What Your Kid's Teacher Wishes You Knew
Every time I see a news piece about schools or education, I make the mistake of reading the comments section. It's kind of like staring at a car accident...you know it's going to make you sick, but it's hard to look away. There's a lot that happens behind the scenes of a typical school day, and I bet if more people put themselves in educators' shoes, there would be a better dialogue about the problems we face in schools. So based on common online complaints, as well as things I've heard in parent meetings, here are some areas that I felt could use some understanding.
We want to be on the same page with you.
Come to conferences. Call us/return our phone calls. Send us an email. Please stay in touch so that we don’t have to surprise you with information at card marking time, and so that we aren't in the dark about info that can help us help your little learner.
We are not out to get your child.
If for no other reason than this: we don’t have time.
Do some teachers have preconceived notions and forget to wipe the slate clean every day? Absolutely. Can those teachers be overly punitive in reaction to misbehavior? Yes, it happens. And it’s a mistake. But a teacher is not targeting your learner or going out of their way to give your child lower grades and harsh behavior reports.
Working together will help both of us.
“I don’t care what your teacher says…”
“No, you don’t have to do that and your teacher can talk to me if they have a problem with it.”
When you say things like this to a young person, it undermines us as professionals and as humans. You set up your child to think that they are above the expectations of school. Don’t you think that might carry over to them believing they are above the expectations at home? At work? In life? Do you want to train your child that there is no authority other than himself and you?
Some things aren’t within our control--they’re mandates. Homework policies are seldom made at the classroom level. Please don’t be angry with your child’s teacher for something that the building, district or state requires.
Everything your student says may not be exactly true. Kids are brilliant, creative little creatures--it makes them great! But they have been known to misconstrue things and occasionally embellish on stories. We don’t believe everything they say about home life, and it would be beneficial if you extended that same grace to their school day.
We WANT to teach to your learner’s individual style, preferences and strategies, but we can’t always. We love and value your child, but we also love and value the other 29 kids in the room. It’s impossible to follow 30 different teaching and learning preferences. We do the best we can with small group instruction and even one-on-one time. We do what we can with what little we have. In a perfect world, there would be more co-teachers and support professionals in every classroom as well as smaller class sizes. Let's BOTH talk to our government representatives about making those things a reality!
We also worry about our safety. And we also have families that we want to get back to after the work day. Heaven forbid something tragic and scary should happen at school, please remember that we are trained educators, not police, SWAT or EMTs. Being held to their standard during a situation that’s equally scary for us as it is for the kids is unfair. We will do the best we can. If you have questions about our school’s or district’s policy for these types of situations, please get in touch with the administration.
The school IS doing something about bullying. As we often have to remind the kids--just because you don’t see what’s happening, doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. A few things here: first, what your child called bullying may not be bullying at all. There’s an actual definition of bullying and a lot of folks misuse the term. Second, sometimes your child is the perpetrator, though they tell you they are solely a victim. You may be calling for harsh punishment for someone else’s child, not realizing that your own child had a hand in the matter. Third, the school can’t always do what you want them to do; and again, this does not mean that nothing is happening. Schools are bound by rules just like kids are, and are accountable to the district and state with regard to their discipline measures. If we suspended or expelled every student that a parent asked us to, we’d seldom have time for anything else. Like educating. There's also data to show how ineffective suspensions are. Please give the school the benefit of the doubt when possible, and ask questions when you have them.
So maybe the summary is this: communicate and give grace. Asking questions and expressing concerns are totally okay, and totally better than either of us making assumptions about the other! Both of us are in this for the sake of your child. Both of us want your child to succeed. And both of us are only human. Let's be a village around your lovely young person and make this year great for them!