Monday, September 9, 2013

Teach... what parents need to know.

On September 6th, I recorded the documentary Teach.  It's a look into the lives of 5 teachers over the 2012-2013 school year.

I only got half way in before I needed to turn things off and come to work, but what I did see left me with all sorts of feelings.

You see, I liked being a teacher.

Well... until my deficiencies made it PAINFULLY obvious that I wasn't an effective teacher. Then I realized that I needed a new path.

I watched the teachers on the documentary struggle with large classes, and skill levels that are all over the map.  And as far as I've seen, there were no special needs students in the mix.

I've been on the receiving end of parent anger.  I've had my friends vent to me about the teachers their children have.  I understand the frustration, from both sides.  I understand that maybe your child's needs aren't being met.  And I understand that you'd like to meet all the children't needs... if you had the extra time and resources.  I understand what it's like to teach in a class with reading levels that range from pre-K to 9th grade (and that was in a 5th grade classroom).  I understand that at times between the meetings, data and testing that things can get forgotten and lost.  And I know what it's like to be a parent when your kids get lost.

I know every teacher and administrator would love to just be able to hold up this sign when the parent comes storming in:

So parents... here's some handy tips when talking with your children't teachers:

  1. Don't come in spoiling for a fight.  Yes, Johnny may have gotten picked on, but the teacher might not know it (kids can be sneaky!).  He may have failed his math test.  If you come in guns blazing, the teacher is going to spend all of her time and energy getting you calm that starting to fix the problem moves way down the list of priorities.
  2. Please don't threaten or demand.  It accomplishes nothing.  Ask how can you help to resolve the situation.  Demanding or threatening makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution.
  3. Realize that sometimes the classroom teacher can't do anything about the particular problem.  This is usually the case with Special Ed services.  She'll do what she can, but you as the parent might want to start kicking that particular problem up the chain.
  4. Read every notice and test and flyer that comes home.  I had parents that were SHOCKED when their kid wasn't doing well on the interim report.  Well, you signed every failing test.... didn't you realize this too?  Usually I got a call from an outraged parent about 3 hours before I was planning to call to get their help in formulating a plan.  
  5. Please realize that your child is one of MANY.  And there is only one of the teacher.  And as aids and volunteers get pulled from classrooms it is becoming challenging to cater to everyone's individual needs.  I assure you, no teacher wants their student to fail.
  6. For the love of god, don't steal the authority of the teacher away.  When you mock or severely criticize a teacher in front of your children, it takes away the teacher's authority.  You've said that they don't need to do what the teacher says.   Then you wonder why there are behavior issues.  And please, never, ever say: you don't have to listen to the teacher.  I actually had that happen once.  
  7. Listen, take notes, ask for follow up (giving dates if necessary).  Please be open to email communication.  (It's easier to shoot off an email than to call).  

At times I wish I could apologize to every student that I ever had.  Apologize for being such a crappy teacher.

(I also wish some of my administrators would apologize to me too... for not getting me the help that I asked for)

But can we as a nation stop vilifying teachers?  


Mia said...

This is such a great post! Now that my son is in Kindergarten (and no longer in daycare where every room has like 1 or 2 assistants), I am very mindful of trying to stay informed and read every piece of paper I get my hands on. And also remembering that his teacher has 24 other kids in her class. Thanks for sharing this.

Meari said...

Thanks Mia!