This week is the PTA's official Teacher Appreciation Week. In honor of teachers, I thought I would share my philosophy of how sane parents work best with schools and teachers. As background, I have a BA in French and German Teaching, but chose to change fields after student teaching. I changed primarily due to the negative experiences I had dealing with parents. I made a commitment then and there to be a supportive parent for teachers. So, what does a supportive parent look like? Here are some ideas:
- First and foremost, recognize that the teacher is a trained professional who has the best interests of your child at heart. Sure, you might say there are exceptions, but you should start with the assumption that she isn't an exception. You give the teacher the benefit of the doubt, rather than asking her to prove herself to you. My father was a university professor for thirty years and he expected to be mostly left alone to run his classroom and trusted to make good choices. So, why not treat a K-12 teacher the same way? The only real difference between a university level professor and a public school teacher is more content knowledge training for college and more teaching theory training for K-12.
- Prepare your child for a good experience at school. Before kindergarten, teach them the ABCs, colors, shapes and numbers. Read to them. Teach them to respect authority and behave. Beyond that, watch for what kinds of things they naturally enjoy learning and support that. My son loved puzzles, so we bought a bunch of them. My sister's daughter taught herself to read before pre-school (this isn't required or even encouraged, in case you are wondering, but it was what my sister's daughter wanted to do). I enrolled my children in church-run pre-schools. There wasn't a lot of academic instruction there, but there was lots of playtime, good friends, and an organized routine. That's what I considered important.
- Don't be a stranger at the school. I am at my children's school at least once a week. In kindergarten, be sure and check with your child's teacher about when to come in person. Making that transition to student is sometimes easier without mom or dad around, but once they adjust I'm sure you'll be welcome. If the teacher doesn't invite your help in the classroom, eat lunch with your child. They'll like it for awhile. I went to school recently to eat lunch with my 4th grader and as I sat down, he didn't even look at me and just said, "I'll give you 20 bucks when I get home if you don't talk to me." Sigh. They grow up too fast.
- And, most importantly, do what the teacher requests of parents. I'll be the first to admit that it's challenging at first and I'm frequently forgetting to sign behavior sheets or graded papers, but I do my best. Plus, I'm in the school enough that the teachers know that I'm very available if there is any issue they want to discuss. If you need to return field trip money, do it before the deadline.
My bottom line? I like to think that it's my job to make the teacher's job easier. They are responsible for the most important people in my life. I want to keep them happy.
Thank a teacher today.