Parents, We Teachers Really Want to Work with You!

I wrote this article almost 9 years ago (reprinted with permission from JSOnline, August 27, 2005), and I believe it is just as timely now as it was then.  With Common Core, standards based grading and an onslaught of new initiatives, I hope you feel this advice is practical for everyone involved in education!

This is an exciting, almost anxious time as your son or daughter enters high school or begins another year of academia.

The transition from middle school to high school or the continuing scholarly journey can be overwhelming for some young people.

Sometimes, we parents forget what high school was really like or choose not to remember how desperately we wanted to fit in – socially, academically or athletically.

I would bet if I asked several parents if they wanted to go back to high school, the answer for many would be “no!”  With that said, allow me in my role as a teacher to give you some advice on how this expedition can be less frightening – for both you and your child.

I want to help your child succeed.  Really I do.  Your child has numerous gifts and talents that the world needs.

Whether my student is a budding artist or a geometry whiz, beauty and brains do make the world go round.  Allow your child the time and patience to find these gifts and reflect on them.  Don’t rush.

Mom, if you were a “poet” in ninth grade, maybe your daughter won’t that have talent.  And that’s OK.  If she loves physical education and is a great long jumper and she’s good at it (and even if she’s not), let’s allow her to have a talent that is uniquely hers.  Give her time.

Regarding the importance of time, my assignments will be given with the thought that students are working on them ever day. Some assignments might be due the following day, some might be long-term projects.

Ask your son or daughter what the assignment is and monitor his or her nightly work toward that assignment.  Let them know that you expect they will do the very best they can on their homework, tests, presentations and long jumps.  Let’s discover what your child enjoys or where he or she might need some help.

If your son had struggled in his English class last year or there had been a personality conflict with a previous teacher, let it go.  This is a new year, a new beginning, an opportunity for great things.

When the assignment is due, I will grade it.  I will be honest and just, keeping your child’s capabilities in mind when I grade.  However, if the work is poorly done, the grade will reflect it.

Please don’t call me and ask me to regrade the assignment because your child didn’t understand the directions or ask me to regrade the assignment because I am ‘unfair.”

If she is unclear, your daughter should come to me and tell me.  I would be most happy to sit down with her after the assignment is given, offering help with the directions and getting her started.

But she has to come to me.  Let’s permit her that first step toward independence.  I have told students when I’m available for help, and it is also on their syllabus.  If she doesn’t want to seek help, that is up to her.  But trust me, I’d love to help her.

If your son has earned a poor grade on an assignment, he might tell you I’m not fair.

He’s right.  I’m not.  Every single (key word: single) child in my room is an individual and must be treated as an individual.  Therefore what is good for one may not be good for another.

I might give a student an extra day to turn in his assignment because his dog was hit by a car the night before.  That’s being compassionate and human.  Did your son hear the entire story ro did he hear that another student got a “break” and he did not?

I suggest we give any circumstance a 24-hour grace period and see if things change.  On any given day, I might have left my broom at home or my tiara in the car.  It all depends on how one looks at it.

Next, I’m asking that you believe only half of whatever story your son or daughter tells you in car pool or at the dinner table.  Most likely, they will tell you what I said during the course of the class period.

I’m here to tell you that I have been misquoted.  Would you like me to tell you what your son or daughter said that you said last night?

We’ve got to be careful here.  Students tend to dramatize, embellish and generally make up stuff if they think it will save them or get some kind of rise out of you or their friends.

Again, let’s implement my 24-hour-grace period here just to see if the “facts” change.

After 14 years of teaching, I know what I’m doing. I am certified in my subject area.  I have taken classes beyond my initial certification.  Therefore, I am not “stupid,” and I haven’t “lost it.”

I really encourage you to read the directions and assignments coming home.

If you need further clarification, talk to your son or daughter.  Ask him or her what is going on in class.  Encourage your daughter to raise her hand and ask the question.  Again, I want to help whenever I can.

There are reasons for the assessments given in class.  I will explain to my students why they are doing this particular assignment or that particular speech.  If they can’t tell you, then by all means give me a call and I will explain my rationale.

As Polonius stated in Hamlet, “Thought this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”  I wouldn’t necessarily call it “madness,” but I would call it “method.”

Most important, allow your son or daughter to fail – please.  Failure, believe it or not, is a good thing.  It helps us realize we may need to work a little harder to be successful.

It shows us that Mom or Dad will not do everything for us, and it tells us that the next time will be that much easier.  As your child’s teacher, my goal is progress.  Has progress been shown over the quarter, the semester, the year?

Again, it takes time to learn anything.  Allow your child the time to fail, learn and be successful.

It is going to be OK – really, it is.  If there is a problem, we will meet and discuss the issue.  Until then, permit your son or daughter that step toward adulthood.

Finally, I can’t say it any more bluntly than this – chill out.  I will watch over your children.  I will be with them for an entire period – for an entire year.  We will work together.  I will take care of them.

I encourage you to call me if you think there is a problem so we can work it out together (after you allowed the 24-hour grace period.  Please don’t micromanage your kids.

We teachers call parents like those “helicopter” parents because all they do is hover.  I’m encouraging you to find a safe landing pad and watch your son or daughter sprout their own wings in high school.

Trust me, it will be an exhilarating flight!