I am a parent and a teacher. My wife is a parent and a teacher. Quite a few of our friends are parents and teachers. But I also have friends who are just one of those, a teacher, or a parent.
As a parent, I hear a lot of criticism (and occasionally praise) of teachers when going to soccer practice, or dance rehearsal, or music lessons, or talking to people in the neighborhood. Sometimes parents have no clue that I’m a teacher, and sometimes they do, but use words like, “I’m sure you’re not like this, but the teachers at….”
As a teacher, I’ve heard comments about parents who are seemingly absent from the lives of their student. Or anger at parents who don’t back up the teacher. Or comments like, “I put an announcement in my weekly email to parents and they still don’t know what’s going on.”
So. Let’s break this down.
What every parent should know about teachers
I have yet to find a teacher who works a 40 hour work week.
I’ll be the first to admit that the number of hours I put in at school are less than they were before I had kids, it doesn’t mean that teachers aren’t working. We work EVERY night. Responding to student emails, parent emails, or emails from other teachers. Grading. Offering feedback that doesn’t get read by most students because too often they only care about the grade at the end. Planning for tomorrow and next week and beyond. Reading books about teaching. Reading books that our students are reading. Participating in professional development whether it is course works, webinars, or Twitter chats. There isn’t a night or weekend that goes by where we aren’t working.
When we are at school, we have to be “on.”
One of my good friends not in education told me once how when she didn’t feel like working, she could watch YouTube clips of American Idol. If she wanted to go shopping at lunch, she could. If she wasn’t feeling great, she could work a little slower, or, position herself in her cubicle the right way, and take a quick nap. I know that is not the case for every job, but…
That is something we can’t do. If we’re tired, we deal. If we have a pounding migraine, we deal. There are 30 students who need our attention. And, sure, we can do quieter activities and tell students that our head hurts. I’m sure they won’t come up and ask a thousand questions.
It doesn’t matter whether we are in physical pain or emotional pain (and like everyone else, we have emotional pain), we have to be “on” for those students. That means staying patient with them, giving them all the attention they need, and making sure that the 40 minutes (or all day in elementary classrooms) are as good as they can be for the students in my room.
We have nothing to gain by making your child suffer.
We don’t assign homework to ruin your family’s weekend. We assign homework to give students a chance to learn new material or practice a skill.
There are times when teachers will call home to let you know of an unfortunate incident at school. Excessive talking, bullying, academic integrity questions. Rather than attack the teacher who is making what they know is an unpleasant call, hear them out and ask yourself the question, “is there a reason why the teacher would make a false accusation about my child?” You know the answer already.
Teachers have very little to gain by making these calls. We don’t enjoy making them. I have never known teachers who truly pride themselves based on how many times they make phone calls, give detentions, referrals, etc. We gain nothing by getting your child in trouble.
What every teacher should know about parents
While you may be responsible for 30 (or 180) students, we really care about ours.
We get that there are lots of students in your classes. We understand that there are some students that need extra attention due to academic needs, emotional need, or behavioral needs. But, our child is your student too, and we expect that you treat him/her not just with respect and dignity, but with compassion and care. You need to know our child – his/her likes and dislikes, hobbies, family situation. Even if our child isn’t the most outgoing, you are acting en loco parentis, in our place to meet our child’s needs, and you need to do everything you can to get to know what makes him/her tick.
We don’t always read every email that goes out.
We love that you take the time to send a weekly newsletter. We really do. But, no, we don’t read them all. The template ones look the same every week, and to be honest, it seems like they say the same things every week.
Tell us what we need to know. It doesn’t need to be cute, it just needs to give us the essentials. Tweet out what you are doing – then I know it is concise and to the point. Or, if you really want to do a weekly newsletter, have our kids write it. Have them explain to us what is going on. We are far more likely to read what our students are excited about.
Our children are more than just your student.
We know that your content is really important to you. You’ve made a career out of that content. It is your passion. But it might not be my our student’s passion. And that has to be okay.
Our students also have other classes that have homework. Your content does not have a monopoly on their homework. They can’t spend an hour on your class every night. If every teacher operated like that they would have 5-6 hours of homework a night. And that brings me to my final point…
Your student is our son/daughter. We like to have meals with them. We like to watch TV with them. We’d like to talk to them. Our children are involved in after school sports, clubs, and music programs. They have part-time jobs. They have FRIENDS! We often hear that being a student is a full time job, but should it be? Shouldn’t our children still have the chance to be a kid?
So there you go. What every parent needs to know about teachers, and what every teacher needs to know about parents. Feel free to share this with your friends who are teachers and your friends who are parents. What did I miss? Leave a comment below and let me know!