September 18th, 2012
01:12 PM ET

A principal talks about educating today's kids

(CNN) Georgia high school principal Grant Rivera talked to HLN about his profession and what it takes to educate students today.

Rivera, who started as a special education teacher and coach, said his road to becoming principal started when he had an interest in growing beyond the four walls of his classroom.

He talked about the importance of families in schools.

"We need our families to be engaged in their children's education," says Rivera.  "We have a responsibility to build that bridge. We need those families in our schools. We need those families having the right conversation around the dinner table because their involvement is bigger than just signing a signature on a form."

Rivera believes that educators should be role models for their students.

"In education and in public schools, I don't believe it's very hard for educators or for me to be a role model. We got into this business because we care about kids," says Rivera.  "Every single day, when we walk through those doors, we hold ourselves to that standard – to be a role model, to be a mentor, and when appropriate, to be a friend and a coach."

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  1. Wayne

    As I understand California state law, the responsibility for the education of a child falls on the parents/guardians.

    The purpose of the public school system is to assist the parents/guardians in fulfilling their responsibilities.

    I have discovered that most teachers do not know this.

    September 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  2. Parentof4

    I don't think that this issue is as a black and white as some people seem to think it is. I believe that more often than not, the system is just broken. As the mother of 4 very different children, I have seen all of my children struggle at one time or another within the school system. All 4 are very intelligent, but the grades they brought home haven't always reflected that. For example, when my youngest daughter was in third grade, the students in her class were required to take a benchmark test over reading comprehension. This test was brought up in a parent/teacher conference as one of her lowest grades of the quarter. When I asked to see the test, I was shocked to find that the story they were required to read was over banking... things like ACH, earned interest, dividends etc... One of the questions that comes to mind that she missed was a multiple choice where a child was asked what best described earned interest... one of the possible answers was money earned for a job done. According to the teacher, that was the answer that almost every student responded with, including my daughter. My point st, at the age of 9 years old, reading retention is mostly governed by personal application, or how it applies to what you know at that given time. Kids that are 9 years old connect earning something with a chore or job done by them. While the answer wasn't correct, it makes perfect sense to me why my child, or any 9 year old, would have selected that answer. When talking with her about this test later on, it was very apparent that there was nothing I could say to help her more fully understand what the story was about to help her retain it for testing. So, does that make it my fault as a parent or the teacher's fault, who was only giving the test as directed by the system.
    Bottom line is school districts need to be much more realistic in their expectations at both student and grade level. Unfortunately, I see that more often, our students, teachers, and parents are being set up for failure.

    September 20, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  3. Emma

    Has anyone ever thought to ask the kids what they think would help. I understand you guys are the adults and only have the best intentions at heart, but just because it makes sense to you guys and seems efficient doesn't mean you didn't just create a nuisance for us. For example my school just went to an A/B block schedule and now I'm dreading school it drains me so much more, and I can't stand it, but did the adults ever ask the kids? No. So I agree that teachers need to be involved with their students, but I'm not to sure how much parents can do for us. I only say that, because my parents are not involved in what I do, the last time they went to a parent-teacher meeting I was in the first grade, and I'm a straight A student, but because I choose to be. Adults sometimes forget no matter how hard some adults try no progress will be made unless the kid decides that is what they want, no homework will be done until the kid has decided they want to do better. I guess my point is adults can try as much as they want but if the kids aren't determined, willed and wanting to achieve to better themselves it isn't going to happen. Kids hold more power then they're given credit for.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:06 am |
  4. DearthVerbose

    The invention of the printing press made the verbal presentation of knowledge an obsolete technique of education. The reading and studying upon of the literature extent in one's own way in one's own time in one's own home without any need to pay a tuition is in my humble opinion and modest experience a superior technique of education.

    September 19, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  5. Memoe

    You know you have a problem when your six year old comes home a tells you Gods name is Darwin!

    September 19, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • Rettas Vegas

      Then is the time for you to tell them it's not, BUT teach them the science in school and the religion, and faith at home from YOUR religion, NOt everybody will worship the way your family does, respect the faiths of all.

      Glad your child rembered the name Darwin, it's a very important name in science. Now make sure they understand that science is a formal education, NOT a religious one, in a public school.

