I’ve been a parent for thirty-nine years and a teacher for twenty-nine years. I just need to say this to all those educators my own kids had before I ran in their shoes, wore all their hats, and juggled their many demands: Sorry. Seriously. I’m so so sorry. I just did not realize.
I’ve met a lot of teachers over the past thirty-nine years. Thinking back over the very best - the Teachers of the Month, the accomplished men and women that were teachers to my own children, the resourceful, dedicated people who are first in the parking lot and last to leave, as well as the ones colleagues refer to as Master Teachers – those are the people I asked this question: “If you could tell parents two things, what would they be?” The responses poured in. I mean, drinking-out-of-a-firehose flooded in. If your child’s teacher could talk honestly to you, here’s what they would say:
*Teachers are human beings too. I’ve rarely dealt with cyber-bullying, but over the past year, I’ve realized COVID isn’t the only pandemic. Computers aren’t avenues of anonymity and spaces where comments don’t land in real time. We see who they come from and we are the recipients of demeaning, non-constructive, hateful blasts from students, parents, grandparents, and others. It’s disheartening to experience such repugnance and ridicule when we truly are trying our best.
*Please speak kindly when making a request, pointing out a mistake, or making an inquiry. Teachers are typically emotionally intelligent people and our love language is appreciation, kind words, and a pleasant tone.
*My job last year, and in years past, was difficult. Today, it’s nearly impossible. It’s much more than babysitting your child. I am constantly: filling out paperwork, filing paperwork, researching the next best way I can teach my subject, finding engaging strategies to capture their attention, planning for every moment of every school day, attending faculty meetings, PLC gatherings, standing watch over lunch/hall duty, and so much more. AND, if your child is one of those precious children (I especially love them because I have one of my own) that learns differently than most, I’m meeting with colleagues, reading articles, listening to podcasts, and pouring over recommendations by professionals to make certain I’m doing my best to teach your very special child. When I receive an email, or hand written note that praises my efforts and acknowledges I’m working hard, it’s better than a Grounds and Gold gift card… well, almost!
*(From an elementary teacher) Your child is capable of so much more than you realize! Let them – encouragethem to do things on their own. This should certainly pertain to school, but it must start at home. The kids in my classroom who are responsible for their own laundry (Yes! I have six and seven-year-old kids who actually do their own laundry!), pack their own lunches, choose their clothes and dress themselves, and have daily/weekly chores at home, are the ones who also turn in work on time and accept responsibility for their own actions – most of the time. These small areas of independence where you allow your child to grow will benefit them not only in the classroom, but in life! They need to be able to function without you.
*(From a secondary teacher) Your student can do practically everything an adult can do. Empower them! Let them make decisions, when appropriate, and allow them to suffer/gain the natural consequences of their actions. The best teachers in this life are the consequences that follow our decisions. Make a contribution – experience gratefulness and the great rewards that come with positive actions. Touch the stove – get burned. Quit playing 9-11 for your child OR get comfortable doing it; if you rescue them consistently at 13, you’ll be rescuing them consistently at 23. If your child realizes I’ve made a mistake on grading or if they need to talk to me about classroom situations, please encourage them to approach me. If they are apprehensive, offer to come with them or remind them they can always write me an email or letter. Teach them to advocate for themselves! Let your child experience the satisfaction and pleasure of being in control of their situation. Your job as a parent is to work yourself out of a job.
*My desire is not to punish your child. My moments of correction are done in love. Please partner with me and back me up. You and I must be a united front if we want to make a difference in the life of your child. If I’m enforcing a certain guideline or rule at school (phone usage, deadlines, dress code, etc.) and at home you are badmouthing me, “That teacher doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” “She’s always too hard on those kids,” “Don’t believe everything your teacher says,” it doesn’t show a united front and is confusing for your child. The confusion leads to disrespect and disobedience; it negatively impacts them. I don’t want that and I’m certain you don’t want that. Discuss differences with me. If the three of us need to meet together, contact me and let’s talk through the problem. We area united front! We both want the best for your child.
