IT'S BACK TO SCHOOL TIME!
After a short (but hopefully refreshing) summer, teachers everywhere are energetically preparing their classrooms for the upcoming school year - usually at great (unreimbursed) expense to themselves. They're copying, laminating, sorting, organizing, stapling, labeling, hanging butcher paper and planning dynamite lesson plans. Every one of these dedicated professionals starts the new school year with high hopes but a couple of weeks in they may feel just like the meme above.
Even though I'm not a school teacher, my life revolves around the school calendar because I've been married to a teacher for 34 years. (Oh, and my mother-in-law was a teacher, my daughter became a teacher, two sister-in-laws and a brother-in-law are all teachers, but who's counting.) After hanging around all theses teachers for so long, I've heard some of their joys and their frustrations. I've heard the things they'd like to say to parents but probably never will. Let me speak up for them.
What can you do to help your child AND your child's teacher have a great school year?
From the wife of a long-time teacher, here's seven rather straightforward suggestions on on how to bless your child's teacher this school year:
1. Remember, you are your child's first and foremost teacher
Your children will have many friends in their lifetime. You are not their friend. You are their parent - their mom or their dad. You have a job to do. It's not always an easy job, but it is a worthwhile investment of your time and energy. Please do not expect your child's teacher to be a miracle worker. Teachers cannot fix what is broken at home. If you have not taken the time to ready your child for school by reading to them, by keeping a schedule and sensible hours, by teaching them basic skills like their numbers/colors/shapes, by modeling polite behavior, how to get along with others and respect for authority, then please don't look to school teachers to remedy all these deficiencies.
Want to really make a teacher's day? Reinforce what is being taught at school in your home, back up your teacher and encourage your child to obey and respect him. He will love you for it. Another thing your child's teacher will love is if you...
2. Think the best of your child's teacher
Don't believe everything your child says about her teacher and the teacher will not believe everything your child says to her about you. Children do not have to be taught to lie. They already know how and when they are in trouble, even the most reliable children may lie to get themselves out of being disciplined. Be aware of this. Even very young children know how to manipulate full grown adults. Resist.
- A teacher friend had a young man in her class who was also studying to be an actor. He was a great student, bright, got along with his classmates, did his work and seemed to enjoy school very much. But every day when his mom would come to pick him she'd ask "How was school?" and he would throw his hand up to his forehead like he was in agony, sigh heavily, and respond, "Terrible!" in a dramatic voice. She pulled him out of school without even talking to his teacher. Which leads us to...
3. Talk to your child's teacher face to face
Never talk negatively about your child's teacher in front of them - or anyone else for that matter. If you have ANY concerns about your child's education, please speak directly to the teacher. Do not go over her head to the principal without talking to her first. Arrange a specific time to meet your child's teacher face to face. Don't jump him just as class is starting or ambush her as she's trying to control the kids at dismissal. Don't send an inflammatory email or call on the phone where you can't see his facial expressions or body language.
While you are waiting for your appointment with your child's teacher, take your concerns to God first. Pray before going to the meeting. Come with an open mind. Be open to the possibility that you may have gotten the wrong impression or bad information or perhaps your child has told you a tall tale avoid getting in trouble.
Also - take every advantage you can to see your child's teacher in action: Meet the Teacher Night, Back to School Night, Open House. She is encouraged by your attendance and is just as proud of your child's accomplishments as you are. She loves to show off your child's work to you.
4. Trust your teacher
The art of teaching is a God-given talent, but it is also an acquired skill. If your child's teacher is credentialed, it means he had to go to an extra year of college. During that fifth year, he was a Student Teacher in a classroom setting. This is where teaching and classroom management skills were honed under the supervision of a Master Teacher.
Teachers are trained professionals. They know what their school, state and federal governments require them to do. Every year more standards and goals to accomplish are piled on top of them. It is very irritating when "armchair quarterbacks" come into their classroom and tell them how to run it.
You may know your child better than the teacher does, but your child's teacher is responsible for the welfare of ALL the children in the classroom, not just your child. I'm going to blunt here - your child is not the center of the universe. From Psychology Today - "Child-centered parenting runs the risk of producing entitled, narcissistic children who lack the capacity to persevere and cope with difficulty. This is because there is a fine line between being "loving" and being "indulgent". "
Also, it is very healthy for your child to form relationships with other adults besides you. Grandparents. Coaches. Dance Instructors. Teachers. Let them learn how to relate with grownups on their own. They will have to learn how to take care of their own problems as adults. Let them have a little practice learning how to negotiate relationships as they are growing up. Which leads us to...
5. Don't do your child's work for them
Check your ego at the door. This is not a matter of pride and succeeding at all costs. Your child's accomplishments (or lack thereof) are not a measure of your success or failure as a parent. Your child is in school to learn. For some children it comes easy. For others it is more difficult. But one thing is for sure:. they will not learn if you do their work for them.
- A high school ninth grade English teacher is responsible to teach his students proper grammar and formal writing. He needs to equip them for life and to pass college entrance exams. Irate parents would come in to speak to a 9th grade English teacher I know about the grade their "child's paper" had received. During the course of the interview, it would become patently obvious to the teacher that he had not graded the child's work. The parent was upset because their own writing was being criticized.
It is hard to watch your child fail but after watching three decades of students come and go, I can testify that children of parents who bail their child out of every difficult situation do not go on to live healthy, productive lives.
What's the solution? Be a student of your child. Watch them. Discern how they learn best. Figure out the best way to help them. Know when to get involved and when to step back and let them muddle through it. A good teacher lets her students experience the struggle. It is in the struggle that we learn and grow.
6. Pray for your child's teacher
One of the best things you can do for your child's teacher (and for yourself) is pray. I, personally, found the best way to do this was to meet weekly with other moms. Together we lifted up our children, their schools, the administrators and the teachers in prayer. We got to know each other and form lasting friendships along the way through a great program called Moms in Prayer. MIP taught us how to pray scripturally. They give you helps and prompts for prayer. They also show you how to back up your prayers with Words and Deeds of Encouragement for the teachers. Which leads me to...
7. Thank your child's teacher
Teachers are notoriously overworked and underpaid. They are blamed for the ills of society. They are they only employees who are judged (and sometimes compensated or not) on other people's performance. Yet they still keep at it year after year. Why? Because they love what they do. And they love your child. A single criticism cuts to the heart of a conscientous teacher. Here are a few real criticisms said or sent to ONE teacher all in the same school year.
- You don't smile enough.
- Why can't you be more like Mrs. ______?
- You're not fun enough.
- You are too hard/You're not hard enough.
- You give too much homework/You don't give enough homework.
It probably takes 10 compliments to make up for 1 complaint like the ones above. I encourage you to be the one giving the compliments instead of being the complainer. I'll let you in on a little secret. Teachers everywhere find working with the parents harder than working with the students. Don't be that kind of parent.
HAVE A GREAT SCHOOL YEAR!
I know you love your kids. Do them a great, big favor. Bless their teacher this year.
If you'd like to read more from Angi Wiggins, she blogs over at thewordchick.com.