At the time of year when our thoughts turn to “next year,” it is important to agree everyone needs to acknowledge who the customer of education is. But it is not easy to identify who everyone thinks that customer should be.

Who is the customer?

Students, parents, or the community?
It depends on your point of view. Usually that means your job.

Are you a teacher?

The student is the customer, except when the parent is angry.
You can guess who the teacher views as the customer I hope – the student! Teachers spend the majority of their time developing relationships with students so that they can teach them effectively. No one learns from someone they don’t like. You should expect teachers to display passion when they feel their students are wronged. Ask a teacher, the student is the customer.

There are obviously as many types of parents as students. Each student comes with 1-4 parents; at anytime you might expect some of these parents might be angry or acting angrily with a teacher. Sometimes teachers have to incorporate pleasing the parent, but often a teacher does this by teaching the parent as much as the student.

Are you a parent?

You are the customer, representing your child’s best interest of course.
Parents sometimes mix up their hopes for their child with the realities of how that child performs in a classroom. In those cases, a teacher can be helpful by guiding a parent through an exercise where they attempt to discover is the child unable as a student or unwilling. But parents need to consider if when with 30 similar aged children that their little angel might just act like a kid after-all. No doubt you know your child deeply, but do you know how they act with their peers? Teachers usually have an impressive sample size of

A child’s achievement as a student should not reflect on the parent as a judgement in parenting or genetics, but as a reflection of the partnership between home and school. If parents are not able to cope with that disassociation see the Maheny Manifesto.

Wait, are you a teacher and a parent?
Well, things just got a little more complicated.

I am the customer and I know ‘things.’
I know who I want as my child’s teacher and sometimes I use that like a vote on Survivor.

Welcome to a look behind the curtain at the loss of control all those parents felt whom you met before your personal kids. Welcome and I am sorry; because you are not in control, you only get to prepare them the best you can and send them to school like everybody else.

It is tough to internalize that lack of control without utilizing advantages you feel you have over others – and I know teachers are right there where you work and you have a double insight which really could benefit the others, so why not share it?

Do be reserved with your observations on fellow teachers. Do act professional and do not taint other parents who do not have the ‘insight’ you do. Remember, hopefully you still get to work in school after your children have matriculated.

Do you work for the school/district, but you’re not a teacher?
What other jobs are there? Woah Nelly, this is going to be a long list.

Your job is to make the teacher’s job easier. Really. Nothing else.
Principals, custodians, media specialists, technicians, the district office, the superintendent – everyone – should pull together to make the teacher’s job easier. That is not to say that the student is not the end product of all of our attentions. Rather that is to say that teachers are often the most influential tool in improving students, so treat them like it, they make it happen with students – that is why everyone else in education needs to support teachers.

Sometimes the community tries to intervene ‘above’ a teacher. That is fine, because those ‘above’ teachers can help form a vision for the future. Those ‘above’ teachers can help move an organization in a direction. However, no one should undermine the important work a teacher does with students in his/her classroom. No one.

Government contracts may be egregious at the federal level, but they can be devastating at the local level. One bad round of equipment or resources purchased may have to last years – impacting the classroom for several years of students. Hold people who purchase those things to a higher standard for the teachers. Let’s face it, teachers are busy doing something else.

You may say, there is this *one* teacher that everyone knows is bad. No. Not everyone *knows* or they would be gone, right? That is another thing those ‘above’ teachers can do for teachers, clear the way! Solve those Personnel Problems so they do not infect or cast shadows over the majority of great and caring teachers at every school. Think of that – every. school. What other profession has that in common with education?

So, that “customer” in education – take care of him, whoever s/he is next school year.