Friday, August 24, 2012

what the teacher REALLY wants you to know?

Every year around this time I always see articles about back to school, many of them advising parents what their child's teacher really wants them to know.  Many of them hit the nail on the head, but never with nearly enough honesty.

Well, I am nothing if I am not honest.

I feel that these lists often come across as very us-against-them, and I hate that because it shouldn't be that way ever. The point should always return to the fact that parents, students and the teacher are a team, so take this all in the spirit of maintaining the health and equitable respect on that team.

The Twelve Things Your Child's Teacher Really Wants You To Know:

1. You are an expert on your child, but I know my stuff too.  You are one amazingly valuable resource to me!  You know your kiddo better than I do, you can help me make them successful.  But please know that in the hours I have your child I ask things of them you don't, and I get very different results.  Please do not presume that I know nothing about your child and that your little darling is unlike any kid I have ever had the pleasure of working with before.  They may be different, but I do know what I am doing.  Please hear me out and know we are a team, I am not out to get you or your kiddo.
I don't claim to be perfect,
but I do work perfectly hard.  

2. I always need supplies.  Depending on the school, the district, the weather, etc. I may well be responsible for all the "stuff" we use in class.  Consumables for an average of 30 kids on my salary -- oh don't worry, we will get there, check out # 3 -- it isn't a pretty situation.  Older grade teachers often have one hundred or more students.  Regardless of the grade or subject matter I teach, chances are I always need the following: handsanitizer, Kleenex boxes, copy paper.  From there, if I am an elementary teacher I will probably faint if you bring me glue and other art supplies.  Older grades will have more specific needs based on subject matter.  Oh and pencils, I always need pencils.  But seriously, just ask.  I will be grateful beyond belief if you are able to support our classroom this way, though I won't expect it of you!

3. My salary shouldn't be a debate point.  Sigh.  I have heard it all.  According to some I am drastically underpaid.  According to others I am a pampered premadonna with three months vacation and a superiority complex.  The reality?  I know there are some teachers who spend their summers off relaxing ... I just haven't met very many. Most teachers I know spend their "summers off" doing professional development, for example taking classes, developing and trying out new projects, or working on lesson plans.  Good teachers believe they are perpetual students, and they want to keep innovation alive in their classrooms.  We are constantly evolving, constantly getting additional training, certifications, and degrees.  But our salaries do not always reflect this growth.  If your job required you to constantly return to school for additional degrees (they now recommend to bachelors students that they immediately begin work on their masters) and additional certifications while also requiring you to pay for a huge amount of supplies out of your own pocket, how would you feel about it?

4. So you watched Waiting For Superman, read an article, looked into No Child Left Behind or some other bit of legislation and want to debate the state of education or suggest ways for me to do my job better?  Um, with all due respect I would love suggestions if you think they are helpful.  But please, pretty please with a cherry and sprinkles on top with hot fudge, please understand that the "problems" in the education industry are complex.  I cannot fix them all, nor can you.  I want you to try.  I love that you are passionate, but please know that it is likely that I am forbidden by my school or district to discuss these matters with you, nor do I really want to.  Its not that I think you know nothing, just that I think you may be working from a limited frame of reference and you may insult the snot out of me.  Please look into parent groups advocating for your schools if you want to help.

5. I love love love parents who talk with their kids about school!  I want you to ask your child what they are learning, I want you to check that I am doing my job.  I have nothing to hide, and I would much rather parents that speak with their children than the alternative. For some parents this comes natural while their child is in elementary school, they check over homework and impose routines at home with school work and extra reading.  I want to weep with joy for this!  But many parents don't, and even the really diligent ones often lessen this a bit when middle school and high school roll around.  Even if you aren't checking the homework, which I do not expect you to, ask your child what is going on, what they learned today, what they find challenging in class, and so on.  Get that dialog going, it will be invaluable to all of us!

6.  Stuff going on at home?  Let me know please!  Your child's behavior does not exist in a vacuum.  Stresses at home?  Chances are I will see some of this vent out at school.  I am not asking for gossip or your dirty laundry, I will always respect your privacy.  But when I see your child suddenly behaving differently with their peers, their work quality alter, or attitude change I will begin investigating why.  The whole point is to maintain their well being and success, so if you could fire off an email that just says "Hey, we have some stuff going on at home, but all is well.  Just wanted to let you know." It will help me to understand the complexities of your child's emotions, and equip me to better support them.

7. Question your kiddo before you contact me.  I am not a militant tyrant in my classroom.  I may have bad days, I may get grumpy, but I am not evil.  If your child comes home bemoaning how I "punished" them for "no reason at all!" really ask yourself if that makes sense.  Consequences issued in a classroom generally create more work for me, would I really do that without good reason?  You know your child, question them.  Chances are I had a reason.  If you can't find the reason please feel free to check with me so that I may explain what happened, but know that asking for "my side" imposes a situation where it is me versus your child.  I do not like that dynamic, because it is never me against my students.  It is me for them.  It is you and I working to help them.  Always.

8. I will never ask your child to do anything I think they will fail at.  Ever.  Period.  I have high standards for your child, I know you do too.  I also spend a lot of my time assessing and evaluating your kiddo so that I know where they are now and can set reasonable, yet high, goals for them.  Failure is a part of learning, we learn a great deal from our mistakes, but I will never set your child up for failure.

9. I appreciate your generosity, but really I don't need another Christmas tree ornament.  I have more stuff that says #1 Teacher on it than I know what to do with, and I could decorate a whole tree of ornaments from students.  All those spiffy things you're pinning away planning to make me?  I will love them, be grateful for them, and then probably store them or have no chose but to toss them when I run out of room.  I would love a genuine thank you note from you or your child.  I will use a gift certificate, and I will treasure a personalized gift that I can use.  I don't want you to break the bank, nor do I want a cheap after thought of a present.  Giving me nothing is better than either of those options honestly because both are a hardship on you, and I don't want that.

10.  If your child is struggling, please let me know.  Homework should never be "new."  New stuff is for class, homework should be review and practice.  If your child is struggling with it or spending hours upon hours on it because they don't understand it, please tell me.  I assign projects that require them to show me what they know but also to teach about time management.  I assign homework to keep their minds exercised.  If your child is falling apart stressed out I need to know that, because I need to do something to help them.

11.  I respect all that you do, I am sorry if I don't always say so.  Parenting is a hard and thankless job.  I know, even before I was a parent it was obvious enough.  Becoming a parent made me understand just how much.  Please know that I do respect all you do, I know your life is complicated and involved.  When I contact you or ask for your help with something with your child know that I am not minimizing anything else you have on your plate.

12. I truly do care about your child.  Even if your child is a thorn in my side.  Even if your child is a disrespectful mouthy little bit of goods -- I love them, respect them, and want what is best for them.  I will work tirelessly for your child, and do far more than you know toward this goal.

The reality is that just as bad teacher unfortunately get all teachers painted with a bad brush, the same can be said for parents.  The parents I would want to read this list, won't.  The parents who will, well they don't always need too.  If we could all keep our top priority in mind -- the success of your child -- we will be fine. Because if we all have the same goal and are on the same team, what could possibly go wrong?


  1. I really love this. Sharing on FB...
    (came here via Blog Hop,btw)

  2. I am glad you like it, thanks for sharing and stopping by!