I’ve been on both sides of the fence: the educator side and the parent side. I’m sure most of you have been there also. We’ve all had the families come through our classroom doors that we cannot wait to develop relationships with. You know the ones: they fill out every line on the volunteer form then add their own, practically pitching their tent in a corner of our classroom ready to do anything you ask of them. Unfortunately we’ve also had those families who walk in with large shining lights and bread signs that are shouting, “Don’t bug me about my kid! You are the teacher! My child’s education starts when school starts and ends at the bell! Don’t expect me to do anything!”
The same goes with being a parent . I’ve walked into classrooms during Open House meeting jovial teachers in beautifully decorated classrooms who are anxiously awaiting their crop of new students, eager to teach and enjoy them. My children have also had teachers who I have had to walk away from shaking my head, already mourning the year that hasn’t even begun, thinking to myself, “Why in the world is this person in a classroom?”
Looking back on both hats, I would have to say I’ve had more positive experiences than negative ones with both avenues through the years. And I’m going to venture out on my very limited Oklahoma limb and say that I think, overall, there are more exceptional teachers than ones who are taking up space, just like there are more involved families than naught. Am I right?
Having said that, I know that I’ve always let my heart carry me when dealing with the parent hat. I want what’s best for my children. I want to ensure that they know I’m in their corner, that education is top priority and that I will do anything I need to do to help them learn. I try very hard to not let my teacher side snatch that parent hat away from me when dealing with an issue that has to do with my children. Even though there have been times when I would love nothing else than to take that aforementioned hat and pull it down over one of the ‘teacher’s faces, spin her around a couple of times and shove her out her classroom door. But I digress.
However, I have to admit that my parent side shares my teacher hat. When my little jewels walk through my classroom door each year, I am that teacher who is bursting to teach. I’m the teacher who is eagerly jumping up and down, albeit sometimes over-enthusiastically, introducing breathlessly everything in my classroom and my lesson plan book that is absolutely wonderful to me, so why wouldn’t it be wonderful to the deer-in-the-headlights family who is backing up a few steps and probably thinking I need medicated? Or maybe possibly already am. A bit too much.
I am also prepared though to meet children where they are when they walk into my classroom, even if that means they’ve been just shoved in there by the parent who thinks they do not have to follow up with anything school-related outside of my classroom door.
Over the 17 years that I’ve been teaching, I have come to realize that our jobs as educators is to not only educate children, but their parents as well. Not all parents who seem indifferent are. They are just uneducated about education. Each year I write down things that I wish I could have done differently the year before. They range from classroom management challenges to wishing I had started medication earlier than fall break.
But compiled in that list, I have grouped some items together as a ‘What-I-wish-I-could-instill-in every-family-during-the-year-I-have-their-child.’ Whew. And it goes something like this:
1. Look through your child’s backpack or book bag, and clean it out-EVERY NIGHT! Your child has worked hard in class. Please acknowledge this.
2. Communicate with teachers frequently, not just during parent-teacher conference times. Just check in and let me brag on your child!
3. Pay attention to ALL dates-they are set for a reason!
4. Ask questions! I am always telling my students that they won’t know if they don’t ask. Same goes for parents. My mind-reading skills are not nearly as sharp as they once were.
5. Be a team player. That’s what we are, a team. When you are on a team you work together to reach a common goal. The common goal is awfully significant here. It’s your child.
6. Make the school-to-home connection. If you see homework coming home (refer to number one above) then please HELP YOUR CHILD DO IT AND SEE THAT IT IS BEING RETURNED (see number two above)!
7. Be a presence in your child’s education. I have your child for seven hours a day. Please at least make it a priority to make education a priority! This means being good role models and setting good examples for your child.
8. Stick your head in physically on occasion and say ‘Hi”. We as teachers are team players too (refer to all of the above).
9. Praise your child! Oh my, if parents only knew how so many of our students absolutely crave this affirmation from their families!
10. Finally, just TRUST US. I become awfully protective and possessive of my little people, and I love them like my own. Even the prickly ones. Please help me be the teacher I was meant to be by not second-guessing me or changing directions on homework assignments. Please don’t ruin my credibility based on previous experience you’ve had with an uncaring teacher. Trust ME.
I’m not saying that all parents need a list, or that they will even respond to a list. I am saying that if we don’t at least take a stab at setting out parent expectations and educating the foundation of our kids, then we have no right to complain when what we expect from them doesn’t happen.