I’m not a teacher, but I’ve spent my entire life surrounded by them on all sides: both of my parents, both siblings, and their wives, plus a countless list of friends, aunts, uncles and cousins. Education is our family thing (and I’m the oddball for choosing a different career path). What all this exposure to veteran teachers gives me, however, is a unique insider/outsider perspective.
Sometimes we lose focus on the fact that the education of our children should be a partnership–a team pursuit wherein parents and teachers are all in for the goal of equipping and nurturing your child to be all God made him to be. When things get tough or a child is struggling, the parent-teacher relationship can become tense. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Our educational system isn’t perfect, but there are countless men and women who have devoted their lives to teaching and who want what’s best for your child. If you could sneak into the teachers’ lounge and eavesdrop during recess, this is what you would hear them say…
1. Teachers love your kids more than you know.
Let’s face it: Education isn’t an easy or especially lucrative career choice. With today’s pressure to meet standardized testing benchmarks while also caring for the social and emotional needs of kids from diverse circumstances, it’s uphill all the way. So why do they do it? With rare exception, it’s because they really do care. They worry about your kids when they lie down at night. They find themselves pondering in the grocery store line how to help a kid who’s “stuck” academically to have a breakthrough. So when you’re frustrated with your child’s teacher for whatever reason, understand that the problem is likely not a lack of concern on their part. Communicate about your concerns, but approach them as a teammate, not as the opposition.
2. If you love your child, you’ll let her fail early.
When I polled my teacher friends, this theme came up over and over. Parents are so concerned with the numbers on the report card (even in grammar school), they can’t bear to let their children take the deduction for a forgotten assignment or deal with the consequences of any failure, no matter how small. They rush to school to deliver the project or practice gear or to argue for a do-over when their student bombs an assignment. This severely inhibits the child’s ability to learn personal responsibility and how to bounce back from a misstep. Kids learn important things when they are unsuccessful with a task. Your teacher wishes you would resist rescuing your child too quickly or too often so those natural consequences could shape them into better people. Read our 3 Tough Love Parenting Strategies.
3. Read early. Read often. Then read some more.
I posed this question to a fantastic preschool teacher who taught my oldest back in the day. She said, “I can tell almost immediately when 4K children are placed in my classroom which ones have been read to a great deal since infancy. They’re better students.” Interestingly, I received the same feedback from a high school English teacher. If, despite your best efforts, your child doesn’t love to read alone, keep reading aloud to them throughout childhood.
4. Even honest kids get things wrong sometimes.
One seasoned teacher put it to me this way: “I tell my parents that if they’ll believe only about half of what their child says about me, I’ll extend the same courtesy to them.” It’s true; kids get facts mixed up, misunderstand things, and relay information incorrectly sometimes. Rather than getting upset with your teacher too quickly, a phone call or email to ask a few questions might be the better course. After all, your teacher is dismissing a fair number of outlandish and unflattering reports about what mom and dad say/do. If you only knew…
5. Speaking of emails and phone calls…
In this age of instant communication, some parents are offended when a voicemail or email doesn’t garner an immediate response. But your child’s teacher has 20+ little faces sitting in front of her all day (many times even through her lunch “break”) who demand her attention and engagement. My teacher friends say that often they need to wait until the planning period or after school to respond to communication in order to give the children the focus and supervision they deserve. If your question or communication is time-sensitive or even an emergency, try calling the office and having the message relayed as such.
6. Remember your field trip manners.
One teacher of younger children expressed frustration with parents who sign up to “chaperone” a class field trip but spend the entire day caring only for his/her own child. Chaperones need to assist and supervise other students, as well, to keep the trip safe and productive for all. Additionally, midway through a museum tour with 20 6-year-olds in tow is not the right time to initiate a conference with the teacher about your child’s performance or needs. Taking children off-campus is a major responsibility (and therefore, a little bit stressful), and your child’s teacher must focus on the task at hand. Schedule a conference for a regular day.
7. Taking the summer off from all learning is a bad idea.
Especially in the lower grades (think kindergarten-2nd grade), children are like sponges. They are learning a great deal, particularly in the area of reading and language arts, but they lose skills if they don’t continue to use them. You don’t have to put together a full-on summer homeschool curriculum, but do keep your child reading and engaging with learning a little bit each day during the break. They’ll be in much better shape on the first day of school and ready to take off with new skills! Here are 10 Great Online Learning Resources and Apps.
Let’s Talk: Teachers, what would you add to this list? What do you wish parents understood better?