      Keep God out of the classroom, it's not 1950 anymore, we have matured as a Nation, our schools are not for the faithful to draw attention to THEIR ideal of Gods place in our public schools.
      Teach them in churches & homes well what you want them to believe in leave the bibles out of the schools.

      September 20, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  6. Stephen

    Teaching children respect for others, discipline and a hard-work ethic are responsibilities of parents, not teachers. Without respect, discipline or a hard-work ethic, there is absolutely nothing that a teacher can do for a lazy spoiled brat.

    American public schools were the best in the world decades ago. And decades ago, students paid attention in class, studied hard, and didnt dare show disrespect toward their teachers.

    So yes, the change has been in how parents are raising their children. Thus, parents are, in fact, the ones deserving blame.

    September 19, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Son of the South

      And, let's not forget that "decades ago" parents TOOK their young children to Church on Sunday, had the right (an felt the responsibility) to raise and discipline their own children at Home, School teachers read the Bible in class, using it as a learning tool, displayed the Ten Commandments, the WHOLE class Pleadged their Alegence to the Flag of the United States of America, and schools gave credi(here in the BootHeel of South East Missouri) for their students attending the Church of their choice on Sunday which allowed the child to leave school early on Friday. Many other points could be thrown forward, as well. But, decades ago, America was still a God-loving and God-fearing Nation.

      September 19, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
      • Rettas Vegas

        God fearing...really...?
        That's a term used so often, but is so lame.
        Who really buys into a scary,vengeful God anyway? Who in the bible takes credit for that propaganda?

        If you have to threaten the faithful with "the fear of God" today, people think your fear mongering (and you are).

        September 20, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
      • shannon

        minor typos– and, pledge, allegiance

        September 21, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Brad

      Teachers + Students + Parents = results.... to take the teachers out of the blame equation you will never have an answer.

      September 20, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  7. Mark

    "Blaming parents is an excuse."

    He is not blaming anyone. He talking about a partnership. Everyday at work I get people that do not have any experience with what I do and they try to tell me how I should do my job.

    Show me one person that would not resent that.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  8. NorCalMojo

    Blaming parents is an excuse. The whole point of a public education system is to give access to kids regardless of their parents education. If we could rely on parents, there wouldn't even be a need for public education.

    As a parent, when I hear public educators blame parents, I hear "We can't do the job, if you value your child's education, put them in a private school".

    September 19, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Myself

      I have to disagree. The school systems are there to help educate the children as best they can, WITH their parent's involvement. For instance, if the student is confused about the way a math problem is setup, or how to word something grammatically, they must talk to their parents (or their peers) in order to get a resolution to the question BEFORE handing in the homework, or WHILE studying for the test.

      Or, if you so wish, I guess they could simply try to hunt down the answer on a YouTube video, or someplace else on the Internet which could take twice as long. (and yes, I'm being sarcastic about this remark)

      September 19, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  9. Dan I.

    There needs to be performance based screenings of teachers but this IS difficult. You can't have a solid metric, it would need to be something done maybe every 3 years or so. Simply because there will be students and groups of students that just "don't get it.' Snapshot review WON'T work (unless it is truely abysmal, like an entire class failing).

    September 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Myself

      Dan, wouldn't that be the same as to comparing a child getting a single lower than normal grade on a test and being flagged as a potential candidate for remedial work?

      I only say this because one of our daughters was in that situation when they transitioned from 6th to 7th grade this year. Her grades were all straight A's for every single marking period, but due to state mandates, someone who didn't get a certain grade or higher on the one state test done throughout the year, they were going to put her in a remedial language arts class (and she was only 3-4 points below the required level).

      September 19, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Frank

      Similarly there needs to be a performance based review of parents. Shoot...might as well make parents obtain a license before conceiving, too. I'm not joking. You have to take a class and learn how to shoot a gun, drive a car, or ride a motorcycle. Unleashing offspring that you can't care for or don't care about is much more harmful to society than doing any of those things illegally.

      September 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  10. Burbank

    News flash! Selfish, lazy parents linked to illiterate kids!

    September 19, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  11. Terry

    The issue is that education in America tries to clone the population by trying to do the same thing for all kids. OThe educational systems throughout the world educate to the needs and interests of their students, not to the needs and interests of the governement. Education goes to slow for the gifted and too fast for the slow learner It has always been that way and having spent 26 years in the system, it is clear that education only tries to reinvent the wheel. Education in America is a joke that forces teachers to not be able to do what they do best, educate to a diverse population interested in studying what they want to do for a living. China, Korea , European countries do it,...so can we.

