Most of our kids are settling back into the school routine and adjusting to their new teachers. I’ve written before about what kind of school parent I am, and in one episode of Mama Said, Sarah and I discussed my ambivalence about volunteering in their classrooms. Short story, I think a lot about what my kids’ teachers think of me.
When I discuss my own parenting style with them—including teachers in my social circles—I keep hearing a lot of similar things: That it’s a collaboration. Parents and teachers have to work together as a team to help our kids reach their potential. So I’ve been asking them questions: What do teachers want us to be? What kind of parents do teachers love? Here’s what I’ve learned from my teacher friends:
Teachers love honest parents. Not the kinds who are always making excuses for their kids. Not the ones who hide a certain past problem or need from teachers out of embarrassment. And certainly not the kinds who misrepresent a statement or situation to another parent or authority. If you have something to bring up or discuss with your child’s teacher, do it. Your kids won’t learn honesty if they don’t see it from you.
Once kids leave the school building, teachers have very little sway on what kids do. So if your kid isn’t finding the time to study, finish projects, or stay on top of homework, guess who might need to share just a teensy bit of the blame? Kids aren’t always ready to bear full responsibility for their organization, so sometimes they need their parents’ help. Set and keep consistent bedtime hours. Limit their phone or screen time. Schedule homework time and hold them to it. Make sure they get a little exercise. And plan ahead. Don’t make them late because you forgot to pack their lunch. (Kids don’t like being late, and teachers don’t like it either.)
It can be difficult with certain people—I understand. But trust your child’s teacher. They know what happens in class, because they’re present. (You’re not.) That means working together for solutions to problems, and it means listening. If your teacher gives you advice for helping a child learn? Take it seriously, just like advice you might get from your child’s doctor. If a problem comes up, talk to the teacher first rather than going over their heads with administration. And never, ever talk negatively about a teacher in front of your child.
I know, I know. This from the I-don’t-volunteer mom. But volunteering is one thing. But being involved at the most basic level by checking folders, making sure homework gets done, showing up at school programs or Open House? That’s required stuff. The best and highest-performing schools have as much to do with parental involvement than anything else
Teachers are at school before your kids arrive and are often there long after the kids leave. They attend training and meetings. They have to work with other teachers and deal with the same administrative politics as anyone else. They work hard to make their rooms cheerful and inviting (sometimes at their own expense). They design lessons to engage your kids and make sure they’re ready for the world. It’s a hard job. They’re not asking for a parade. But saying "thanks" every once in a while via a short note or small gift goes a long, long way.
I told a couple of elementary-school teachers about this post and asked them What’s one thing you wish parents knew? Here’s what one said: "I wish parents could understand how much I care for their child and how I worry about these kids. Each one becomes a large part of my life, and my thoughts are always about what that child needs. I wish for support from home and for parents to work with their children—mainly in reading. I want us to work as a ‘team’ for the betterment of their child."
Another one: "Children need to know how to work with all kinds of people, so it is important for them to learn to adjust to different teaching styles and personalities. We don’t know at the elementary level what our children will grow up to be; nor do we know what the personality of the people they will work for or with will be like. We can encourage our children to look for positive traits in all people, to notice traits that promote success, and to work diligently with a constant goal of self-improvement. The vast majority of teachers want the best for their students."
The bottom line? Teachers love your kids, too. They want the best for them, but need you to have their backs. Show them some appreciation…you might be surprised at the results.