Last year, I walked into my mom’s classroom. It was the end of the day and the last of her students had trickled out to catch the bus. She was on the phone and waved when she saw me. I sat down at her desk and heard her say, “Yes, I understand. I have quite a few students who are nervous, but this is a great opportunity for her to overcome her fear.” I could hear the mom on the other end of the line from where I was sitting “She will NOT be participating in the poetry fair!” I couldn’t believe how calm my mother remained while another person screamed at her. She replied, “It is a requirement, and she will need to participate. Please call me if you’d like to discuss this more when your daughter is not next to you.”
Another time, I noticed a sheet of paper sitting on a family member’s desk. The title at the top said “Stop, Look, and Listen.” Underneath were questions like, “what happened?” and “In the future, what would be a better decision?” At the end was a line for a parent to sign. I asked what had happened and was told that a student had shoved another kid to the ground because he was “too close to him.” The paper had been angrily scribbled all over, and I’ll give you a hint—the penmanship was not a child’s. Instead of having her child fill out the paper, the mother wrote how “ridiculous” it was that her child was being punished when the other kid was intentionally getting in her child’s space. She explained that at her house, warnings are not given twice. Yikes.
I come from a long line of teachers. My mother, stepfather, aunt, and uncle each have decades of education experience. I have witnessed the countless hours that my mom put into making her classroom a safe haven for her students. Not only does she spend her own money on books and supplies, she goes out of her way to ensure that no student is made to feel left out. In the past, the cabinet at the back of her classroom has been filled with backpacks, binders, snacks, and even clothing for kids who come to school with nothing. Her dedication to her students is unwavering. She believes in honesty, integrity, and respect, and holds each of her second graders accountable for their behavior. Her students adore her. Long after they have left elementary school, her former students make the trek to knock on her door to visit. This is what teachers do, every day, for the children that are placed in their classrooms.
With the school year starting up again, I wanted to remind parents that your child’s teacher is an integral part of your child’s life. Some children are with their teacher for more hours in a day than they see their parents. My 5th grade teacher used to tell us that we were a family—and we were. As children, we develop solid relationships with our peers and teachers, as well we should. We are with one another for at least eight hours a day. So, think of how damaging it is to those relationships when a parent undermines a teacher in front of their child. Think of how my mother’s student must have felt, listening to her mother scream at her teacher (whom she loved) in front of her. It must have been torture to come to school the next day, with two sets of expectations in her mind. It is imperative that we appear to be a united front with our children’s educators. It is only fair to the students.
We are our children’s advocates. I fully believe that we need to stick up for them and voice our concerns. We are the ones protecting them. It is our job as parents to be sure that our children are well provided for.
That being said, your child’s teacher is in a classroom filled to the brim with students. They know what is most effective for their classroom, just as you know what is most effective for your home. If a teacher assigns a half hour of reading each night, it is your responsibility to be sure it gets done. If your child is tired, or complains that it is a waste of time, it is your responsibility to remind them that what their teacher says goes. If a teacher doesn’t allow toys in the classroom, for the love, do not send them to school with their fidget spinner in their hand. Your child deserves consistency. They deserve to have set boundaries and to know that their authority figures are on the same page. If you don’t agree with a teacher’s rules, it is important that you don’t voice this to your child immediately. Take the time to meet with your child’s teacher. Don’t have time for a meeting? Call them. Email them. Do what you need to do to get in contact and figure out a common ground.
Teamwork between parents and teachers is imperative for their student’s success. When we work together, absolute magic can happen for our children.