    September 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  12. Coach

    Keep in mind that my comment does not apply to the majority, but to what I've seen as an educator. The biggest problem I have noticed is parents believing everything their kid says. "He doesn't help us" even though I spend many hours of my own time working with students. What I've found this to mean from the kids is that "I don't want to put in the extra work it is going to take to pass but I don't want to seem like it's my fault." Who do you think the parents side with? Of course it could never be that your child doesn't want to be in trouble with you so he/she blames the teacher (sarcasm note). I've also had parents tell me, "I didn't bother you the 2 months I had him during the summer, so don't bother me when you have him." But yet they want to meet with admin when their child fails my class. Parents need to start realizing that their children are not perfect. That teachers aren't perfect. However, we are working our hardest making just enough to be above the poverty line even after a 4 year college degree (South Carolina teaching salary starts at 28,000) to give your child the best. But we can not do it alone. We need your help and your support, not your lecture and rants.

    September 19, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Brad

      Coach, I believe you and can read it in the sincerity of your message.. and yes I know far to well children can lie, but so can adults. I dont thtink it is a stretch to say that we've all had teachers that for a lecture all you see is there back and the chalk hitting the board ablivious to the vacant stares on their pupils faces, (not all teachers some), as with any occupation you have those who collect a paycheck and don't really care about results, and in the teaching world there is this thing called TENURE so nothing can be done aobut it, so it perpetuates. Dont know the answer, but therein lies the problem, we need to weed out the bad and brng in new excited blood to motivate and encourage using new and improved methods and measure and assure teachers are using them.

      September 19, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
      • j

        Tenure does not cause laziness. Tenure does not guarantee a job for life. Tenure only means that a teacher must receive due process before being fired. Teachers can and are fired every day.

        September 19, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
      • Brad

        I didnt call it Laziness but I owuold call it complacentacy, lack of motivation...... and yes teachers are getting fired, but I think everyone knows that unless they have Gross incpoetence it is very hard to rid a school of a underperforming teacher.

        September 20, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  13. concerned parent

    What is bad grade in the eyes of a teacher? If a straight A student get B or C, teachers don't even let the parents know or willing to talk to the parents. When I let the teacher know that (after checking the online grade), I want to talk about the bad grade ( B or C), they seems to be surprised.... Some teachers don't even respond to multiple emails. I am talking about the experience I am having in a reputed High School. There is no connection between teachers and students, very few teachers have any sort of concerns regard to the students.

    September 19, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • NorCalMojo

      That's my experience, too. Teachers want parents to get involved.......until they do. Then we become a nuisance.

      September 19, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
      • jvivien

        some parents are amazing at taking the time to teach values, discipline, respect, and responsibility.
        and then there are others that baby their kids so much even parents themselves cant tolerate them.

        watch the show "worlds strictest parents" I think the teenagers alone are not the problem. parental environment makes a big difference as seen in the one week long course of the show.

        September 20, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • STEMteacher

      1. For one in this modern age, almost all schools have online grade books, so it is assumed that parents are monitoring grades closely online. The grade books are "real time" data, as in if I'm entering in a single column of grades, I've actually had a parent e-mail me before I got to the bottom of the column. Almost all teacher have guidelines for grades explaining point value, deadlines, missing or late assignments. The parents need make sure their student brings home this passed out guideline, read it and understand it before making the teacher re-teach over the phone what they have taught a million times in class to the students who should then be able to explain to parents in addition to handing out a printed version that was sent home.
      2. Think about it, if a teacher calls every parent and only talks for 5 minutes, multiply that times 120...now you have added 10 hours to a teachers already 10-12 hour day. Every hour a teacher spends talking to a parent takes away from grading papers, creating lesson plans or planning enrichment activities.
      3. Even an e-mail response takes lots of time. Since these e-mails are permanent public record, a teacher has to be very careful how they are worded.
      4. Top that off with teacher's only plan period is continually being used up for other responsibilities so to even respond to an e-mail in a timely manner, teachers are force to respond during class time. This is taking time and attention away from an entire class of 30-40 students for what many times is a stay at home needy parent that should be first asking their student what the problem is. If that doesn't work, the parent, teacher and student can get together to make sure the student takes responsibility for their assignments and doesn't get off the hook too easily by having their helicopter parent assume that responsibility.
      5. One teacher can't hold the hands of 100-150 students every day, not to mention an equal number of parents. The only way it can work is for both teacher and parent keep the student in the loop of responsibility and maintain a system of checks that encourages students to be responsible.

