From Parents to Teachers

Our friend MSSC posted a link to an article on his Facebook recently.  It is a letter, of sorts, from an educator to parents. We see a lot of these in the press, particularly around the beginning of the school year, and they usually say many of the same things:

  •  Trust the teacher, she’s not lying about your kid’s behavior
  • Excuses only harm your child, don’t enable them
  • Don’t assume that high grades mean your child is doing well or has a great teacher
  • See to it that your children do their homework
  • Handle problems directly with the teacher first

Well, as a very involved parent, I would like to take this occasion to make some requests of the teachers.

First, let me say that I agree that teachers are hardworking, and generally are under-appreciated. It’s why I try to keep a very open line between my son’s teachers and myself. I’m all about sending notes with him to school, making sure his teachers know they can call me anytime, and that they’ll be backed up when it comes to discipline, homework, etc.

That said, some of the things in this particular article tickled my brain. First, early on, the author talks about a student whose parent was making excuses for him not doing the assigned reading over the summer. And to that I say… I’m sorry, we’re not on a year-round schedule. Many parents advocate a year-round schedule for the same reason that you assign lessons over the summer… three months is too long for a kid to be away from that schedule of learning, and they need academic stimulation to stay on task and not forget everything. But many teachers are fighting against the year-round schedule. How can you justify fighting that schedule and then turn around and assign homework over the summer? Just like the summers are your time with your family, so summers are my time with my child. I want him to read for the love of it, and if that means reading fishing magazines and fantasy/sci-fi novels, so be it. Please understand: I’m not against homework that reinforces the lessons, but I AM against “busywork” homework, and homework that takes the place of actual lessons.

Don’t be offended if I turn to my child and ask him, “is this true?” when you are telling me about something that happened at school. It doesn’t mean that I am questioning you, rather, it means that I am asking him to own up to his actions. And just like you ask me, “don’t believe everything your kid tells you about me, and I won’t believe everything he says about you,” I’m going to ask you to extend the same courtesy to him. You are not the absolute authority on everything that happens. I’m going to ask for your side of a horror story he tells me about you. AND I’m going to ask him for his side of the horror story you tell me. Chances are good that I will side with you, but he deserves to be heard, too.

If you want me to take you seriously, learn to spell and use proper grammar. First impressions are lasting impressions, and if you send home an introductory letter that is riddled with spelling errors and says that the “childern need to make sure that there bok bag’s are hear on the first day,” I am going to have ZERO respect for you, and I am going to seriously doubt your teaching ability.

If you want me to deal directly with you in a fair and even-handed manner over problems, don’t label my child. The author of this article was horrified that a parent contacted a lawyer because he labeled the child a “criminal” after he cheated on a test. Yes, cheating is wrong. But it is not a criminal offense, and saddling any kid with the label of “criminal” for doing it is absolutely wrong. Calling names only escalates the situation. That kind of behavior caused me to choose a different school for my son when he was entering kindergarten; the teacher had him labeled as “wiggly” and “undisciplined” even before the first day of class. That does not foster a good parent-teacher relationship.

I am related to teachers, I was a teacher for a while. I get that it’s not an easy job, and it’s harder when you aren’t on the same page as the parents. But please understand that we have expectations of you, too. And if we cooperate, all of our lives will be easier.

You are all parents, and some are teachers. What would you ask of the other?

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26 Responses to From Parents to Teachers

  1. Just a Mom says:

    I would ask that if a child gets up the nerve to come tell the teacher that they feel they are being picked on by another child, please don’t blow that child off or tell them they are being tattle-tellers. This happened last year to my child and I could not beleive it!

    • SKL says:

      My 1st grade teacher made me wear a “tattle-tail” (donkey tail) in class (and to the cafeteria) all day after I “tattled” on someone. Bet I never tattled in school again – even when I should have.

    • Laura says:

      A friend of mine gave me a really good tool for teaching kids the difference between tattling and telling… something that they often have difficulty distinguishing:

      Tattling is done to get the other guy in trouble, ie: “She’s poking me!!!”

      Telling is done to help another person or yourself, or to remedy a wrong, ie: “She’s hurting me.”

      So simple. Why didn’t I think of this before? I know that there’s still grey area, but it helps.

      • SKL says:

        The thing is, once you’ve been humiliated for tattling, you don’t even remember what the heck you tattled about; all you remember is that you were wearing a donkey tail through the halls of the school, and you’d rather die than go through that again.

