When I was growing up, I had a mom who was not afraid to speak up on my behalf when there were issues at school. She often had an open line of communication with my teachers and voiced her opinion when necessary with a tactful elegance that I have come to admire. Today, with many changes occurring in education reform and society as a whole, knowing what to do if you disagree with the curriculum choice of your child's school is imperative in ensuring mostly smooth sailing during your child's school years.
In the 20 years since I've been in elementary school, major social shifts have taken place, and some of the curriculum choices of yesteryear may be questionable for parents today. For example, my mom was completely neutral when it came time to sign a permission slip for my then 5th grade self to watch Gone With The Wind at school as part of a history unit. Today, the thematic elements of slavery and blatant racism in the movie would cause me to hesitate if presented with the same opportunity for my own elementary school-aged children. I would be inclined to ask many questions regarding how the information in the movie would be shared with my child and what the motives behind including such a film in the curriculum would be.
Parents may have objections to certain curriculum elements or to subjects as a whole for a variety of reasons. As a parent, you are entitled to discuss your child's education with their instructors. Whether you have objections to certain curriculum based on religious reasoning, social or cultural opposition, or you just do not understand the need for certain teaching methods, having an open and honest conversation with your child's teacher is the best place to start. I spoke with several education professionals to see what they advise parents do when faced with curriculum discord. All agree that the first step is to speak to the child's teacher directly.
According to 5th grade math teacher, Bethany Austin, if a parent is questioning their child's curriculum, they should "communicate with the teacher to get a better understanding of what the lesson is connected to and why it is needed." She says that teachers can't usually go against curriculum, but are always more than willing to explain why certain educational elements are necessary. She recommends sending the teacher a quick email to explain your concerns and let the teacher know that you are willing to discuss the issue at their convenience, whether that be by phone or in person. This will express your frustration, but give the teacher time to prepare for a conversation rather than be blindsided and unprepared to explain the curriculum choice.
High school language acquisition teacher, Casey Smith, agrees that parents should begin conversations about curriculum concerns with teachers directly, but she says that this should not be the first communication you have with your child's teacher. "I will say that the best thing a teacher can do is to start to year off with an open line of communication between themselves, the student, and the parents," she tells Romper. "Teachers have set standards and skills that they have to teach that are non-negotiable. But before the delivery of that content, if there is something that a parent doesn't agree with, they should already have an established level of trust and communication with their child's teacher so that a respectful conversation can happen."
Smith adds that the responsibility of setting up this type of communication should be the teacher's responsibility at the beginning of the school year. "You don't want the first conversation you have to be a negative one," Smith says. But even if your child does not have a teacher who has opened that door yet, having a productive conversation about curriculum with your child's teacher can still happen.
With educational buzzwords like "common core" and "standards-based grading" generating confusion among parents, even the basics of curriculum can become confusing and need clarification from time to time. You may find yourself needing to ask questions related to curriculum as your child rises through the education system, so learning to communicate with your child's teacher directly about the curriculum in their classroom is important whether you agree or disagree with what is being taught.