Tuesday, 15 May 2007

5 Things Teachers Want From Parents

I think we could all agree that teaching is one of the hardest jobs on the planet. Everyone, and I mean everyone from presidents and surgeons to serial killers and terrorists arguably all have one thing in common. They have at some point sat in a classroom under the authority and instruction of a teacher. This being said, I love my job-on most days. It is challenging but rewarding, exhausting but rejuvenating, thankless but gratifying, all at the same time. But like any other job, what makes it easier is if you have a support system, and parents are the greatest support system that any teacher could have. Parents, the same way that you need us, we need you, and here are five simple ways that you can show your support:

1. Be on my side (which, by the way, is also your child's side). I am a professional, an expert in my field. I have earned degrees, certifications, awards, and accolades. I have dedicated my life, spent my money, and sacrificed my peace of mind, all for the purpose of preparing your child to be able to go out into the world and be a productive contributor. I am not out to get your child. I don't have a personality conflict with your child. And I am certainly not setting up your child for failure. Remember that your child's performance is a reflection on me (fairly or unfairly), and there is absolutely no benefit to me if your child fails. I have worked with hundreds of teachers, and I have never heard one of them wish failure on a student. Regardless if your child is surly, ornery, and downright mean-you know who your child is-I still ultimately want the best for him or her, even if it is only to see them move forward to another grade, teacher, class, or school.

2. Do your part. Make sure that your child is prepared. This means well-rested, well-fed, and well-supplied. It is hard to engage a sleepy, hungry child who has no book. And, while we are on the subject, if at all possible, keep all of the electronics at home. I know that you think that they are only using them for emergencies, but trust me when I tell you that your child is in a gaming, tweeting, texting frenzy that teachers can't compete with. Also, make sure that your child is doing homework. Do not, I repeat, do not believe them when they tell you that they don't have any. Students almost always have some homework in some class. Check their grades often. Every school system that I know of provides electronic access to grades. Most schools still send out Progress Reports at least every 9 weeks, so if you have not seen one, your child is hiding something. Communicate, kindly, with teachers. This does not mean a panicked email during the last week of school. If you are keeping up with grades (note my previous point), you will have the information you need to communicate before your child's situation is irreversible.

3. Recognize and respect my part of the process. Remember that I am an educator. This is my calling and my chosen career, and I take it seriously. Trust that I know what I am doing when it comes to educating your child. I do not want to be your child's parent, although I do have to act in proxy. The definition of teaching and my primary goal is to "train by formal instruction and supervised practice, especially in a skill, trade, or profession" (Merriam-Webster). Does this mean that I do not sometime have to take on different role? Of course not. I am also often a nurse, law enforcer, lawyer (both prosecuting and defense), judge, referee, and counselors. However, my primary goal is the education of your child, and I view most situations through the eyes of an educator. I am concerned with the good of the group and the overall education process. This role may sometimes be far removed from your role as parent. Consider this analogy: I am your child's coach- "a person who teaches and trains the members (students) of a sports team (classroom) and makes decisions about how the team plays (performs) during games (assessments)" (Merriam-Webster; additions, mine). You are your child's cheerleader- "a person who encourages other people to do or support something" (Merriam-Webster). Can you see the difference? A coach's primary focus is to train and make decisions (and sometimes encourage), while the cheerleader's job is to support (from the sidelines)!

4. Understand my limitations. You may be feeling overwhelmed by your child. Now multiply that by thirty. That is my classroom. Now multiply that by three. That is my work day. Ninety plus teenagers in and out of my room all day. All with different personalities and needs, and all with different parents-with different personalities and needs. I differentiate instruction, and assess needs, but I am not a personal tutor-who by the way gets paid a lot more than I do. I have systems and procedures in place to make the operation run smoothly. It is a lot to deal with, but I've usually got it under control. I take my responsibility as a teacher just as seriously as you take your responsibility as a parent. I know a lot, but not everything. I see a lot, but not everything. I hear a lot, but not everything. I can catch and stop a lot, but not everything. I am human, just like you. I make mistakes, just like you. So if at all possible, whenever possible, please cut me some slack by not placing unrealistic, superhuman expectations on me, and I will return the favor.

5. Be thankful. I am thankful that I have an opportunity to teach your child and to be part of the support team that lays the groundwork for a successful and fulfilled life. You should be thankful that you have some additional support in your child's corner. At least be thankful that your child is out of the house for eight hours a day. I'm not asking for parades or streamers, although that might be fun. Just a simple, occasional acknowledgement that we are all in this together would be greatly appreciated.

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