        If there’s a nice, logical way to teach the difference, then half of the battle is won. The other half of the battle is getting teachers to be clear and consistent about how they deal with “tattling” and “telling.” Yes, I think a 6-year-old can understand it, but only if taught, preferably NOT while wearing a donkey tail. (You can’t really listen when you feel like an ass.)

        • Laura says:

          Completely agree. I once had a teacher (7th grade, algebra) who regularly called us names. “Daisy Mae”, “Plant” (as in, you are as stupid as a plant), etc. She would sit at her desk and scream this at us as we were trying to do a problem on the board in front of the entire class. And THEN, when she’d humiliated you enough that you were in tears, still trying to do this problem that you were now so confused you couldn’t solve it, she yelled at you for being a “weenie” and a “wimp”. And it wasn’t just the girls who were crying, either.

          The worst part is, even though multiple parents complained, those complaints were met with silence from the school. “They’re honors students. They should be able to handle a little good-natured joking from their teacher.”

          To this day, I hate math.

          • SKL says:

            My sister was good in math and took high school courses on a somewhat accelerated schedule. She got berated regularly, even though she was a good student. One day she got sick of it and walked out of the class, never to return. She went straight to the office and withdrew, stating her reason. That teacher had previously declared that he didn’t know why girls took higher math, since they were not genetically cut out for it. (I think that was before he had me for a student, though. Ha ha!) I had hoped that his tone would change after he had a daughter, but apparently not.

  2. SKL says:

    Well, I’m pretty much just starting on the parent-teacher thing, so I am speaking more from “principle” than experience.

    I’ve been around a long time. I studied to be a teacher, I’ve worked a lot in classrooms, and I’ve been studying education since I got my first tutoring job at age 8. So I’m not exactly an “outsider,” but some of the following may make me sound like one.

    I have been around a long time and observed and read a lot about what works and what doesn’t work with kids. So let’s jump right in – homework. It’s a great thing, when it’s relevant and age-appropriate. But all too often, it’s assigned to meet some kind of quota or something. Now, my kid and half of her class are not yet 5 years old. They need time to play. At this age, play establishes concepts better than any seatwork could. So why does my kid’s teacher feel the need to assign homework (which takes a half hour or more per day) 3-4 nights per week? Does the teacher really think it’s best for a 4yo to have practically no free time, or is she bowing to pressure? Or does she think I’m going to sit and push my kid through this so it gets done faster? Like I don’t have anything better to do, either? Let’s face it – it’s better to assign nothing at all than to assign busywork just for the sake of it. Believe it or not, kids can think of something to do with their minds even if they don’t have homework.

    On KG orientation night, I asked about homework and when I heard they have homework every day except Friday, and it HAS to be turned in the next day, I said “oh, because my kids and I don’t get home until bedtime a couple nights every week.” The other parents looked at me, shocked, and I believe one even gasped. Seriously. We go to educational stuff, not the freakin’ bar. Quick, call the child neglect police!

    My other pet peeve is some of the rants teachers post. I actually read one yesterday (probably not the one MSSC posted). This woman wrote a whole article from the perspective that parents don’t want to take any responsibility for their children’s education, and not only that, they abuse teachers in every which way. Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met any parents like this. Even the worst hillbillies I know have some interest in their kids’ education and will make an effort – though it may not be plainly visible to the teachers. Granted, none of us “always” makes the best decisions, but let’s not start off with an anti-parent attitude, and then wonder why you’re not being worshipped. By the time I get done reading these rants, I feel like throwing up my hands and saying, “let’s just shut down the schools. Why throw more tax money into a system where nobody is happy with the results, and the people working with our kids hate them and us?” I know that not all teachers are like that, but seriously. Those who do that hurt the whole profession. Especially when it’s accompanied by demands for more sacrifices from the parents – more fees, forced “volunteering,” homework for the parents, and so on. As if those are the only ways, or even the best ways, for parents to show they care. Blah. Homeschooling looks better every day.

    I realize that MSSC’s wife is a teacher and has won awards for being a great one. I’m sure none of the above applies to her. But I’m sure in her heart of hearts, she agrees that a lot of the problem with schools is the teachers who try to pass accountability to everyone else, however illogically.

