The end of summer always gives me palpitations. Still. I’ve been teaching for over a decade, and my insides still start to short-circuit when I think about going back to school.
In about a week from now, the nightmares will start, and they are always the same: The kids are going buck-wild, I’m screaming like a lunatic, and anarchy is reigning in my classroom.
Thankfully, that has only happened in dreamland, but every teacher wonders about the class they’ll get in the fall. Will I have good kids? Motivated? Open to learning? 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; we pour our heart and soul into your kids. Truly, we do. Our job is never done at 3:15. Our evenings, weekends, holidays, and vacations are not our own. Most teachers I know are grading, planning, and creating. For your kids. Our work comes home with us more often than it doesn’t. Even when we aren’t working, our minds are constantly whirring with new ideas—brainstorming, problem-solving, and wracking our brains for ways to help your child “get it.”
I’m not saying all this for applause, but so you know how thoroughly invested we are in the well-being of your child. We would not be teaching if we weren’t; the financial return for the investment of time and energy just doesn’t add up. We don’t feel good about ourselves—and our job—if your kid is not successful.
If you have kids in school, regardless of their age, you know how important the student-parent-teacher trio is when it comes to a child’s education. With that in mind, here are some things I think your child’s teacher might say to you if they could to make sure this year is a great one.
1. If your school has an online portal, please use it
We work very hard to keep records and grades up to date. I can’t 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 about your school’s system. It has valuable information about your child’s progress. Please check it—and often. It is much easier to catch your child before they sink if you know they are 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 are an asset to education, 99.9% of the time, they are a distraction. When your child is at home, provide 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 they are 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!), but trust us—we are way too busy to invent stories to call home about. We are not calling to bad-mouth 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 is so important for parents not to “hover” and to give their kids a chance to grow up and learn. You are crippling your child and doing an enormous disservice to them if you always come to their rescue and never let them experience the consequences of their decisions. You are not helping your child in any way by enabling, babying, or making excuses for them.
5. Please respect our boundaries
We give 150% during the week when we are with your kids. Please do not call us at home or on our cell phones. Even if a teacher gives you their cell, don’t use it. Call the school. Send an email. Go through the professional channels and respect their 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 and make small talk. But we don’t want to have a parent conference in the cookie aisle (or any aisle) at the grocery store.
6. Be willing to teach your child character
This goes along with No. 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 as we all want to, we cannot protect them from every source of pain and discomfort. This is heartbreaking, and I truly wish we could. We hate to see your child suffer, too.
What we can do is teach them 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 the life lessons that are invaluable!
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 on tasks they don’t enjoy, to persevere on assignments they are struggling with, and to discipline themselves to create good habits and break bad ones. Teach them that they do not have to react emotionally to every emotion they feel. If they are 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 their work
I didn’t “give” your child a bad grade, and I didn’t “fail” them. Your child earned it. We want to work with both you and your child so they can do better next time. We are happy to discuss any questions you have, but we hope you can trust the judgment and qualifications of your child’s teacher in assessing their 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 them, too. They 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 them. 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 want you to be proud of them. Never underestimate 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 your child. We recognize that, on any given day, we might spend more time with them than you do. That is an honor we do not take lightly.
Sincerely, Your Child’s Teacher