Our children are our biggest assets. I don’t think any person could argue this point. When it comes to education, we’ve all got a stake in it no matter who we are or where we live. How to properly educate our kids is debated everywhere frequently (maybe not enough in congress, sadly). Education is how we ensure our future is bright and our citizens are enlightened. The most important element in education is the child, but the other two elements need to be there for success. The teacher and the parent should have a relationship in order for a child to succeed, and when everyone is on board, students soar.
This topic was an interesting one. As a veteran educator, you would think it would be an easy question. However, I had never truly thought about this in a comprehensive way before now. While researching for this post, I made sure to ask preschool, elementary, middle, and high school teachers just what exactly would help children in the classroom.
Preschool and Elementary
I was very invested in the answers to the questions at this level. My children are currently in elementary and preschool, and I have crazy mom guilt about how much more I could be doing when it comes to my kids, their school and the educators instructing them. The answers I received were quite simple. Elementary teachers do not need classroom treats every other day, or students with brand new supplies each week, the overwhelming response from the teachers I asked is that they want parents to pay attention to their child. I found that the four R’s of parenting can really help these warriors of the chalkboard.
Reading: After asking three preschool and elementary teachers, educators expressed how important reading to our children is when it comes to education. Each teacher I asked said reading to and with them is the key to success early and throughout school. This helps in the classroom by enforcing the skills that they are learning at home, but it also shows kids that reading is fun throughout life.
Respect: This one is huge. Not only do educators need respect taught and reinforced at home, but respect goes a long way with parents as well. Teachers said, “Teach them how to speak to adults, how to accept feedback, how to say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’.” I would like to believe my kids do this every day, but in reality, I know I need to keep reinforcing these things at home, so that when they are away from me, they are respecting others around them. I know it’s going to take more than just sitting them in front of the radio each time Tim McGraw’s Humble and Kind comes on. Respect needs to be taught early and often before they enter the world of social media because we know respect can become a bit lost here. Teachers are working hard for our children, and these are just life skills I’d like any adult to have. Teachers should be respected for the magic they make in our little ones’ classrooms each day. Another teacher I interviewed commented on respecting teachers, “They deserve respect for just being another human, but they are also professionals who are the best in their field. That, alone, needs respect.” There is a science to being a good teacher, and respect for what is happening in the classroom from the parents is imperative. Not only do the children see this, but it also opens up professional dialogue between the parent and teacher.
Recreation and Routine: “Get your kids outside and away from the screen(s) and make it part of your routine,” pleaded a veteran elementary teacher. Nature enhances creativity, but it also gets the kids’ energy out so they can concentrate in the classroom. Our babies need fresh air. Get them into sports, have them explore, buy a swing set, do anything it takes to get them outside. I discovered a great article on Huffington Post regarding nature and how it decreases ADHD behaviors in children written by Abigail Wise, A study “compared concentration between children with ADHD who played outside, versus those who played inside, after school and on weekends. Kids who spent time in green, outdoor spaces reported fewer symptoms of ADHD, even when the exact same activities were compared.” Teachers have this right. Outdoor time can only help our kids concentrate in the classroom. In addition to getting our kids outside, educators recommended a routine that consists of homework time and a consistent bedtime.This sets them up to be the best versions of themselves during school.
Report: If something isn’t going right, if a student isn’t happy, teachers want the parents to communicate with them directly. A teacher mentioned, “So many problems can be solved with direct communication. It saves time and can prevent miscommunication.” Just like anyone else in the world, teachers like personal communication rather than parents going through a principal or another person. Thanks to email, online grading, teacher website, etc. an open communication is pretty easy.
Middle and High School Level
I expected these requests to be very different from elementary school teacher needs. However, they connected more than once.
When it comes to the secondary level, respect and communication are still so important for the success of a child. If the kids have respect already established in elementary, the battles for this are almost non-existent. Respect looks a little different in the high school classroom, but not much.The teachers I interviewed for this section taught math, social studies, and science. I am an English teacher, and I agreed with these things 100%. Respect in the high school classroom does involve “Please” and “Thank you” just like the elementary years, but it also involves respect of the lesson. Many of the teachers requested that parents do all that they can to get their children in class each day without the distractions provided by cell phones. Teachers have a goal in mind for graduation, and most of the time, that goal cannot be attained without the instruction happening in the classrooms. If the students miss a step in an equation for math, or they skip over just who that one guy was, and they mishear what plagiarism is and isn’t, it is hard for them to catch up. If the students can limit distractions, their learning can continue to improve.
Our youngsters are learning right from wrong. If they make a mistake, they need to know that parents and teachers are on the same page. The high school teachers mentioned that open communication both ways can really help this. If there is a misunderstanding between the teacher and the student, parents and teachers can connect to clear up the misunderstanding. The scaffolding that can be put into place in this situation is priceless. Most of the time, teachers are adults who also want your child to succeed. Parents need to be willing to listen to both sides of a story. Take the cell phone if it’s a problem, so that the child can learn the material. When a teacher calls home because a child is failing, working together is so much more effective than turning blame on the teacher. In most cases, educators are trying multiple techniques to try to get a child to understand. When there is a partnership, the child thrives.
I know my favorite parent stories involve the creative ways in which they support teachers. I have called home before to discuss behavior or grades, and some of the support is funny, and I’m taking MAJOR parenting notes for when I’m the parent of a high schooler. One child wasn’t doing homework, but he was having epic battles on his XBox each night. Dad took away the XBox controller, and while the student finished homework for my class, the dad played the XBox in front of him. He had homework completed for the rest of the year. That student earned a good grade in my class and his game playing privileges were restored. Another mom told her son to stop talking back, or she would make sure they arranged for an extra desk to be put in that classroom so she could sit by her son. His respect increased exponentially.
On the other side of this, once a student starts to get it or excels, support at home is incredibly effective. One girl’s mom made her favorite dinner if she did well on her vocabulary test, and another earned hours back from when she was grounded.
Kids are going to make mistakes, but if we are there on both sides to support them, I personally have never really ever seen it fail. Middle school and high school teachers agreed that support from home is priceless when it comes to the success of the child.
Overall, if the reading and outdoor playtime is put into place in elementary, and children know how to say please and thank you, then there is a road paved for success at the secondary level. Establishing a routine, supporting the teachers, and in turn, supporting the child can be a wonderful recipe for achievement with kids. You asked what teachers want from parents, but I think it’s really what society wants from everyone. Our country can’t help but thrive if we are working together to make our children reach their goals.