I've noticed that whenever someone starts talking about "the parents", people want to shut them down. The immediate reaction is a harsh backlash, usually accusing the author of parent bashing. "The parents" are off-limits. But, I'm going to go there.:)
My mother raised 5 children, the key word being "raised". She took responsibility for us, she did not make excuses. She, (my Dad helped a little), made sure we were clean, completed our homework, ate dinner, played outside, she did this. We were all reading before the first day of school. It seems to me that when you know that someone else is going to feed your child, clothe them, teach them, make sure their work is done, where is the incentive for you to do it?
I understand that parenting is difficult, but you can't just stop once they enter school. We need to hold parents responsible for providing the things their children need to be successful in school. If a child can come to school with the latest sneakers and/or latest video game console, why can't they bring in a pencil, a notebook, the bare essentials for a classroom? If there is no Internet access at home, why can't the parent take their child to the Public library, it's free! Do you know how many parents look at me as if I have two heads when I suggest this?
We have to stop saying, "Oh, you know they're not going to do it, so we (teachers) might as well." That is not acceptable. Do I mean let a child in your school go hungry, freeze, or not provide notebooks because their parent lost their job, or is on drugs, or any other catastrophe that can't be controlled? No, I'm not talking about that parent. I am talking about the ones who are perfectly capable of providing what their child needs, but refuse.
The parent who will not attend conferences because they are "tired", but will call you in a heartbeat to find out why their child didn't go out for Recess today. The parent who signs tests and notes, as they push their kid out of the car in the morning, and then call you to ask how their child is doing. The parent who asks for extra work for their child, a day or two after the phone call informing them that their child is not doing any work in class or at home. The parent who won't pick up a book to read to their child at home, yet complains to the teacher about the child's inability to read. (A parent told a friend of mine, "That's what you're here for!") The parent who takes their kid to Disney World while school is in session because it is cheaper, and then asks you to provide a week's worth of work!
I have had many wonderful, supportive parents, who will do whatever they need to for their child, make the sacrifices that are required. But, I have also had the other ones. And I feel if they are going to hold us accountable, then our parents should be held accountable as well! Remember the triangle? Three legs,the child, the parents, and the school. Unfortunately, every time a parent lets go, that triangle collapses! How can we get our parents to pick up that leg?