Like many teachers, I have a good relationship with the parents of my students. I have been both a general education teacher (social studies and math) and a special education teacher, and found both ups and downs working with a variety of parents. I spoke to colleagues from across my teaching career and asked them what they would say to parents of their students, to provide perspective towards the workload that teachers have on their plate for 180 days of the year, plus professional development, planning, research and coordinating with fellow teachers on interdisciplinary curriculums. Our combined input has led to the following pieces of advice that hopefully sheds some light on this side of the teacher-parent relationship and encourages open communication for the benefit of students. After all, that's why we're here, right?
Mind you, these are not a list of gripes, or an unfiltered telling off of parents. Quite the contrary. Below you will find constructive thoughts that veteran teachers shared with me, as a way to improve the educational impact a child has throughout the course of their schooling. This is not, of course, teachers advising you on how to raise your child. We aren't doing that. We are simply offering ways to improve your child's education in the time they are both in and not in school, in a manner than benefits both the family and the student.
- Teach your children to be prepared; it's not just for the Boy Scouts.
- Education that stops when the school day ends is an incomplete education. Kids who do not continue their school work and learning outside of school -- including reading, reviewing the days work and talking with their parents about what they learned that day, leads to a lack of retention by the students and an under-appreciation for what was taught to them that given day.
- On that note, the earlier this reinforcement of a student's education becomes part of a student's life, there is a greater degree to which students will get used to talking about what they learned, engage in conversation and later, debate. This firmly entrenches what they learned -- math, english, science, social studies and the arts -- into their brains for longer learning retention.
- Think of a child's day in this manner: a 24 hour day can be broken down like this -- eight hours of school, including commute to and from, eight hours at home and eight hours of sleep, give or take an hour here and there. The eight hours at school and the eight hours at home need to be chock full of learning so that while sleeping, the thoughts are processed and organized and problems solved, making the students stronger learned in the long run.
While a short nap can help that, a good night's sleep is important too. Video games, latchkey kids and parents who do not engage their children outside of school with educational reinforcement can harm their kids education and their future
- Keep your kids aware of current events and make it a point to watch the news together, so that students may tie things learned in school to current events and contemporary issues. TV isn't always a bad thing; it is still an incredible learning tool when utilized properly.
- Ask your child each night "what did you learn in school?" and have a conversation about their education. Show them it is important to you.
- Have a problem with something a teacher taught, or a grade your child got on a test? Go direct to the teacher; we can work it out with you. If you don't agree with us after talking, feel free to ask our supervisor, but don't jump to the supervisor without talking to us first. We're paid to communicate with parents and expect parents to reach out if they disagree with us.
- Make sure your child comes to school on time. Don't drop your child off habitually late. They will learn that this is a proper habit for the future and guess who will show up late to a job in a few years?
- We can tell when a kid isn't getting love, food or attention at home. Do your job as parents and we will do ours as teachers. Together, we will raise and teach your child to make this a better world.
- Don't try to get kids out of detention or punishment. Allow your child to learn to accept consequences for their actions/inactions. On that note, don't make excuses for your children. They'll learn their parents will bail them out when needed, a habit that will follow them into high school and beyond.
- Implement a consistent homework routine that focuses on relearning what was taught that day, as well as staying up-to-date on longer projects. This will make students more effective employees down the road and keep them from working low wage jobs where these skills aren't needed. Parents, you want your kids to be successful, right? Then that process starts when a child is enrolled in school.
- Don't send your child to school when they are sick. They won't gain anything while sick, they'll just make other kids and teachers sick. This leads to a decrease in productivity and grades, cutting back on the learning for all. Keep sick kids home until they are symptom free.
- Please respond to our emails and phone calls. We know you are busy (we're busy too!) but show us you are concerned for your child's education as we are.
- Similarly, call and email us without us reaching out first. If you have a concern, talk to us! Just remember that most teachers have between 30-100 students and have a lot to juggle, just like you. We will make the effort if you do!
- Advocate for your kids, but if they get a bad grade because they didn't do the work, don't ask us to give them extra chances or to raise their grade. This isn't how the real world works. You don't do your work, you lose out. There's a lesson to be learned here, not one to be bargained with.
- Advocate for teachers. We invest our time to educate your kids, so please invest some time to support teachers who make a difference. All we want is what everyone wants -- better working standards, smaller classroom sizes, and better pay, all of which benefit students in the long run.
- When your child struggles with a subject, don't balk because you don't know the content or don't find it interesting. This is particularly true with math, as many find this topic difficult compared to other subjects. If you find it difficult, children will learn to have struggles in these subjects, because their parents avoided helping them because they don't understand it. Instead, push yourself to help them even when the material may be tough. Giving up is a learned trait, but so is perseverance.
- Talk positively about the gateways that education opens up, including college, careers and how much money one makes the more education they have. Avoid talking negatively about school, as it doesn't help them to succeed.
- There are bad presidents, bad lawyers, bad chefs, bad engineers, bad CEOs and bad teachers. Don't let the few bad reflect on the good ones. We're not all perfect, but we are all striving for the same goal -- a better world through education.