    • mssc54 says:

      My Mrs is a highschool mathematics teacher. She teachs mostly the honors stuff… mostly. About ten years ago when she was student teaching she was physically threatened by a big male student. She reported it nothing happened. The kid (six feet plus) threatened to hit her if she didn’t move from in front of the door so he could leave the class. My Mrs. is white and at one parent/teacher meeting (while meeting with a black student’s mother) the parent accused my Mrs. of being racist because she expected her child to bring pencil and pape to class!! IT’S MATHEMATICS!!

      • SKL says:

        I am sure there are lots of idiots out there, and crimes against teachers in school. But I still say that most parents are not like this. The generalized disrespect for parents is not helpful.

        As far as the paper and pencils, there are some schools that provide them for everyone. So maybe that family recently moved from a district where they really didn’t need to bring paper and pencils. I agree the “racist” comment is stupid, but see my previous paragraph for that one.

        My family has often been on the wrong side of a “philosophy” issue with the schools. Just because my mom didn’t believe in enforcing homework prior to grade three, that didn’t mean she wanted us to grow up stupid, for example. I think teachers need to respect parents’ rights more than they do. Stepping on parents’ toes may have seemed like a brilliant idea to solve teachers’ problems, but apparently it has not worked, because I don’t see the teachers’ union doing any happy dances.

        I just remembered a news story where a school decided to give out “parent grades” on the child’s report card, with actual letter grades for stuff like “made sure kid had a good breakfast” and “made sure kid slept enough.” Next thing you know, they will start telling us what we are to feed our kids for breakfast and when their bedtime should be. No thank you.

        • mssc54 says:

          Well the parent grade thing is totally nutzoid!

          My Mrs. has a total of 124 students in. Four seperate classes, each with at least THIRTY students in them.

          So that is a minimum of a possible 124 parents that should/could come to the Open House/Meet the Teacher (to discuss your child’s mathematics academics).

          Now keep in mind these students are taking the honors mathematics so they are typically more advanced then the general math students.

          My Mrs. told me that she had the MOST parents show up two weeks ago when they had their Open House. Care to take a guess on how many of the 124 parents were not too busy, didn’t have other plans or cared enough to go and speak to the mathematics teacher? Also these are mostly seniors, so they need this class to graduate.

          • SKL says:

            I don’t know, but my parents quit going once we went to junior high school. We were on our own. And that was not a problem for us. We were, after all, supposed to be getting ready to go out into the big bad world without our parents. Our parents weren’t about to go to parent-boss meetings, either.

            Obviously if those kids got to the honors classes without their parents hovering over them (as was the case with my family), their parents must be doing something right.

            See, this is the thing I don’t understand. On one hand, teachers wonder why parents don’t “get involved.” Then when the parents do try to have some input, many teachers complain. In their mind, “get involved” means come and sit in a little chair and passively listen to the teacher telling her side of your kid’s school story. And maybe promise to go home and do xyz recommended by the teacher.

            I especially don’t understand what is the point of a parent of a high-achieving high school student coming to a parent-teacher conference. The kid and teacher have it under control. Maybe some parents think it’s really awesome to make a special trip to hear the teachers tell them how wonderful their kids are, but that’s not a universal feeling.

            • SKL says:

              And some of those “kids” are adults, or nearly so.

            • mssc54 says:

              Most of these kids want to go onto college. Perhaps the parents can manuever through all the hoops with the benefit of any input from their educators. But don’t come crying to the educators when little Johnny or little Suzy only gets a 91 when they needed a 95.

              I’m still annoyed that My Mrs. has 30+ students in each class. That’s two sets of papers each and every day to be graded! But if she were a slacker like some teachers she could just not give them so much work and not have to grade so many papers in bed while I’m trying to watch TV. I can’t tell you how annoying it is when I have to hunt down the remote under a stack of her papers. 😉

              • SKL says:

                See, I don’t agree that parents should be “maneuvering” to get their kids what they want in college. It’s not necessary. If the individual has the ability and the desire, he does not need his parents for that. And if he lacks the ability or the desire, he needs to go do something he’s more suited for.

                It’s funny that I’m criticized for trying to “maneuver” my kid an appropriate placement when she’s 4, but if I do it when she’s 19, then it’s the mark of a good parent.

                • mssc54 says:

                  Get back to me in twelve years or so when your child needs to get into a specific college because THAT COLLEGE will give them the most schollarship money for their sport or academic standing.

