From the Facebook posts filling my feed, I understand it’s that time of year again. For the past several weeks, I’ve seen the first day of school photos and been realizing my summer is rapidly winding down. Many of you are probably about ready for the Back-to-School Open House, while others like schools around here are about ready to start. With that in mind, I’m reminded of the conflict that seems to exist between teachers and parents. In my opinion, as both a teacher and a parent, this is a needless battle. From the teacher stand point, we want parents to be involved. From the parent stand point, we’re afraid of the school. What can you do to have an amazing school year?
1. Get to know your child’s teacher
Teachers are real people. They have lives outside of school. Just like everyone else there are introverts and extroverts, athletes and scholars, bookworms and gamers. At your child’s sporting events, strike up a conversation with their teacher.
I can say from the teacher’s point of view that if I know the parent, it’s a lot easier to call home saying an assignment’s missing then if I’ve never talked to the parent. You wouldn’t dread a phone call from your best friend; why dread a phone call from your child’s teacher? Okay, because you jump to conclusions and want to defend your little one, or not so little one.
2. Hold back your judgment until facts are learned
One of the main areas of conflict between parents and teachers is the student. Teachers see their students for as little as forty-five minutes a day to as long as six and a half hours! A teacher may see only a snippit of your child’s life or have great insight. I had one student two years ago for a semester. She was in my class for about fifty minutes a day. However, by the end of the term, I thought I knew her. She was chatty, fun-loving, and outgoing. I loved having her in my class. One day, I said something to the effect that she couldn’t go a class period without talking. The other students with strong conviction told me that this girl didn’t talk in any other class. I didn’t believe them until I began talking with other teachers. Sure enough, she’s known as the quiet one. Yet, in my class she felt free to talk.
Listen to your child’s teacher. Then dig deeper. Find out why your child behaves the way he or she does in class. There’s always a reason for actions. Is your child bored, tired, hungry, or challenged? Once you’ve heard the teacher’s point of view, share yours. Be careful not to come across as judgmental. Just share as part of a team.
3. Visit the school
Yep, you heard me. Go to that boring Open House, or Parent-Teacher Conferences. I’d even suggest going in on a day you pick your child up from school. When our oldest was a teenager, I learned to parent in the non-conflict times. This holds true for parents and teachers. Go in and meet your child’s teacher in his or her environment before you’re called in for a parent-teacher conference.
It’ll help when the time comes and you’re nervous about the report.
What can you do? First off, have your child introduce you. Even a kindergarten student can learn to introduce someone. As a language teacher, I know that introductions are considered one of the easiest things to do. After the introduction, explain why you’re visiting. This will put both of you at ease. After chit-chatting, have your child show you around the room and then leave. A teacher’s time is valuable. They don’t have enough of it to plan and get ready for each day.
4. Understand the teaching profession
Teachers are busy people. They are working hard to teach your child the standards and information that government officials have said are important to teach at each grade level.
At the same time, a good teacher wants to impart those non-gradeable values that will enable your child to be a successful citizen.
As if that wasn’t enough, teachers often are being graded themselves with their jobs on the line. In Oregon, teachers are evaluated on how well students progress each year and on how well they are able to do the numerous teacher things, such as lesson planning, working with other teachers, classroom management, and how well they know their subject. This puts an awful lot of pressure on teachers to perform.
As you send your child off to school today, tomorrow, and throughout the rest of the school year, think of what you can do to make your child’s teacher have a great year. The effort will work to your advantage. If your child’s teacher is enjoying his or her school year, then your child is more likely to have a good school year.