girlfriend, playing electronic games, out drinking and partying so much they don’t know or care where their kids are. Parents who actually spend time with their children and give them undivided attention are sadly in the minority. Those who help to teach them are even fewer in number. — KANSAS READER
DEAR ABBY: You are correct that teachers are overwhelmed by many curricular, legislative and administrative demands. However, educators can continually instill many of these life lessons into students by acting as positive role models who consistently demonstrate core values such as integrity, respect and determination. Students tend to do and learn what they see even more than what they are told — by parents and teachers. — ANNE IN NEVADA
DEAR ABBY: I am a retired physical education teacher, One day during a health class, a mother of one of my students came to school and told me I should teach “morals and manners” to her daughter. My response: “Ma’am, if you couldn’t do that in 14 years, I can’t do it in 40 minutes a day.” — REMEMBERS IT WELL
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.