Back to School.
I LOVE this time of year with it’s school supplies (I seriously have a problem with buying too many school supplies) and new clothes, cute new hair styles and faces flushed with excitement.
I count myself blessed to have been able to work in the public school system on and off for quite a few years. Whether as a paraprofessional, as assistant school secretary, or as an aide for students with special needs, I held a unique vantage point of the goings on in individual classrooms and the school as a whole. And, I must say, I learned a lot – A LOT – about these amazing women and men who choose to teach our children.
I witnessed a first grade teacher’s absolute exhaustion turn immediately to genuine laughter as her students took turns sharing their favorite jokes.
I learned of a fourth grade teacher’s absolute devotion to his students’ knowledge that they were in a safe place while in his classroom.
I watched a fellow paraprofessional freely, truly love the troublemaker who so desperately wanted someone to just listen to him.
I witnessed a kindergarten teacher’s remarkable patience as she allowed an irrationally angry parent to openly criticize her in front of students.
I learned of the endless hours of planning and preparation sacrificed by countless teachers as I took a late night drive by our school only to see it’s windows speckled with light.
I could fill a book with the amazing attributes I’ve witnessed from the hundreds of teachers I’ve been blessed to associate with. They have and will forever fill a very special place in my heart. This is why I am determined to be as much of an advocate for positive, productive interactions between my children’s teachers and myself as well as between all parents and teachers. Because, let’s face it, anyone who willingly takes on 30 kids at a time, all of whom learn in different ways and at different levels, must have a bit of heaven woven into their DNA.
So, today, as we approach the new school year (or have already begun, depending on where you’re living) I’d like to share tried and true ways in which I’ve seen parents support their children’s teachers.
Supporting a Teacher
- Be a present parent – check your child’s backpack for homework, notifications, announcements, permission slips, and the countless other bits of information sent home with your him throughout the week. This also means being prompt in returning necessary paperwork and being available to talk with your child’s teacher when necessary. Trust me when I say that teachers really do not have a lot of “extra” time throughout their work day, so being as available as you can for you child’s teachers will make their life – and yours – that much less stressful. I understand that a lot of parents work full-time during school hours and are not always available to be contacted at this time. Just make sure you’ve communicated with your child’s teacher a good time during which you can be contacted if the need ever arise.
- Do your part at home – along with checking backpacks and helping children with homework, you can also make sure your child is getting sufficient sleep, is eating well, and is prepared daily to go to school (dressed appropriately, especially for play periods; has a lunch/money for lunch; knows the means of transportation they’ll be using to get to and from school, etc.) A child whose basic needs are met is a child who is ready to learn in the classroom.
- Communicate! – Let me say that again: “Communicate!” Your child’s teacher has her best interests in mind and wants to see her succeed just as much as you do. So, if you’re experiencing an issue or have a concern about something in regards to your child’s education and/or relationship with her teacher, talk to the teacher. Don’t take to ranting on social media or spreading viciously one-sided stories around about said teacher or even determinedly filing complaints with the school principal. Your absolute best line of defense for any questionable situation is to have an open, respectful conversation with your child’s teacher. Obviously, there will be circumstances in which the principal must become involved, but understand that this is not always a necessity.
- Collaborate – actively participate in your child’s education. Regularly discuss with your child’s teacher ways in which you can supplement his education outside of the classroom. WORK with his teacher in a proactive manor and see him succeed beyond anyone’s expectations. Progress made by students will almost always increase when parents effectively collaborate with teachers on the students’ behalf. Keep in mind, however, that this does not mean monopolizing the teacher’s time. With 25 + students, they have a lot of parents to work with.
- Volunteer – volunteering in your child’s classroom doesn’t just benefit the teacher; it is an excellent way to support your child’s education as well. As parents volunteer in classrooms, teachers have increased opportunities to focus on each individual student’s progress, providing greater insight to learning levels and needs. This allows teachers to tailor their curriculum accordingly. Also, with parent volunteers, students have the opportunity to learn and work in smaller, more focused groups. This gives students the ability to ask questions and to receive help on a more intimate level than if they were constantly in a larger learning setting.
- Remain Objective – Teachers are human. They make mistakes. They also have A LOT placed upon their shoulders each day. It is very possible that situations will arise in which a serious discussion must be had. In these cases, please remain objective and respectful. Contentious attitudes toward our teachers (toward anyone) only makes matters worse. It is completely possible to express anger and frustration about a specific situation while remaining composed. Doing so will decrease the duration of the issue, allowing all involved to come to an effective solution much more quickly.
- Say “Thank you” – This is such a big one! A little bit of gratitude goes a looong way, especially for our teachers. Saying “Thank you” in anyway that you can – volunteering, donations, hand-written notes, practical gifts, verbal declarations, etc. – is such an effective way of letting our educators know that they are appreciated and supported. I have seen, on multiple occasions, a teacher’s horrible day get turned around completely when a parent went out of his or her way to let this teacher know she was doing a great job. Don’t wait until Teacher Appreciation Week. If you have gratitude for your children’s teachers, let them know now!
The Parent-Teacher Team
As parents, we are our children’s first teachers. We are to whom they will consistently look for guidance in life and learning. This fact makes it imperative for us to model a positive attitude toward education and educators. When children are taught the importance of learning, their foundation for a successful education is set and they are better equipped to succeed.
When it comes to our children’s education, parents and teachers really are the ultimate team. When our teachers have the support of their students’ parents, their ability to truly educate these children is significantly enhanced. What is more, the stronger the relationship between parent and teacher, the more supplementation our children get at home for their education as well. A student/child who is consistently taught in and out of the classroom will have a greater chance of growing into a successful adult, which is the ultimate goal, right? When we work together effectively and consistently, our children will always be the ones to reap the rewards.
A BIG Shout Out!
I just want to send a HUGE shout out to all of the talented, loving, selfless, amazing teachers out there. As you go back to school this coming year, know that you are so very important to the future of our world! We could not have our doctors, engineers, scientists, political leaders, or future teachers without any of you. I, as a mother to a soon-to-be kindergartner, am so grateful for your willingness to do the hard things and to do them with a smile on your face and in genuine love.