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?