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SALT LAKE CITY — Teachers can be a misunderstood breed. A lot of times we find ourselves taking the blame for anything and everything. Your child failed a test? Blame the teacher. Your child got pushed down on the playground? Blame the teacher. You’re having a bad hair day? Blame the teacher.
But have you ever thought about what your child’s teacher would say if the teacher could speak openly and honestly, without any backlash? I interviewed dozens of my fellow teachers and colleagues. Using their comments, I compiled what I hope will be a helpful list of suggestions to improve the parent-teacher dynamic.
Now, before you call an emergency neighborhood meeting and start writing “1,000 things parents wish they could say to their child’s idiotic teacher,” take a step back. Give these teachers the benefit of the doubt, and know the educators who weighed in on this are wonderfully talented, kind, educated, adoring teachers who love what they do.
(On a side note: As I was reaching out to teachers, I felt like I should title this “The help: teacher edition.” It took a lot of coaxing and reassurance in order to get them to talk.)
"Thank you for sharing your child with me each day. ... Thank you for trusting me with your most prized possessions. Thank you for helping me create the "magic" that is learning, educating and inspiring."
1. I can't do it alone
I am here to tell you that whatever is accomplished during the long school day can be completely undone in just a few hours at home. I am only human. I can’t snap my fingers and get your child to the target reading level. Will I try my hardest? Yes. Will I ever stop trying? No. But if you aren’t actively engaging with your child and reinforcing learning at home, you are robbing your child of opportunities otherwise. I am giving your child the best hours of my day. Please be willing to give your child minutes of your day to spend on homework, reading, etc.
2. I never stop thinking about your child
Even when I am finally home and able to focus on my own little ones, I am still thinking about yours. I am constantly thinking about how to help them overcome educational barriers. I am continuously brainstorming how I can cater to their various learning styles. But it doesn’t end there. I lose sleep thinking about the much-too-heavy-burdens of life their tiny shoulders carry around. I worry about their future and the scary world they will grow up in. I love them fiercely and they are always on my mind.
3. Yes, I am saying your child is lying
I am an adult. I am not a mean, petty, immature teenager who makes up rumors to make your child look bad. If I tell you your child called a classmate a name — then your child did. If I tell you your child refused to complete work — then your child did. Please believe the 30-year-old adult and not your 8-year-old child.
4. We are all cheering for the same team
I know this may come as a surprise to you, but I am not the enemy. Like you, I love your child. Like you, most days I invest more time and money in the children, than I do in myself. Like you, I want what’s best for them. So, when you feel tempted to tell me all the reasons why I treat your child unfairly, or am out to get your child, please remember that. When I hold your child accountable, I’m not treating your child unfairly. When I challenge your child academically, I am not out to get your child. The end.
5. We really don't think every child needs medication
One teacher (and mother) I talked to learned this lesson firsthand. After her own child was diagnosed with a processing disorder, she realized he just might need medication to help him focus. It was a hard fact to swallow: that the medication she had been so against was the missing piece of the puzzle. Her words: “You would not consider keeping a child from their asthma medication because it would change who they are, so why would you consider keeping a child from medicine that would help them to be their best self?
Medication is not a death sentence. It does not mean that they are dumb or out of control. It does not mean they are ‘one of those kids.’ ” Teachers observe every type of child on a daily basis. Being receptive to their observations and opinions just may pay off for your child. Parents need to advocate for their children. Sometimes, they don’t know how or where to begin. And that’s where we come in.
6. The way you speak about education directly influences your child's opinion
If you place great value on learning, your children will. If you speak kindly about their teacher, they will. If you tell them they have test anxiety, they will. If you treat school as a chore, they will. If you have high expectations for them, they will.
7. Your child doesn't have any friends because he is unkind
I understand this isn’t a fact 100 percent of the time. But generally speaking, if your child is kind, compassionate and friendly, then other children will want to be your child's friend. Funny how that works, isn’t it? It is your responsibility to teach your child how to be a good friend. If your children are hearing you gossip, belittle and exclude others, chances are they will be the same kind of friend you are.
8. It's OK to let your child struggle
This is how we learn and grow. I understand your overwhelming desire to intervene at the drop of a hat. I understand it is hard to watch your child go through hard things and sometimes fail. I don’t like to watch your child struggle either. But if we do everything for them, they will never be able to do anything for themselves.
9. Your appreciation goes a long way
We don’t want you to feel bad for us. We chose this profession, and if we could go back and do it again … we would be doctors. Just kidding. We would do it all over again. Teachers just want to feel valued and appreciated. Our payoff (clearly) doesn’t come in the form of a check. It comes with watching your child grow and develop a love of learning. Parents who express their gratitude underestimate how far that really goes. So, write a thank-you note every now and again, tell us what a good job we are doing, and spoil the living daylights out of us during teacher appreciation week. (Kidding … sort of.)
10. Thank you
A well-known teacher that has a wonderful reputation with students, parents and colleagues said it perfectly:
“Thank you for sharing your child with me each day. Thank you for taking an interest in what he/she is doing. Thank you for caring about your child enough to let them fail from time to time, but being there to pick them up, brush them off, and help them grow from the experience. Thank you for investing time in your child. It is the most valuable gift you can give them. Thank you for taking time away from your phone or your computer to really be there for them. Thank you for teaching your child responsibility. Thank you for helping them realize that the choices they make are their choices and the consequences, good or bad, are not because of someone else. Thank you for letting me be a part of the ‘village’ that gets to help raise your child. Thank you for the opportunity I get to make a difference in their life. Thank you for trusting me with your most prized possessions. Thank you for helping me create the “magic” that is learning, educating and inspiring."
Lyndsi Frandsen is the creator of the Facebook page For All Momkind and author of the For All Momkind blog. She has many titles, including wife, kindergarten teacher, sister and her favorite title, Mom.