This is the first year, I did not spend the first day of school greeting 120 new students into my classroom, but instead was able to take my own children to school on the first day.
As a high school teacher, I spent my nights grading rather than helping my own kids with their homework. On the weekends I was planning lessons rather than playing at the park. Summers were spent in unpaid trainings to help keep my professional certificates current. While every job has it’s demands, there is no greater responsibility that being in charge of the growth and development of hundreds of children, other than my own.
I left teaching last year for many reasons, and lack of support is a big one. Here are 5 things I wish I could have told my student’s parents:
1. Teachers need your help at home
They need you to be there for your kids, in regard to learning, as they are every day. For an hour a day, provide time and attention at home as a teacher would (no phones, TV, etc.). Make a space at home that feels safe and welcoming so they can focus. Take an interest in what your child is learning in school. Look at their grades online, talk to them about the obstacles they are facing, and if you can’t help with school work, don’t be ashamed. Reach out to you child’s teacher for resources such as tutoring, counseling, or online help. Most of the time, an hour a day of parental involvement will stop issues at school.
2. Teachers are NOT your enemy
They want your child to succeed, not just because they care (and they really do), but because many times your child’s progress impacts their pay and school funding. Teachers begin fitting the standards to your unique child on Day 1. If you feel a teacher “has it out” for your child, listen to his/her concerns and find out what interventions or accommodations have been made. Come up with some solutions as a team and work together to help your child.
3. Teachers hold professional degrees
While the pay is much different, earning a teaching degree can be compared to a degree in law or in the medical field. In addition to a college degree, teachers must complete 6 months of an unpaid internship and pass two very lengthy, difficult exams in order to be granted a teaching license. They must earn professional certificates in addition to their degree. These certificates include teaching students with learning disabilities and English Language Learners. Once hired, all teachers must take classes every year in order to keep up with the current trends and to keep their teaching license current.
4. Busy is an understatement
Think of what it’s like at the worst possible hour in your house and then multiply it by 100. This is what teacher’s endure every day. From planning lessons, to executing them properly for each individual child, to managing behavior, grading papers, lunch room or bus duty, your child’s teacher has an enormous amount of responsibility. A secondary public school teacher interacts with over 200 teenagers everyday, have a little mercy on them when it comes to returning an email right away.
5. There are times your child’s teacher has no control
I have never met a teacher who isn’t teaching BECAUSE of his/her students. While they continue to put their student’s needs first, people of power are trying to fit every child into one single mold and capitalize off education. New standards, lack of textbooks and resources, mandated state testing, new teacher accountability requirements, all mean added paperwork for our teachers and less time with students.
One parent at open house started yelling at the teacher because her textbook was online. She didn’t tell the parent the state cut school funds and stopped providing books, instead she defended the accessibility of an online resource. Most times, teachers cannot speak out and must teach within the perimeters they are given. Concerns regarding funding, standards, testing, etc. should be dealt with in voting booths, not classrooms.
Teachers and parents both want our children to succeed. We want our kids to go on to be caring, smart, productive members of society, but in order for this to happen, we must start working together.
I have never stopped referring to my former students as my kids, even though some of them have graduated from college and are now my peers. They will forever be in my heart and that is the reward of teaching that I will miss the most.