I teach primarily freshman students. Last school year I sent my son off to Kindergarten. During parent night in my classroom, I secretly wanted to say, “It’s going to be okay. I know what you are going through.” Although their children were nearly a decade older than my son, I couldn’t help but think that the emotions we were going through as parents were surprisingly similar.
True, my worries revolved around if he would have help tying his shoes or remember to go to the bathroom. They were likely more worried about if their kids would find their classes during their solo journey or be able to open their locker.
In reality, we all want the same things: for our kids to be safe, cared for, happy, and successful.
I am here to tell you that I consulted some of the very best teachers in our area. We all want those things for your kids, too. Take a deep breath, and trust that with your help and the willingness of your child, this can be the best year yet.
As parents prepare to send their children off to school this fall, educators want to leave them with peace of mind. We also have some advice for parents. These tips come from years of experience and teachers who have your child’s best interest at heart.
1. It’s Okay to Let Them Fail
“The best (but definitely not the easiest) way to learn is by making mistakes.”
“Let your kids know that you will love them no matter what. Take the pressure off. So many students internalize the pressure and are scared to make a mistake.”
“Not getting an A and failing are not the same thing. Trying to be perfect only creates stress and anxiety. Keep expectations realistic and emphasize working hard and trying your best, not perfection.” This is how we can prepare them for the real world.
“Encourage students to ask questions and contact teachers themselves. This is a skill they need, and it can be hard at first. If they feel uncomfortable, try email. Most teachers check their email at night and on weekends, so your response may be even quicker.”
3. Nix the Negativity
“Encourage a growth mindset at home and model it. Just because a student did not do well in a subject does not mean they are forever doomed to fail in those classes. Just because a subject is not their favorite does not mean there is nothing about it they will enjoy. The first step toward getting better at something is the attitude that you CAN get better with meaningful practice and guidance.”
“Before you develop a negative opinion of a teacher or class based on what your child says, speak with the teacher and keep an open mind. We are all doing our very best to ensure that every child is successful. It is twice as hard to move a student forward when their negativity towards a subject is being positively reinforced.”
When a teacher is working with a parent who is responding to a situation in a very negative way, that teacher is thinking, “If you really knew me as a person and how much I care about your child, you would not be so upset.” Arrange for face-to-face contact with a teacher when an issue arises. I think you will find that you can easily come to an understanding and create a positive plan of action.
4. Keep Us in the Know
“We appreciate it if you share information with us about something that may be bothering or making your child unhappy. We can help out at school.” I have learned to never judge a student based on poor behavior. There is always more to the story. That student sleeping through class–he is suffering from depression or struggling to find the right ADHD medication. The student talking back to me and not doing his homework–his parents are going through a divorce and he will likely have to move to a new school. Knowing their stories helps me cater to their needs. I can then be empathetic instead of angry.
5. Cell Phones
“I will never disrespect your child by not listening to him or to her because I am on my phone. I expect the same courtesy from your child towards me.”
“The more you encourage breaks from screen time at home, the easier it is for students to follow our cell phone policies.”
“Supporting our cell phone policies builds independence. Too often students rely on their phone for that constant attention from texts or self-gratification and acceptance with the number of ‘likes’ on a photo. Detaching students from their phones enhances their face-to-face interaction and builds social/people skills. This way they are unable to use their phone as a clutch when they are uncomfortable and don’t want to participate.” We want to spend our class time teaching, not cell phone policing. Keeping cell phones out of their hands during class time and studying time at home is important. We appreciate your support.
6. The Power of Books
“I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to read for pleasure. I would argue that if your child does not like to free-read, the right book hasn’t been put into his or her hands.”
7. Mental Health
“I care more about a student’s mental health than their score on a test.” Keep an eye on your child’s social/emotional well-being. You can’t always assume it is hormones or typical teenage behavior. Keep an open line of communication. If you are concerned, contact your child’s teacher or counselor.
I leave you with one of my all-time favorite teaching quotes by long-time educator, Rita Pierson:
“Every child deserves a champion; an adult who will never give up on them. Who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best they can possibly be. Is this job tough? You betcha. But it is not impossible. We can do this. We’re educators. We were born to make a difference.”
This school year teachers are here to be your child’s champion. I punctuate my first-day-of-class spiel with, “I don’t know you yet, but I want you to know that I care a lot about you.” As a student and as a person. Even if your child’s teacher does not say this directly, I promise you they feel this way. It comes with the job.
If your children aren’t in high school yet, find out what teachers want parents to know during the elementary years.