5 Things Teachers Want Parents to Know About Back to School
It’s back to school time. Right now the excitement and energy are high, routines are new, and (most) kids and parents are happy. And then Meet the Teacher Night rolls around, and we get our first impressions of the person who will spend their days with our precious babies. He/She will talk about homework, grading, communications, snack policies, schedules, and hopefully about what the goals are for the year. And if you are really lucky, you will acquire insight into what type of vibe the teacher will have in the classroom for that year. You may even get all teary and pretend you have allergies when an amazing teacher reads a poem about making her classroom a family for the year—hypothetically speaking, of course.
But as these educators put their best feet forward, I always wondered what things do they really want to say when they get all the parents in the same room. I mean, if they could say whatever they wanted, without fear of administration fall out, what advice would they give?
So, I asked. I asked my friends who are teachers what things they wish they could say to parents, and so many of them spoke up. Twenty-two in fact and it was eerie how similar a lot of their answers were. Here’s what I found out.
+ Please don’t be a bully. It is amazing how for most parents our number one fear is our kids being bullied at school, yet so many of us do this exact thing to teachers. For the most part, the teachers I spoke to want to be respected and not addressed with threats and condescending comments. They want to remind parents that they are also mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters, and when parents come to them, most teachers would like to work together to fix whatever the issue is. Most parents seem to think of teachers as glorified nannies, instead of professionals with many years of higher education.
Said one: “I am the first to admit that I make mistakes, and yes, there are times when a parent meeting is appropriate and/or necessary, but I am an adult that really loves teaching her students. Please don’t begin a discussion about your child's education with something like: Let me tell you what’s going to happen here or I will speak to the principal if I have to. It’s not productive for anyone.”
One retired educator told me she wished more parents would back up teacher decisions or teach their kids how to respectfully disagree. “The last five years were the worst of my thirty year career, and mainly because of the parents. When I tried to discuss behavior problems with them, they immediately became defensive and questioned my motives. My motives? My word as a teacher, an educator with two Master’s degrees and thirty year’s experience, was no longer good enough apparently to convince a parent that her son was repeatedly disruptive in my classroom.”
Many also encouraged parents to not talk negatively about teachers in front of your child. Seriously. If you don’t give the teacher any respect, what are the odds your child will?
Interestingly enough, several teachers said often when there is a conflict between a parent and a teacher, administrators want to pacify the parents just to keep the peace—and avoid escalating the issue further or worse yet, receiving threats of litigation (which apparently is now commonplace). What happens then is parents feel victorious and empowered, and continue to act the same way whenever there is a problem. Leading me to my next point.
+ Yes, there is a black list. Like any organization, employees talk at the water cooler, and for teachers, it’s often about us parents. If you continue to be a bully, disruptive, or annoying, you’ll most likely get marked as “one of those parents.” This means that the best teachers may not want your kid in their class—because of you. “Sometimes the sweetest kids come from the most nightmarish parents to deal with at school. One time I spent an entire school year e-mailing a mom several times a day to assure her that another girl was not giving a mean look to her daughter. She had belittled me several times telling me I did not have control of my classroom. It was exhausting and made it difficult to focus on what was important. When this sweet girl’s sister came the next year, I requested that she not be in my class only because I did not think it would be a productive year for either of us.”
Privacy is also a concern. Parents often want to volunteer in the classroom or at school, and then will gossip about other kids’ reading levels, behaviors, etc. You may see things or hear things that are surprising, but be respectful of the child and their parents.
That being said, several teachers told me that they do encourage parent communication, as long as it is constructive. Academics, socialization, problems with homework, and so on should be discussed frequently and in detail with no worries of being “labeled.”