When I was in a pharmacy drive-through the other day, the cashier found out that I am a teacher. She immediately started praising me and all teachers. “I’m teaching my kids at home,” she said, “and I have a whole new appreciation for educators!”
Well, I have a huge appreciation for parents who support their children’s learning. But even the best parents lack an advantage that teachers have—the ability to see children as they really are because we’re not as emotionally involved. If I could be very honest with my students’ parents and tell them what teachers want parents to know, here are 7 things I would say.
Let your children advocate for themselves.
As much as possible, let your children approach their teachers about a missed assignment, a bad grade, or a conflict with another student. By the time your children are in middle school, they should advocate for themselves.
Now, I will say that I have reached out to teachers confidentially, without my children knowing. This allows me to stay in the loop while letting my children learn to take charge of their learning.
Believe the teacher 99 percent of the time.
Many students will tell their parents just about anything to avoid getting into trouble. I had one student say the F word to me. I told his mom and she was appalled at his behavior—until he gave her a “different description of what occurred and he was brought to tears with frustration.” I tried to tell his mother he was lying, but she didn’t believe me.
I’ve had to remind myself of this with one of my own children. Often, kids would rather lie and blame their teacher than risk getting into trouble with their parents.
Look for common themes.
Last week, three of my co-teachers and I met with a mom. She told us her child said she did all of the work but the teachers didn’t ever grade it. Hmm. One by one, each teacher reported having received no work from the student. If you hear the same thing about your child from multiple teachers, use that information to guide your decisions.
Respect the teacher’s system.
Last semester, one of my son’s teachers took 10 percent off her students’ overall grades for a late assignment. I didn’t agree with her choice, but when my son complained, I told him this: “You know Ms. Smith can be a tough grader. While I agree with you that this is unfair, she has the final say. You have to work within her system.”
Use a soft opening.
I’ve opened many emails from parents that start like this: “Why didn’t you tell me my child had a bad grade?” When you communicate with your child’s teacher, assume the best about the teacher’s intentions. Be kind, just as we try to be kind.
Be kind to your child.
Your child is just a child. It’s OK to set high standards, but try to set them with kindness. Harshness and anger are poor motivators in teaching and parenting. You can be firm but kind.
You’re in charge of your child’s phone.
Phones interfere with learning. Until I got my phone policy in place, I spent about a quarter of my class asking students to put their phones away. If your child is struggling, have him or her leave the phone at the front office at the start of the school day.
And please, do not contact your child during school. If you need to get a message to your child, call the front office. And if your child’s grades are suffering, take your child’s phone away until the grades come up.
Whew! I hope I didn’t come on too strong. What teachers want parents to know can be summarized like this: We care about your children, very much. A supportive parent can make all the difference in a child’s education. Let’s work together to help your child reach his or her potential.
What do you think about this teacher’s perspective?