As my children come home from school with stories about what one teacher did or didn’t do, I’ve had to carefully consider how to filter what my child says with what I know to be true as a teacher. Here’s what I think your child’s teacher would want parents to know:
1. There are two sides to every story. In a classroom of 30 kids, there will be exactly 30 sides. Look for ways to corroborate your child’s version of events. Start with the teacher, for sure, but if it’s an older kid, ask if any of their friends heard “what happened.” Sometimes just asking my kid to clarify with their classmates often brought new understanding.
2. This brings me to my next point: Kids don’t always listen to every word that comes out of their teacher’s mouth. I know, you say, “not my kid.” But, truly, there are distractions in the most well-run classroom. Your children do not always have control over whether someone asks them for a pencil during class and they miss key information.
If your child comes home with only a partial understanding of their assignment, it is not immediately the fault of the teacher. There are a number of reasons why the information is incomplete. Teachers are just the easiest scapegoats.
3. Your child’s teacher is your ally. Even the ones you want to question at every turn. You are both pulling for the same goal. But they can’t help your child with issues they aren’t made aware of.
If you have concerns, please email them. And then believe that they are working in the best interest of your student and are making decisions about curriculum, classroom management, and more while taking into consideration the myriad of concerns for each individual student they serve.
I promise you, teachers are thinking of YOUR kid more than you realize. (At night, while washing dishes, when they should be sleeping, in the car on the way to school… A teacher’s brain work is never done.)
4. Children absorb your attitudes about their teachers. If you have concerns about a child’s teacher, by all means, contact them and ask for a meeting. But please don’t air your grievances in front of your child. They will carry your attitude with them into the classroom. That is damaging to the teacher and student relationship, as well as the rest of the classroom culture.
5. Remember that your teacher is a human being. He or she is in front of an audience for upwards of 8 hours a day. On occasion, they flub their words, say something they shouldn’t, or react in a way that would not be your preference.
One, I guarantee you they beat themselves up for it later and will “re-teach” a flubbed lesson in their heads at least 50 times after they’ve mulled it over. Two, they are real people with real lives outside of the classroom. They deserve the same grace you receive from your boss when you’re late to a meeting or send a poorly worded email.
They know they have a high standard to live up to, they are intensely aware of the huge importance of their job, and they really are doing their very best.
A Few More Practical Tips For Parents:
- Unless your concern involves an immediate due date – wait 24 hours. Gather more information, sleep on it, and hide your phone if you’re tempted to send something snarky. Often, those 24 hours are just what is needed for everything to shake out: somebody apologizes, the whole class receives clarifying information, or the issue blows over and gets resolved.
- Don’t copy administration on every email to a teacher. 99% of the teachers on staff will handle your concerns appropriately. There is no need to raise red flags where they aren’t merited. Give your teacher an opportunity to offer clarification and more information before you choose to blow up their career. Trust me on this: it is the kindest, most appropriate thing to do.
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