August 14, 2012

What Teachers Wish they Could Tell Parents

I start back to work tomorrow, and as you can probably see from the amount of posts I have not been posting things have been hectic and crazy busy. I saw a post yesterday on my friends Facebook page that has inspired this post.

Tomorrow night I have my orientation with my new set of kindergarten students and their parents. They are only there for an hour and in that hour I try and cram in everything I can about rules, procedures, homework, student expectations, and the list goes on and on. What I really wish I had another hour for is to orient parents to "school life"....which for many parents I am in contact with is a first time experience {:since I am a kindergarten teacher:}.

Here are a few things I wish I could tell the parents:

1) We are on the SAME team
We have all heard the horror stories of teachers who "had it out" for their students, but the truth is 99.9% of teachers are teaching because they genuinely want to make a difference in your child's life. We truly bend over backwards to do what is best for them, not because we have to but because we want to. As teachers we don't make phone calls home about what Johnny and Susie did today in class to get them in trouble. We do it so we can help resolve the problem. With that being said, the door swings both ways. If there is a concern about what is happening in school, bring it to the teachers attention immediately. He or she wants to know, I promise.

2) Maintain routine at home
Within the school day teachers work very hard to create routines within the classroom and throughout the day. Students schedules each day are mostly the same. This creates structure within their environment and allows the students to prepare for what is ahead. When routines are created and followed the result is students who know what is expected of them and when it is expected.

For example, if you create a routine of doing homework as soon as the child gets home from school each day you are eventually going to alleviate  the fight for them to want to go and play or do other things because they know that this is just "what they do." {:Of corse kids are kids and it won't go smoothly everyday but it will help:} Maybe after school doesn't work for you and after dinner works better or in the mornings. Pick what is best for you and stick to it!

3) Your attitude towards school is reflected in your child
A teacher can always tell the value parents place on school by having their child in class. If you wake your students with an energy that says you are excited that they get to go to school today and learn they internalize that excitement and it will be evident in their attitude at school. Keep a positive attitude about school by showing excitement while completing their homework with them or by asking them what happened in their day.

4) Deciding to retain a student is one of the most difficult decisions a teacher has to make
As I mentioned earlier, as teachers, we really do have your child's best interest in mind and the decision to retain them or not is very difficult for a teacher. Teachers weigh every aspect of how a retention will affect a student both presently and in the future. I honestly have anxiety when turning in my final retention paper because I understand the weight it carries. Teachers only retain students after much deliberation and consideration.

5) Every child needs kindergarten regardless of how brilliant they are
So this one only applies to kindergarten parents, but I think it is important. Many parents approach me with how smart their child is and are concerned that they might be bored in kindergarten. My approach to this question is to tell them what all we do in kindergarten because many parents are not aware. In kindergarten now it is so much more than learning the ABCs and 123s. By the end of the year my students are writing paragraphs, creating their own word problems to solve, manipulating word families, and learning rules about vowel combinations.
Also, kindergarten is as much about learning socialization as it is the curriculum. Much of the curriculum in kindergarten is students learning to interact in a positive way with their peers while learning.
A quick story: my first year of teaching I recognized early on in the year that one of my students was not just smart but brilliant. I asked numerous times for her to be tested for gifted but got passed off as "the new teacher who thinks she has a smart kid, yeah right." But it turns out I was right when in the following year they tested her for gifted and she tested on a high school level. But, my point is even though this child did not learn as much from me academically as the other students I saw her grow socially. She learned how to make friends, resolve conflict, and interact appropriately with students her age.

6) Communicate with your teacher
Teachers really do want to know what is going on in the lives of their students. If there is something you think we should know please tell us; you're not bothering us I promise. {:Unless you're telling us Johnny got a paper cut:} If there is anything going on at home that may affect you child in school give us a call, email, or write us a note. Often when things are happening at home that are out of the norm it is reflected in students behavior at school. Students may start being a behavior issue when they never have been before, they may become very emotional and sensitive, or they may just loose their excitement for school. Things you should let the teacher know include a close family member who is in the hospital, a parent who is deployed in the military, a divorce, etc. We don't want to know these things to pry into your lives, but rather to show your child more grace than what we might normally show because we understand that they are going through a difficult time.

7) We'll only believe half of what they say about you, if you'll only believe half of what they say about us
This last one is funny, but so true. I have so many stories I could tell about daddies who are sleeping on the couch and mommies who are sick from "too much tequila" that after only 4 years of teaching I could almost write a book. But when I think about all the stories I hear from students about their families I think "oh gosh what are they telling them about me!" So lets just all agree to understand that students can often stretch the truth or sometimes even make up things that are not even true just for a good reaction.

So there ya go. A few things to think about as we get ready to start a new school year.
Let me know what you think or if you have any questions.

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