What Teachers Wants Parents to Know

As many students head back to school, we are facing a possible teacher shortage. Between the pandemic and recent political attacks on curriculum, teachers are stressed and considering different careers. Many teachers have already quit, and a recent teacher survey by Merrimack College discovered that 44% of teachers were likely to leave the profession within two years.

Every parent wants their child to have a successful school year, but sometimes in our desire to advocate for our children, we can push away or offend the very person who has the biggest impact on our children’s success: their teacher.

So, if we really want our children to be successful in school, we thought it would be a good idea to go right to the source, and ask teachers for their advice. Here are some teachers’ top tips to parents:

Use email. Teachers are happy to talk to parents about any concerns they have, but phone calls can be disruptive. Email is a great way to reach your child’s teacher because it’s a quick and easy way for the teacher to communicate when she has a few moments rather than playing phone tag. However, parents need to give teachers time to respond. High school teachers get hundreds of emails every day, so don’t expect a response the same day. And, parents should try to obtain information for themselves when possible, for example accessing grade websites rather than emailing the teacher for an update on your child’s grades.

Communicate in positive ways. Parents shouldn’t email only when something is wrong. Parents should try to establish positive collaboration early, before any problems arise. Let the teacher know that you want to help your child learn, and you are open to his/her advice. Ask them to contact you right away if they notice any problems or concerns. Let them know helpful information about your child, such as if they experienced a death in the family. Finally, if you are pleased with the way the teacher did something with your child or in the classroom, let them know – teachers could use the encouragement!

Give the benefit of the doubt. Teachers mean well. No one goes to college for four years to take on a low-paying job just because they want to ruin other people’s children – they entered the profession because they really want to help every child learn and thrive. While you might not like their approach, remind yourself that your child’s teacher is doing their best.

Treat teachers like professionals. Although parents know their children better than anyone, teachers have profound insight they can offer. First of all, remember that teachers work with kids every day and have seen a wide variety of learning styles, issues, and problems over the years. They have the education and experience to see things parents might not. If you work with your teacher, together you can determine the best steps forward for your child.

Be open minded. Your child may act very differently in the school environment than they do at home. When a teacher brings up a concern, listen with an open mind and consider it carefully before immediately rejecting their advice or comments, even if the behavior described is something you have never witnessed before. If your child tells you an upsetting story from the classroom, remember that you are only hearing one side of the story. When you contact the teacher, offer them the chance to tell their side.

Avoid negative comments. Never bad-mouth the teacher in front of your child. If your child hears you mutter, “that teacher doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” or “your teacher should never have done that,” then your child learns to disrespect the teacher, creating a very rough relationship in the classroom.

Encourage responsibility. In every child’s school career, they will make mistakes. Sometimes your child will fail a test, forget their homework, or act up in class. This is a normal part of life, and an excellent learning opportunity for taking responsibility for their actions and learning from their mistakes. Parents are eager to protect their children from troubles – it’s a natural instinct – but if we jump to their defense at every turn, we will be robbing our children of the chance to develop responsibility and learn from their actions. When a child does not perform the way they should in class, parents should refrain from trying to excuse, defend or rescue them. By defending their inability to get homework done or their behavior problem, parents in effect teach them to reject responsibility. Instead, parents should focus on solving the problem and allowing their children to navigate these issues and learn the deeper lessons. Most importantly, if there’s a problem, we should encourage our teen to talk to their teacher first before we get involved.

Stay involved. Many parents that were highly involved in elementary schools, back off when their child enters middle or high school. Although teens are more self-sufficient and act like they don’t want you anywhere near them, this is not the time to take your hands off the parenting wheel when your teen is facing so much more stress, such as intense peer pressure. Take the time to know their friends, their teachers, and their schedules.

Let them go. Even though you should stay involved in your child’s life, do not micromanage your child’s education. School is your child’s job, not yours. Your job is to teach them how to be successful, not do it for them. So, if your child is having trouble with something, talk him through the process. Teach him steps to take to solve the problem himself. For example, if your teen can’t seem to stay organized, then recommend he use color-coordinated folders, notebooks and composition books for different subjects and show him how to set goals and action steps to meet deadlines.

Know the difference between learning and grades. Most people can recall in their high school career at least one class where they received an “A” but didn’t learn anything, and at least one other class where they really struggled for their grade but learned a great deal. Grades are not always the best indicator of learning. If we only focus on our child’s grades, we actually create students that avoid risk and challenge. Instead, parents should ask their teen what they are curious about or what they want to learn next to instill a love of lifelong learning.

Recognize teaching requires long hours. Parents have been known to accuse teachers of having an easy schedule because the school day only lasts 7 hours get a couple of months off in the summer. However, that is not the full picture. Teachers arrive well before and stay after school. Many of them grade assignments over the weekends. Most take classes to renew their teaching certifications over the summer. Some have to take part-time jobs over the summer just to make ends meet.

Final Thoughts…

Your child’s teacher is your partner in your child’s academic life. You are on the same team, working towards the same goals. If you look at your child’s teachers as a support system, your child will have a much better chance to succeed.

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