If school is not yet back in session where you live, it will be soon! By the first week of September, moms will have kissed their babies (both big and little) goodbye as children embark on the first day of school. As parents, especially mothers, it’s our job to worry and wonder. Will my child have a good experience, meet new friends, enjoy their studies, and have a lunch room buddy? So much of that worry is focused on the teachers – the adults who take our place in guiding and molding our children for anywhere from three to eight hours a day. Whether we mean to or not, it’s very easy to build up anxiety over this new authority figure in our children’s lives.
We all know the attributes we want in a teacher, be it nurturing, challenging, disciplined, organized, free-thinking, flexible – and the list goes on. But at this important back-to-school time of the year, we’re turning the tables a bit and focusing on what teachers want from us – the parents behind their students.
1. Be a Partner: You want what’s best for your child, and in most cases, so does your child’s teacher, but it’s all too easy for parents to immediately assume the defensive position. “My son wouldn’t do that.” “My child is a better student than that.” Your child’s teacher has been trained not only in subject matter, but also in education. We are parents, first and foremost, so what we see at home may not be what is shown at school. Author, educator and winner of Disney’s American Teacher of the Year award, Ron Clark said in a special he did for CNN.com, “We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and often see your child in a different light than you do. If we give you advice . . . [t]ake it, and digest it in the same way you would consider advice from a doctor or lawyer.”
So, approach the year and the teacher with an open mindset. Communication goes two ways, so hear what your teacher says and also keep your teacher apprised of anything that would affect classroom behavior or work. And if at all possible, get involved in your child’s education! Whether it’s parent-teacher conferences, volunteering in the classroom, or just having an open dialogue with your child’s teacher, be known and be involved. It really does make a difference, both to your child and the teacher.
2. Give Newbies a Chance: Whether it’s a new teacher, a new curriculum, a testing or a teaching method, give it the opportunity to work. A rookie teacher may not have the experience, but no one is going to be more enthusiastic and excited about working with your child than an idealistic, fresh out of school teacher.
As it relates to testing and curriculum, there are a lot more studies and research about how to educate, how to engage children, how to make learning interactive. Kids no longer memorize their multiplication tables as in days of yore where you sat at your desk until you knew your 1s through your 12s (and yes, we all got stumped when someone asked up to do 13 x 15!). The focus today is often about teaching critical thinking skills, not just answers. So whether it’s New Math, the Common Core, your state’s new mandated assessment, know that the change from the “good ole days” can actually be good.
3. Testing, Testing and More Testing: We live in a society where we feel the need to quantify everything, so sometimes parents feel teachers are too focused on test scores. But all too often, we’re also the guilty party when it comes to putting on the pressure. Let’s face it – sometimes we’re the ones quick to post results on Facebook or discuss at the bus stop or in the office.
Yes, your teacher wants good scores from the students, but typically, her focus is on the body of knowledge learned in the school year, not how well someone bubbled in with a No. 2 pencil. Additionally, a good student may not always test well, and teachers realize this. They also know that for some children, their skills and talents may not be ones that come up as test questions.
Testing is a way of life, but no teacher wants you to make it the end-all and be-all, the final judgment day for nine months of school. So, if it’s a real concern of yours, address it in a calm and collected manner. Your teacher will most likely not only have test-taking strategies, but practices that you and your child can do together. Talk with your teacher early in the game, not the week before the assessment, and everyone will be able to approach the situation in a reasonable way.
4. Excuses, Feedback, and Help – Oh My! Your child whether 2-1/2 or 18 years old is your baby – and we want to make the world a pleasant place for our babies. But as a March 2014 blog in NewYorkTimes.com pointed out, our children can do much more than we think they can. So, your child who can’t seem to get from his bedroom to the den in less than 20 minutes during the summer months really can follow his class of first graders down the hall in an orderly line. Your high school senior who doesn’t ever remember her keys or purse probably will remember to bring in her homework, especially once she starts to receive incompletes.
As parents, we can’t make excuses for our children, nor can we be there to help them at every twist and turn of life. We may want to – but if we set them up for the expectation that we can always save the day, it’ll be a hard lesson they learn when one day we can’t. And, wouldn’t you rather have your child learn it at age 6 than age 36?
When it comes to feedback, your child doesn’t need to hear from us at every step of the way. Yes, positive reinforcement, compliments and confidence builders are key to raising a good, healthy, well-adjusted person. But, as the New York Times blog also so poignantly stated, if a child needs positive feedback on every mark they make on the paper, how will he learn to find approval from within? Additionally, you don’t want your child to be swayed by every external comment, compliment or criticism he receives.
So, if your teacher doesn’t compliment absolutely everything your little Suzy does, if she wants your daughter to do things on her own and take responsibility for her actions and her work – remember, you do too. You’re on the same team!
Let’s be honest – at the end of the school day, we parents probably create more stress for our teachers than our kids do! So, as you embark on this school year, think about what is best for your child, not just what is best for you. Keep an open mind and a positive attitude. And know that in education, as in life, It’s not just about the destination . . . it’s about the journey.
~ The Baby Pibu™ Team
- Clark, Ron. “What teachers really want to tell parents.” CNN.com. March 14, 2013. http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/06/living/teachers-want-to-tell-parents/
- Flam, Lisa. “10 things teachers wish parents knew before the school year begins.” Today.com. August 12, 2014. http://www.today.com/parents/10-things-teachers-wish-parents-knew-school-year-begins-1D80049576
- Lahey, Jessica. “5 Things Teachers Wish Parents Knew: Your Children Can Do More than You Think.” NYTImes.com. March 13, 2014 http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/13/5-things-teachers-wish-parents-knew-your-children-can-do-more-than-you-think/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=1
- “What Kindergarten Teachers Wish Parents Knew.” Scholastic.com http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/what-to-expect-grade/what-kindergarten-teachers-wish-parents-knew