Back to School

5 Things Teachers Want Parents To Know

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:

Back to School

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.

Why The Boy in the Hoodie Needs Public Education

 

Somewhere there’s an AP Lit teacher dressed as Shakespeare so that he can greet his Seniors at 6am and get them excited for learning.  Somewhere there’s a theatre teacher who just turned the lights to her classroom out at 9pm just to turn them back on at 6:30am.  As she walks to her door, she sees a student sitting there with the same hoodie he wore yesterday, the same hoodie he wears everyday, earphones in and a look of darkness and despair.  She feels herself get heavy as she approaches him, a little because she has so much to do and can’t leave students in her room unattended but more because every morning he’s waiting by her door and every morning she lets him in, only to be greeted by coldness and silence.  Today he actually speaks, just to complain he has to start a Shakespeare unit in English, why does he have to learn about a guy wrote stupid love stories over 300 years ago?  The teacher gives a passionate response that includes themes and lessons and the fact that The Baird actually has a lot of provocative innuendos for those keen enough to pick up on them.  A smile cracks his lips as other students start to filter into the room.  

Ready or not, the show begins and the drama teacher puts on a 6 hour performance…. That’s what teaching is, or good teaching anyway.  You are on stage period after period giving the audience what they need and feeding off their energy to make it the greatest performance of all time.  The main difference between broadway and classroom teachers, is that every day there’s a new show with very little rehearsal time in between.  

 

After school the AP Lit teacher stops by the drama classroom to talk about the student.  He had his hoodie up and his earphones in all period, does this happen to every teacher or just him?  The AP Lit teacher goes on to explain how lively the lesson was, he was all dressed up for goodness sake.  Maybe he took it a little personal that this kid showed no interest but he was going to call home and speak with his mother.  Both teachers agreed that he should not be in AP classes if he’s not going to do the work and that his disconnected behavior is concerning.  They rang the number on file together but there was no answer.

The drama teacher thought about the boy in the hoodie all night.  She talked to her friends about him over dinner.  About how tired she was and how busy her mornings are, yet she finds herself consumed by him.  When her mother called, she mentioned her conversation with the AP Lit teacher… “I just don’t understand why he even comes to school if he doesn’t care!”  

And then, lying in bed thinking of ways to get through to him, it came to her.  He comes to school because it’s all he has. The boy in the hoodie met the drama teacher at her door at 6:30 the next morning.  She let him in as she always did and he had the usual tormented look.  She asked him about Shakespeare.  He told her that his teacher dressed up and it was really cool.  Cool?  He also mentioned that they would be reading the play Hamlet and that he actually liked plays.  Maybe he could be in her next production, behind the scenes or something?  He doesn’t have anything to do after school and he’s always there early.  “Yes,” was all she could say.  

The boy in the hoodie was her most reliable student and although she didn’t get her copies made every morning, and often had to listen to him go on about his other classes, she felt being there with him served a purpose greater than having a perfect lesson.  She always preferred the impromptu lessons anyway.  

The boy was socially awkward and often got bullied for wearing the same hoodie everyday.  He still put his earphones in and often got in trouble by his teachers for defiance.  His grades slipped and he failed all of his state tests, simply because he refused to take them.  Yet he was the drama teacher’s most reliable stagehand.  He arrived early (albeit too early) and she actually had to kick him out every evening.  He came to school everyday because it was better than the life he faced at home.

His father was an alcoholic and his mother left 3 days before the school year began.  His father lost his job, due to alcoholism and spent the day passed out, when he was actually home.  There were times he left for days at a time and the boy often wondered whether he would come back at all.  There was nobody to take him to the store and buy food for him and he had no means of washing his clothes.  He once stole money from another student’s backpack to pay the utility bill.  This is what he told a social worker when his case was finally investigated after no parental contact was made all year.  

The boy in the hoodie would continue to fight but school made him feel safe.  His drama teacher gave him a warm classroom to enter through everyday and through his role in the play, he had a purpose.  His AP Lit teacher made him smile and even when he was getting in trouble, he felt cared for.  School was his escape and his teachers were his saviors.  
This is what public education is for.