      September 20, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  14. ruth

    The United States of America needs better PARENTS

    September 18, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Brad

      Most of these teachers are parents............

      September 19, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  15. Rob

    why have homework at all?

    September 18, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Linda

      Exactly! I couldn't believe the homework given to 8 and 9 year olds. My daughter works, her husband works and then at nite after or before dinner they spend an hour or two doing homework. I think this getting out of hand. School is where the learning should be! I saw the kids crying because they didn't understand, the parents frustrated at the new math that they hadn't learned. Where is the benefit to this? Assign 30 minutes for reading each nite and call it a day.

      September 20, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  16. Brad

    If you are talking about parents that ask "is your home work done" or set rules, that they complete homework before they can go out and have fun I agree... but so many times I see teachers sending children home with home work that they havent even covered yet in class expecting the parents to teach them or the child to teach themselves. be honest how many of us want to have to help their child with Calculus? its not that I dont want to, but its not my expertise and alot of times it is being taught with different methods from when I took the course. Teachers want more benefits higher pay but want to shift the onus on the parents. Teachers need to exchange ideas and tactics that they find work in other schools across the nation, I truly believe that the problem does not just originate with the parents but in the educating of our new Teachers of the future to sit down and discover not only what they teach but maybe as much or more how to teach.

    September 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • chris

      I never assigned for homework anything I hadn't yet covered in class; however, some students would inform their parents that I had been doing that (or say that my class was too hard) after I 'd call home to report poor academic performance. Almost every time I got the chance to meet the parents of a troublesome student (poor behavior, no effort, etc...) I was amazed how apathetic adults could be about the education of their own kids. I stayed after school twice a week to tutor anyone who wanted extra help (I pleaded with some to stay) and many times the parents of failing kids would yell at me in conferences because their kids had told them that I wouldn't help.
      The students that paid attention (because mom and\or dad made them care!) always learned in my class. I'm sure there are better teachers, but I tried pretty hard and got it done. The biggest problem by far is the apathy of parents (provided the teacher knows the material and can explain well). There ARE bad teachers, but it's crazy to expect normal teachers to be entertainers of an unwilling audience. Parents need to raise their kids to be willing participants in school.

      September 18, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • stateschool

      FYI: "The teacher didn't teach us this" translates to "I wasn't paying attention during class."

      September 19, 2012 at 6:58 am |
  17. bs1

    ""We need our families to be engaged in their children's education,"" – Thank you captain obvious. Now tell us how exactly we accomplish this with the parents who are some combination of uninterested, uneducated, incarcerated, working three dead end jobs, etc.

    September 18, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • jonas

      and when you do try to get involved, ask questions or try to help your child, they act like you are wasting their valuable time

      September 18, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  18. Mark

    The "achievement gap" starts at home. If a child arrives at Kindergarten not knowing letters, numbers, colors, shapes, etc. they are unlikely to catch up to those who do because that indicates that learning is not a priority at home.

    September 18, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Judy

      Thank You!

      September 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • j

      Children who live in poverty enter kindergarten two years behind the miidle class child. Two years behind at five! Look at the research on the correlation between dropout rate and third grade reading levels. If a child is below level at eight years old, he is very likely to drop out before graduation. If they can't learn to read, they can't read to learn. Urban schools are given the nearly impossible task and are labeled as failures if the scores don't compare well with the suburban district scores, scores that reflect quality lap time when parents are reading to their young children. The American education system is not in "crisis." America itself is in crisis. Poverty is the real issue, but it is much easier to blame teachers than to fix an entire culture that has eroded to vast separations of wealth and parental neglect and ignorance or complacency.

      September 19, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  19. TimZ

    The Center for Educational Reform produces a Parental Power Index that shows how friendly (or not) public school systems are to parents who want to play a role in the educations of their children. Georgia (where this principal is from) ranks #12.

    September 18, 2012 at 2:43 pm |