How Do We Fix the Blame Game?


Canter-c120x148Formerly a teacher, now an administrator-in-training, Chris Canter blogs about his yearlong assistant principal internship at Fulton County Public Schools in Atlanta, Ga. Chris was a 2010 ASCD OYEA honoree.

We’ve heard all of the excuses before. Students can’t succeed because they don’t want to, their parents aren’t doing their jobs, we don’t have enough resources, and the list goes on and on.

During my brief stint as a leadership intern in four different schools, I have noticed one common trend: there is little continuity between the schoolhouse and the home. In today’s society, teachers (and schools) have more duties than ever. There is an increase in single parenthood, meaning working and absentee parents are on the rise. Poverty is rampant and drugs and crime are affecting even the high schoolers I see every day. Our issue is not one of test scores; it is one of culture and society.

What we need is a generation of parents who support one another in parenting and schools systems that do the same. Not only should we ensure that schools make the community part of its culture, but we should also ensure that the school is made part of the community. We need a symbiotic relationship, rather than serving as a warehouse for children until late afternoon.

It’s very easy to say this with mere words, but how do we make it happen? What are some methods we can use to infuse our community (especially in low-income areas) into our school? How do we get families in the doors and partnering with faculty to ensure their children’s success? How do we assess the needs of the community and help meet those, if possible?


  1. HI Chris,
    I have been studying, working, learning about, and teaching on this exact topic since 1992.
    There are schools who have succeeded in building an authentic sense of shared responsibility for student success and development by following research based promising practices.
    Please see the following resources to help you know exactly how to stop the blame game:
    Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family School Partnerships by Anne T. Henderson, Karen Mapp, Vivian Johnson and Don Davies 2007
    Creating Welcoming Schools: A Practical Guide to Home School Partnerships with Diverse Families by JoBeth Allen (GREAT for identifying exactly what classroom teachers can do in the classroom) 2007
    Engaging All Families, by Steven Constantino (GREAT FOR SECONDARY) 2006
    PLUS Join theFREE Family Involvement Network of Educators (FINE) which is a fantastic website sponsored by the Harvard Family Research Project==visit Check out “complementary learning”.

  2. I work in a school that is hight poverty and suprisingly parents line up to pick up students daily. So the parents are present, it is their engagment that we have to increase. There are some parents that will not give support and those students we must learn what motivates them. We attempt to meet parents where they are. We have montly lunch opportunities, Family Literacy and Math nights. We send home as many announcements as possible. We also approach serving parents as customer service. We greet and make sure we know their names and their students.This familiarity works when we contact them about behavior and academic issues.
    Hope this helps

  3. Hey Chris,
    I work in Clayton County (right next door) so I can relate to the difficulty schools in are areas are experiencing with involving parents and building a connection between home and school. Something we’ve implemented at my school is called “Take a Break and Not Feel Guilty” night. This is a night at our school in which we invite parents out to learn about strategies to help their child succeed at school. We have make-it take it activities in which parents can bring home inexpensive resources to help their child. Giving parents the chance to meet and interact with teachers has also made parents more responsive when receiving negative phone calls home, homework, and even projects. We also recruit high school juniors and seniors needing volunteer hours to engage students while parents attend 4 quick 15 minute learning sessions. The sessions total an hour but parents get a break while finding ways to help their children. We also provide things like spaghetti dinners, nacho night, or hot dog meals at $2 a plate and it helps struggling parents feed their families. I just wanted to thank you for starting this blog…it always helps to know you are not the only one struggling in education 🙂

  4. Hey Chris,
    First I would like to thank Melissa for the resources. I also work in a county in GA. We are a title one school and have a parent center where parents are encouraged to visit. They can check out resources for their children, use the internet, and get various types of support. We also have math night, literacy night, and workshops that parents can come to learn how to give support to their child at home with homework. Free food is also offered to parents who attend the workshops. I think by making parents feel comfortable, they are more likely to support the teachers. And by giving them the skills, they are more likely to support their child.

  5. Hello all,
    Thank you for the post, I believe this is one of the most vital topics and challenges teachers face today. I teach 8th grade in GA in a large district very similar to Fulton County schools. With the various factors such as parental support (or lack thereof), socio-economic factors, technology, racial/ethnic/religious diversity, among others, it can seem ominous in trying to create a successful learning community that encourages participation from all. I want to thank Melissa for suggesting the various resources and after reviewing some of the books online, will likely add some of them to my professional library. These should also be considered for use in professional development classes within local schools or districts based on their needs. I also like the efforts added by Serena and her school by offering the “Take a Break and Not Feel Guilty” night. This is a great concept and similar to an idea that I have been trying to develop over the last school year which brings older students in as mentors to younger students while also having parents involved to build trust and communication. My school hosts various “carnivals” throughout the year in which a particular content is highlighted. Teachers/students develop an activity or game that incorporates curriculum from their unit of study. We have hosted many of these over the last three years and have seen great turn-outs and support from parents. After each event there is a surge in communication and effort from students and parents alike. Another key is to try to make school fun while focusing on positive rather than negative reinforcement. We generally try to make a minimum of 3-5 positive phone calls or emails per week. In doing so, students typically work harder in hopes of receiving this recognition, and parents are more receptive when they are called for negative reasons such as behavior or academics. Thanks again for the post and good luck to everyone!

  6. This is not a local issue, as a teacher that works in Israel, students will just blame everyone surrounding them, instead of taking the blame, they are making up lies that just doesn`t even make sense.
    What I have done, was just telling them all the time, say the truth and things will work themselves out, “Dog ate my paper”, year right.
    So now they are telling the truth at least, that makes it a bit easier, making them grow up a bit.
    Visit my teacher blog Phantom2planet
    Sincere regards.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here