Teachers have a tough gig. They are responsible for children and young adults for long periods of time, while juggling the roles of educators, disciplinarians, advocates, and listeners. How do they handle it all? Hopefully one way is by having understanding parents, who realize their kids are not perfect and that teachers are allowed to be human.
Teaching is a profession that receives so much feedback. The state, the federal government, parents, guardians, students, administrators, and more are always weighing in on the best way to operate a classroom. My kiddos are currently tackling (or have recently conquered) the preschool era of life, but I am a big planner and constantly look towards the future. Therefore in addition to collecting information from preschool teachers, I also connected with some elementary, middle/high school, and college educators to ask them the question of: What do teachers really want parents to know?
I was pleasantly surprised to hear a lot of comments about reading when education gurus answered this question for me. It does not matter if the pupil is two-years-old or twenty-years old; almost everyone I interviewed said that reading was vital to learning. A special education teacher could not emphasize the importance of reading enough to me. She said, The ability to read is truly one of the most important gifts we can give to our children. I thought this was a powerful statement, because it is easy for me to take for granted my love of reading, and I always just assume my kids will enjoy it. Reading early and often to your kids seems to be the key to success. My older brother has been out of the teaching field for awhile, but I remember him telling me (before any one of us ever even had kids of our own) that if we wanted to have smart children…well then we had better read to them, A LOT. It is something that has always stuck with me.
Reading is also a skill that connects all curriculum. Students have to read in English class, as well as in their science, foreign language, and math courses. One high school teacher pointed out to me that Just by reading to your kids, you can open soooooooo many doors in all curricular levels.
TALKING TO YOUR KIDS
A lot of teachers offered feedback regarding making sure parents are really talking to their kids, and by “talking” they want parents to include good acts of interpersonal communication skills; which means parents are fully listening and asking adequate follow-up questions. By conversing well with our children, we learn more about a situation. If a youngster of mine asks a specific question, before automatically giving the answer, I was advised by a preschool teacher that I should consider turning the question around to see what my little one is thinking. I needed to hear this because sometimes giving the quick response ceases the conversation and lets me keep zooming along with our day, but really what is wrong with a bit more in-depth discussion?
The “talking” pointer also helps as kids get older and become surrounded by conflict. Many educators mentioned that there are typically “two sides to every story”, so by really talking to your kids, a parent will get to know all of the players in the conflict. Following up with questions and really working to understand what is happening could also help all involved to keep a level head. I know it is hard to resist the urge to go “Mama Bear” right away, however usually after the first few sentences (and a few deep breaths) those animal instincts can be better suppressed as we listen and encourage our kiddos to use good problem solving skills.
When my oldest and I were reading an A to Z Mysteries chapter book, there was a sentence in the story that used the word “lame” to describe a character’s attempt at jumping. (I think this is how the plot went, but a lot of mommy moments have happened since this one, so bear with me.) My daughter asked me what the word lame meant. It was close to bedtime and we were all tired, so I gave a very brief response by saying “Oh it just means silly” and we went on to finish the chapter. The next day at school, my daughter was sitting across from two friends and they were being silly at lunch. She told them they were “acting lame” and both of her friends were offended. My daughter came home in tears and was worried they would never play with her again. She was also concerned that she would be in trouble with her teacher. I felt awful because the whole thing was my fault. I hadn’t really addressed her question in terms of truly defining “lame” and I also had not turned it around to make sure she understood the nature of this word. That was a lesson learned on my part and the second time around, I did take additional time to make sure I knew what was happening regarding this scenario. I proactively contacted my daughter’s teacher and from there it was handled in the best possible way. That teacher took the time to hear all sides. She did a mini-conference with my girl and her friends to discuss what had happened, and to explain that my daughter thought she was calling them silly in a friendly manner. By the end of their talk all three kids were laughing and there were no hard feelings.
My two-year-old is in a real struggle for independence right now. He wants to be a “big boy” so badly that it threatens my schedule and sanity. My toddler wants to pick out his own clothes, put them on all by himself, and also open every door between our house and the great beyond. All of this would be great if he was just a bit older and did not constantly try to put his head through the arm-sleeve hole of his shirt. It would also help if he did not continually think it was acceptable to put his underwear on backwards and his shoes on the wrong feet. I routinely hear my little one yell, “I do it!”. While all of this independent behavior can sometimes give me a headache, I felt much better after hearing teachers tell me that promoting independence is a really great thing. Preschool teachers want students that at least try to do things on their own, because it makes classroom life a bit easier. It also encourages children to be better problem solvers, and that is the first step in adequately preparing kiddos for adulthood.
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE FUTURE
Multiple college educators told me that problem solving is vital for undergraduates, and it is something that needs to be taught very early in life. I think good problem solving skills can come directly from promoting independence. After talking with so many educators, I realized that sometimes the best thing parents can do is back-off a little. Parents should not do everything for their kids, because then, when those children head off for college or their first job they may get stuck in an existence that won’t accommodate them. Several college professors told me that it is annoying and upsetting to have a student constantly ask for information and help that has already been addressed in the syllabus. To quote one educator, Sometimes the answer is right there, if they’d just explore a bit. Promoting independence also can help us parents learn boundaries when it comes to our children. I have heard stories from college instructors regarding parents contacting professors on their child’s behalf and posting on-line assignments for their kids. I even heard once that a mom was checking her child’s email for them to make sure they didn’t miss anything regarding an internship. Are you kidding me? How can that child expect to survive undergrad or ever get a job, if they can’t be bothered to check their own email?
Finally the number one thing I heard after briefly poking into a teacher’s mindset is that they care. The ones I know see beyond state assessments and tests. They look past budget cuts and spend their own time and money to reach their students. I know teachers get burnt out and not all of them have the picture perfect personality that will fit with my child’s demeanor. However, I think the majority of educators want to see their students succeed. That is the goal for every single teacher I personally know, and I truly thank them for that.