*Deadlines and rules are of immense importance in a school situation. Often, deadlines are out of my control since the district sets end-of-six weeks dates and timelines for grading, as well as testing. When a student doesn’t meet a deadline, it will impact their grade. I must maintain credibility and enforce deadlines and rules. Of course, I understand extenuating circumstances and emergencies; I am human and I have those too. But not every week.
*Consider how our world has changed in the last 30 years. Teaching strategies and techniques have changed. Your student’s math formulas, grammar rules, scientific theories, etc. may be different than the way you learned the material. Realize that we teachers are probably close to your age and we’ve had to learn new methods too. It doesn’t mean we are crazy if your child is taught a different way to solve a problem.
*You know how your child lied to you the other day? They lie to us too. Most of the time it’s out of panic because they didn’t do what they were supposed to do even after I told them and you reminded them, or it’s because they never intended to do it. Don’t assume I’m the one who is being dishonest.
*Your response to our communication is important. Typically, every elementary teacher has between 60-150 students and every secondary teacher has between 140-200 students. When we take time to make a phone call or send an email for one student, it’s important. Please, please, please respond.
*If I haven’t responded to your email or phone call within 24 hours, please send me a reminder. I try my best to return communications within a one-day period.
*Let your child struggle. It’s painful to watch, but let them figure things out. And when they do, be ready to celebrate with them on the other side! That’s my favorite part of this job: the celebration!
*With all the demands on my time, I want you to know I do my absolute best to provide every one of my students individualized attention. I need your help. I have 26-30 students in each class and I teach six classes. It’s extremely difficult for me to keep track of each missing assignment for each individual student. If you check your student’s grades at home and monitor the completion of assignments, your student’s learning progression would be much more fluid. When you wonder how they could be making an “A” on Monday and an “F” on Friday, consider that I have only taken two grades by Monday, which they did turn in, but by Friday, they failed to turn in the other two assignments. A zero penalizes them significantly; two zeroes are detrimental.
*There are slackers and over-achievers in every job. Teaching is no different. Technology requirements due to COVID and the demands of the job have removed a number of people from education. The people I work with – 95% of them - are here for the kids. Me too. We love them.
I must add this comment: I have a dear friend who works closely with preschoolers. As you read the following comments, consider how they apply to all children, regardless of age.
*Speak directly to your preschooler. Allow him/her to share with you often. Provide them with a regular schedule. They like to anticipate what’s coming next; the same schedule gives them a sense of control of their environment. They are naturally curious! Let them discover new things, but keep the familiar close. Allow them to do all they can for themselves. This will help develop self-confidence. Remind them how special they are to you. Use their name often. Give choices when appropriate. Your child needs consistency in guidelines, people, and discipline. They also need people who are authentic with them.
Finally, and most importantly, I’m ending the same way every. single. teacher. ended:
*I love the kids in my classroom. I treat them as my own.
*I love communicating with your student. When they face life challenges that make them sad, I’m sad too. I rejoice with them when they are joyful. Thank you for sharing them with me.
*I respect your student and I respect you. It’s hard being a kid and it’s harder being a parent. I know – I’m one too, and I do love your kid.
*I care about your child. I often find that little things throughout the day remind me of my students, past and present. Sometimes, I’m reminded of something clever they said in class, an act of kindness I witnessed, or a moving essay they wrote. Some of my students are in my care for more hours of the week than you will get to spend with them. I take that personal responsibility and that professional responsibility seriously.
*You know those lock down drills we have? When I’m corralling my students in a corner and trying to get them to be quiet, I’m behaving like I’m protecting my own kids because that’s what they are: my kids. Be assured, I will protect them with my life.
*Your student is a combination of this: the good, the bad, and the ugly. But 90% of the time I see the great, the struggle, and the beautiful. They are a lot like me and we’re all in this together.
The definition of the word, Amen, means “Let it be so”. People say it in agreement and to affirm a sentiment that has been expressed. Amen and amen.
Director, Excel Learning Academy
*denotes comments taken from teacher responses