                  That naive approach you have now won’t last long when your child needs that scholarship money. They are seventeen and eighteen years old. Hardly adults.

                  • SKL says:

                    Maybe – I went to college at 16 and it was up to me to get money. My parents gave me their tax return so I could fill out the financial aid form.

                    I don’t think it’s naive. Maybe old fashioned – to think that 16+ years is long enough to develop an individual into someone who can do for himself. I honestly think it’s sad that kids are now considered so much more helpless than they have historically proven themselves to be. We have more opportunity than ever to prepare our kids, and yet we don’t prepare them. Why?

            • SKL says:

              I remember my mom telling me what she thought of most of those meetings. She’d come home from work, grab a bite to eat and rush to get to the school on time to meet all her kids’ teachers (keep in mind she had 6 kids, of which 4 were usually in the same school). Huff and puff up the stairs and sit in a little chair to be told:

              “She’s doing fine.”

              “He’s doing fine.”

              “She’s doing fine.”

              “He’s got issues, but you knew that.” (My brother would have been easily diagnosed with Aspergers if they had that in those days.)

              • mssc54 says:

                I was second in the birth order of six. The first four of us are less than 12 months apart. I think my youngest sister is five years younger than I. My brother didn’t come along until I was thirteen.

                I was every teacher’s nightmare. I wasn’t mean or anything just the Class Clown (aka smart ars). Never did homework, class work, ect.. Often getting “licks” from one teacher or principal or coach. Sort of paved the way for my younger siblings.

                One of our Home Town classmates started a Facebook page about our small MS town (growing up in… and such). It wasn’t until reading and seeing what was written that my youngest sister figured out why our parents put our brother in private school. The “Smiths” had already earned their reputation (of sorts) and they wanted my little brother to get a fresh start. He has done very well.

                LIke I said in a previous comment. I think most teachers need to find something else to do for a living after about five years. Rare is the educator that can keep making things interesting and still have the proper demeanor with both students and parents. My Mrs. students/parents are very fortunate to have such a dedicated educator fighting for them.

                Incidentally, I haven’t heard of any discipline problems from her students at all. If she has any issues it’s usually from one of the football players. All she has to do then is talk to the coach. Their football team is ranked 2nd in their Division, 3rd in the State and 140 in the Nation! So those boys don’t want Mrs. Mathematics speaking to the coach about them not doing their work. 😉

  3. SKL says:

    OK, so I read the linked article, and I agree completely with Laura. I also did not like the tone of this article. The writer implies that if we don’t make our kids read assigned books all summer, they will be living in our basements at 25. Hello, I managed to find employment despite the fact that I never had summer homework, ever. The very teachers who are acting so offended most likely never had a summer homework assignment, ever, so how do we explain the fact that they are literate enough to teach? A good teacher knows that most kids will use their minds in the summer, whether it’s in developing survival skills, pursuing a mini-business, or guiding their own reading, writing, piano playing, etc. A minority of kids actually need some drill through part of the summer, but that doesn’t mean everyone should be tied down. Also, I hated her cold attitude toward the kid who didn’t read his book yet because of family problems. “It was assigned in May.” So? If the kid had read it in May, he would have forgotten what it was about by August. I think the writer had a bug up her butt.

  4. Joy says:

    There are some very good teachers and then you have your not so good ones. We’ve had both. My boys are both very different and had/have different learning styles. I think placement is extremely important and should be given a lot of thought. Jason needed warmth and “hugs” and Toby needed structure and consistency. Not all teachers and students like each other. It’s unreal to think everyone is going to like everyone.

    It’s really hard when a child is so unlikable that grown adults can’t like them and that’s usually the parents fault. I think one of the downfalls is that some parents are constantly butting in and creating problems that aren’t really problems. Kids who are the worst go home complaining that “nobody likes them” and “everyone is mean to them” and then the parent’s come in all mad demanding things. Parent’s and kids alike need to learn to get a long with each other and to follow the rules. Parent’s need to stop thinking their kids are really special and do no wrong. It’s unrealistic and it leaves your child open to the administration not liking your child. Believe it or not, there area lot of parents out in this world that think their children are incapable of doing anything wrong and a simple misbehavior that’s not really a big deal warrants a meeting with the principal. It’s very hard sometimes for administrators to do their jobs and they actually hide out when certain parents show up for another bitch session over nothing.

