I was a high school English teacher for 15 years before I had the twins, and when I was still teaching, the end of summer would always give me palpitations. Even though I had been teaching for over a decade, my insides would still start to short-circuit when I thought about going back to school.
Right about the end of August, the nightmares would start, and they were always the same: the kids are going buck-wild, I’m screaming like a lunatic, and anarchy is reigning in my classroom.
Thankfully, that only happened in my nightmares, but all teachers wonder about the class they’ll get in the fall. Will I have good kids? Motivated? Open to learn? Or will they be lazy? Hard to handle? Apathetic? I’ve had the whole gamut…some years I’ve loved teaching, and some years I swore this was it for me and I was never going back.
I can speak for the majority of teachers – they pour their heart and soul into your kids. They truly do. Their job is NEVER done at 3:15. Our evenings, weekends, holidays, vacations are not our own. The teachers I worked with were constantly grading, planning, creating. For your kids – who are also our kids for the next 10 months. Work comes home all. the. time. And even when we aren’t working, our minds are constantly going … new ideas, brainstorming, problem-solving, wracking our brains for ways to help your child get it.
I can promise you this: your child’s teacher is thoroughly invested in the success of your child.
If you have kids in school, regardless of the age, you know how important the trio of student-parent-teacher is in a child’s education.
After 15 years of teaching, there were a few things that, year after year, I wished my students’ parents had known. If you want to get a glimpse inside what your child’s teaching is probably thinking as the school year starts, keep reading:
Every fall, we teachers start out so hopeful and excited to begin the new year with your child. We come in with hopes of what this year will be like – and all of those visions include good things for your child. We are so willing to put in the effort, the hours, the creativity, the enthusiasm – and there are some things on your end that would be incredibly helpful for us in helping your child succeed this year.
Here are some things from inside that would that would be a HUGE help for a successful year:
1| If your school has an online portal, please use it.
We work very hard to keep records and grades up to date. It is impossible for me to call or email you every time your child does not do his homework. I know some of you are ‘not into’ technology, but please, for your child’s sake, learn your school’s system. It has very valuable information about your child’s progress. Please check it – and often. It is much easier to catch your child before he sinks if you know he is in danger.
2| Beware of the distraction of technology.
Smartphones, the Internet, video games and TV can be huge distractions. Please support us when we make rules about iPads and phones in the class and when we confiscate them. As much as we would like to think they’re an asset to education, 99.9% of the time they’re a distraction. When your child is at home, give him some boundaries – set ‘no technology’ zones and times and enforce them. Many kids are on their cell phones all night, texting back and forth with their friends, and then they fall asleep in class. And honestly, most kids are addicted to their devices. They cannot part with them even for a class period. All of this is detrimental to your child’s success.
And please. Do not text your child when you know he or she is in class!
3| Please have an open mind if we need to call you about an issue at school.
It might be hard to believe that your child could behave inappropriately at school (or maybe not! lol), but trust us – we are way too busy to invent stories to call home about. We are not calling to badmouth your child. We are calling for intervention and solutions. Our goal is to problem-solve.
4| Teachers love involved parents; they do not love helicopter parents.
It’s so important for parents not to “hover” and to give their kids a chance to grow up and learn. You’re crippling your child and doing an enormous disservice to him if you always come to his rescue and never let him experience the consequences of his decisions. You’re not helping your child in any way by enabling, babying, or making excuses for him. We love it when you’re involved in helping us help your child grow up and mature.
5| Please respect our personal boundaries.
We give 150% during the week when we’re with your kids. Please, do not call us at home or on our cell phones. Even if a teacher gives you her cell, don’t use it. Call the school. Send an email. Go through the professional channels and respect her privacy. Teachers need downtime on weekends to recharge, just as you do. Do not expect replies to emails or return phone calls on weekends. And if we run into you in church or the store, please just let us be human and not your child’s teacher. Let’s chit-chat, make small talk. But we don’t want to have a parent conference in cookie aisle (or any aisle) at the grocery store.
6| Be willing to teach your child character.
This goes along with #4. Life is unfair sometimes. Your child will get hurt. Your child will be treated unfairly. Your child will struggle. I know it hurts even just thinking about it. As much we all want to, we cannot protect him from every source of pain and discomfort. This is heart-breaking – I truly wish we could. We hate to see your child suffer, too. But what we can do is teach him how to navigate through these difficult parts of life with character: integrity, honesty, self-respect, maturity, and perseverance. Teach your children coping skills. Teach them how to resolve conflict. Those are life-lesson that are invaluable! More importantly, his character has a lot to do with the overall outcome of not just his education, but his life.
7| Two of the most important qualities we need you to help us build in your child are discipline and self-control.
We live in an instant-gratification society. Teach them to wait. Teach them discipline. Teach them to work hard in tasks they don’t enjoy, to persevere in assignments they’re struggling with, to discipline themselves to create good habits and break bad ones. Teach them that they don’t have to react emotionally to every emotion they feel. If they’re weak in these two areas, everything unravels quickly after that.
8| Late work gets graded last.
This might seem minor, but this comes up all the time! If your child turns in work late, it goes to the bottom of the grading pile. It might take some time before late work is graded.
9| Help us teach your child accountability for his own work.
I didn’t “give” your child a bad grade, and I didn’t “fail” him. Your child earned it. We want to work with both you and your child so he can do better next time. We are happy to discuss questions you have, but we hope you can trust the judgment and qualifications of your child’s teacher in assessing his work.
10| Be a positive voice in your child’s life, no matter what.
We want to encourage your child, and we need you to encourage him, too. They really need positive adults who believe in them. We don’t expect them to be perfect, but they need to know that we believe in them. Even if your child disappoints you, lets you down, frustrates you – still call out the best in him. Your kids need to know you love them and accept them, unconditionally. They need to know that you believe in them, not just that we do. Deep down, most kids really, really want you to be proud of them. Never under-estimate the power of life-giving words.
On behalf of all teachers, thank you for letting us play such an important role in your child’s life. We truly, truly love and care about the well-being of your child. We recognize that, on any given day, we might spend more time with him than you do. That is an honor we do not take lightly.
Your Child’s Teacher
(Special thanks to some of my teacher consultants for their input: Kristin Hinde, Krista Gagliardo, Heather Tinneny, Ginny Caroleo)
(This was originally published on August 25, 2013.)
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