Negative Attitudes from Parents and Teachers

Last week, I shared suggestions to improve students’ attitudes towards study skills. But, students are not the only ones with poor attitudes.

I recently received an email from Jean*. Jean is a teacher who is battling a few roadblocks while teaching study skills during her “Study Skills” class.

Yes, that is right. Jean is responsible for teaching study skills, yet other teachers in her building are upset that students are not using time in Jean’s class to catch up on incomplete work.

This is a classic chicken/egg scenario; if students were taught how to study, they may not be in the situation of having to catch up on so much work.

Jean also received a complaint from a parent who was upset that students were doing learning inventories and not getting individual tutoring in math. “It’s a little frustrating,” she vented.

I can’t imagine!

How Can Parents and Teachers Be So Ignorant?

Sorry to be so blunt, but this is ignorance. I’m sure I am plenty ignorant in certain aspects of life, myself. My husband, Brian, just experienced something this afternoon that perfectly illustrates how easily we, as human beings, become ignorant.

Brian was flying to New York, with a connecting flight in Washington D.C. His flight into D.C. landed and parked in the middle of the tarmac. As he and the other passengers exited the plane, they were immediately shuffled into a bus that would drive them to the terminal. This is the routine procedure for this flight and several people on board were business commuters who had traveled this flight several times before.

The problem was that most passengers had checked carry-on luggage “plane-side” and were expecting to grab their luggage before boarding the bus, as they had done dozens of times in the past. This time, however, an airport employee directed them to board the bus right away. So they did.

Not one person asked about their luggage. They all assumed they would be reunited with it at the terminal. But they weren’t. In fact, when they reached the terminal, they had a very difficult time getting help because no one could comprehend their problem. It is well known that all luggage that is checked “plane side” is also picked up “plane-side.” The airport personnel couldn’t fathom that 25 passengers neglected to grab their luggage.

They eventually found help, but the process took a while and several people missed their connecting flights; it was a real mess!

Meanwhile, as they waited for their luggage, the passengers chatted with one another. They all admitted that they had been “traveling for years” and “knew better” than to board the bus without their luggage. They all “thought it was weird” that they were not able to get their luggage next to the plane, but not one of these 25 seasoned travelers voiced their questions. Why should they? Everyone else looked like they knew what was going on, so each person quietly thought, “I must be missing something.”

Our instincts tell us to “follow the crowd” and that is exactly what happened in this situation. In an instant, 25 business travelers (presumably of average-to-high intelligence) reacted no differently than “cattle.”

The Same Things Happens In Education

Education is an institution. It is run by nameless, faceless, bureaucratic policy. It can be difficult (sometimes “impossible”) to change or challenge, so members of the institution stop questioning. Very quickly, they become cattle, too. It’s no wonder people become complacent!

And complacency is fuel for ignorance.

So, How Do You Overcome This Ignorance?

Surprisingly, it is not very difficult. This afternoon, it would have taken just ONE person to ask ONE question to save 25 passengers from their luggage snafu. ONE person could have saved the whole group from a lot of confusion and a lot of wasted time.

The same is true for study skills. One advocate can bring attention to the importance of teaching students HOW to learn. One advocate can shake all of their colleagues from their complacency coma of following the faceless, nameless institution. One advocate can ensure that students learn the skills they need to be successful in school, the workplace, and in life!

How To Rally The Troops

Step 1: Share solid information.

No one cares for hype. Gather facts, data, and research to support your conviction. Since study skills are my passion, I’ve been busy doing this very thing. Check out The Cost of NOT Teaching Study Skills for a detailed article and video here with statistics that support what your intuition already tells you is very important.

Step 2: Find your allies. Carefully.

As you begin a new initiative, share the information you gathered from Step 1 with colleagues on an individual basis. Take note of the people who respond positively. You will need their help very soon.

Step 3: Survey your school.

Ask teachers, students, and parents about the symptoms that concern them. The teachers who are upset that incomplete work is not being done in Study Skills Class will obviously tell you that they don’t care about “study skills.” But when you ask them about their frustrations, they sure as heck will complain about the volume of incomplete work! Hmm…

Download a teacher survey here to identify specific, common problems and frustrations.

Step 4: Start the Rally. Slowly.

The direction of a conversation is determined by the first person to respond. That first person will set the attitude and tone of the entire conversation. (Make a mental note to watch for this and you’ll see it is very true!) So, when you want to propose a new idea or initiative in a meeting, coordinate with your allies. Tell them about your presentation and ask them to respond with genuine, supportive comments right away! One ally is great, but 2-3 is ideal.

This process simply ensures that your ideas will not be shot down immediately. It does not prevent anyone from bringing up logical concerns, but simply fosters an environment where ideas can be explored from the perspective of “possibility,” not automatically ruled out because they are “new and different.”

The Naysayers

The 80/20 Rule guarantees that, in any crowd, you will have serious objections from 10-30% of a group. Some may have some legitimate concerns, but usually, this group is simply negative. They are disempowered. They don’t like change. They seem to work at being miserable and drag everyone around them in the doldrums they create.

Be aware of this group. Expect their objections. Recognize that a long-established mathematical principle (The 80/20 Rule) has been predicting this group would exist since long before you were even born. Be comfortable with the fact that you will not persuade all of them in your favor.

Of course, 80/20 also states that the majority of Jean’s colleagues and parents (70-90%) would support the goals of her study skills class! Unfortunately, they are a usually a silent majority so it is easy to overlook their support, but it is vital to acknowledge it.


Many of the “objections” Jean is facing are coming from people who don’t have enough information to understand her objectives. They are stressed and bogged down with their own responsibilities, but might benefit from a little nudge to look at the bigger picture. Strategic, thorough communication will help Jean get more cooperation…and develop a more “vocal” support group from the other 80%!

-Susan Kruger

*Name changed to protect confidentiality.


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