    Don’t get me wrong, there ARE awful teachers and many of them do cause lifelong phobia’s and problems for people. Jason had one I couldn’t stand and his self esteem spiraled so fast it was sad. Toby also had a few really horrible ones and a rotten “tenured” teacher who half way through the year I had taken out of her class. She abused him physically and made a laughing stock out of him in front of the class. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do but he bounced right back after the move.

    I think we all need to give and take. We have to listen to each other and try not to overreact. Generally teachers or anyone isn’t “out to get your child” and vice versa.

    I think if I could ask one thing out of a teacher it would be fairness. I think being fair is of the utmost importance.

  5. SKL says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I hold my kids to standards and I appreciate the teachers doing the same. If I find out my kid has misbehaved in class, the reason I’m asking for details is because my kid is probably going to get a spanking once we’re in private, and I want to make sure I’m not spanking her for nothing. I am a strong believer in basic respect as a foundation of anything that we hope for our kids to accomplish. I sent a thank-you to my kids’ karate coach for sending Miss E back to class without the usual reward stamp when she wouldn’t participate. So despite the fact that I have my own strong feelings about things, I’m not going to be that parent who undermines the teacher’s authority.

    I also expect my kids to negotiate with the teacher themselves. If they have a doubt or question or fear, I instruct them how to go to the teacher and respectfully figure it out. Without me.

    But on the other hand, if my kids need something and they aren’t equipped to advocate for themselves, then that’s my job. The whole business of trying to get Miss E into a more appropriate class – that has nothing to do with disrespecting any teacher. It’s about me doing MY job. Yet I have gotten an amazing amount of resistance – and some disrespect – from all sorts of educators. I imagine that by the end of this, some educators will view me as the pain-in-the-ass type of parent, because I am going to ask them to do something that wasn’t on their agenda for the day. Oh, well. I suppose internet rants will be written about me.

  6. mssc54 says:

    I think like any profession you have yor good and your bad with the bulk being in the average range. My Mrs. (of course) is one of the best! Truly.

    We have had a child in school for… TWENTY- SIX STRAIGHT YEARS! So I think it is safe to say that I have experienced a broad spectrum of both great and bad. I will never question the teacher in front of my child. If there is something concerning my child negatively I ask if my child can be excused so we (the teacher and I) can discuss the matter privately. And I think the vast majority of teachers should have retired before their fifth year when they becom caloused to the children.

    I don’t cut them any slack but I do try to help them where and when I can. If you are helping you can better determine what sort of teacher they are and even better see what sort of human being they are. 😉 Both are criticle when they are spending so much time with MY child!

  7. Joy says:

    My parents went to all my conferences and “goings on” at school until I didn’t go anymore. I think that’s as it should be so you’re showing your kids you care about them and you know what’s going on. Kids say everything is always “fine.” I also went to all my boys conferences and “goings on” until they graduated. Heck, I still go to their stuff.

    • SKL says:

      I would probably go if they were having any issues, or if they wanted me to go, or maybe the first time to meet and greet the teacher. But I’m not sure I’d go otherwise, for a kid old enough to communicate appropriately with the teacher herself.

      I wouldn’t have wanted my mom to go talk to my high school teachers. Not because I had anything to hide, but because, why should they be talking about me behind my back? If there’s something I need to do differently, the teacher should tell me directly.

    • Joy says:

      I was just very involved and they were in sports and Jason did a lot of woodwork that I liked seeing. Toby did art that was a lot of times on the hallway walls on those nights and he also made a lot of sculptures that I might not have seen otherwise. I don’t know. At that age most of the time they were encouraged to go along so nothing was said behind anyone’s back. Also, if it were behind their back, maybe there was a concern that the teacher wanted me to know about. We also were talking at that time of future plans and I liked planning things with them or at least being able to be a sounding board to them. I still think if you asked them, they were glad we were always there, in the stands and “with” them.

      I’m weird this way but I wouldn’t ever think not to be involved (nosy) in their lives. I’m just as involved and know what they’re doing now as I did when they were young. I like it this way. They both know I really care.

  8. Laura says:

    MSSC…. put velcro on the bottom of your remote and stick it to the wall. That’s what I did with mine so it wouldn’t get buried in Legos!!!

    (couldn’t put the comment up there ^, too skinny)

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