Making Life Good For Your Kids’ Teachers

You know what really annoys an internet advice columnist? Not being able to connect to the internet to post her column because her internet just didn’t seem to work. Grr.

OTOH, not posting this last night or this morning gave you guys a chance to really work over the toenail polish issue, which I’d thought was just a "let’s not think of anything to stressful on a Wednesday" topic. 45 responses! And I can’t believe I never thought of using blue or green polish.

But now for today’s post, which was supposed to go up this morning:

I want to pull out a comment from frequent commenter Maura, who used to be a classroom teacher. I’m just going to repost her advice, but the whole comment is here.

Back to School Thoughts for Parents from a Former Teacher:

1) If your family can afford to eat out once a week, please consider
doing a good deed and buying an extra set of school supplies for
children who can’t afford them at the same time that you buy your
child’s school supplies. Drop them off to your child’s teacher. There
WILL be a child in your child’s class who can’t afford the supplies.
Your child’s teacher spends hundreds of dollars of her/his own money
every year on class supplies, and anything you can donate discreetly
will be greatly appreciated.

2) Please don’t be upset or feel slighted if you spontaneously stop
by after school and your child’s teacher doesn’t seem to want to talk
for 45 minutes about everything that concerns you about the upcoming
year. The first week of school is impossibly busy for teachers – I’d
take home at least 5 or 6 hours of work every night and still not come
close to finishing. If you want to stop in and introduce yourself, that
is great! If you want to have an extended conversation, please make an
appointment so your child’s teacher can schedule his time and plan

3) Please, please, please thank the teachers who take the time to
meet with you for extended conferences. I usually taught a total of
between 125 and 140 students a year. I only got one 45-minute planning
period per day, and that was for all of my lesson planning, evaluation,
grading, recordkeeping, and parent communication. Just spending one
hour with every parent eats up my entire year of planning time.
Teachers who show that much dedication are volunteering their time for
your child. Please appreciate that.

3) Please do not treat an A- or a B as a crisis. A B is GOOD. A C is
AVERAGE. If your child receives an A- on a paper, that is a great
achievement. Please do not demand a conference and bring your
educational diagnostician to argue that your child deserves an A.

4) If your child has 50 books in his bookcase at home and he only
really loves 5 of them, please consider donating the other 45 to your
local school. Every classroom is enhanced by a classroom library. If
your child is not rereading a book regularly, another child would love
to read it.

5) If your child is assigned a creative, fun, and interesting
project that you think is educationally valuable, it probably took your
child’s teacher many, many hours to create it and prepare it. Teaching
is a lonely profession with few extrinsic rewards. A quick email
saying, "Hey, that was such a cool project! My son really enjoyed
it!!!!" takes 2 minutes to write and will be remembered by your son’s
teacher for years.

6) Teaching your child to be polite, honest, and compassionate is
the greatest gift you can give to a teacher. Forget the cheese balls
and #1 Teacher! mugs at Christmastime. If your child says, "Please",
"Thank you", and "Excuse me" and "I’m sorry" on a regular basis, you’ve
already given us priceless gifts

7) If your child really wants to give a gift to his or her teacher,
that is a wonderful thing. And believe me, we appreciate it. The
greatest gift your child can give is a handwritten letter — something
like, "Ms. Maura, this is my favorite class. I really loved the project
we did on X. I’m always going to remember you because of X. Thank you
for teaching me X." Once I got a phone call from a student a year after
I taught him from across the country where he had moved, just to thank
him for teaching him grammar. That was one of the best phone calls of
my life!

8) If you really want to buy a gift, please please please no cheese
balls and teacher mugs or tchochkes or ornaments. The most appreciated
gifts I ever got were books, office supplies, or gift cards to Borders
and Staples. I spent so much on books and school supplies that those
gift cards were very, very, very, very much appreciated and put to
great use.

8) Again, if you can afford to take your family out to dinner on a
regular basis, and you often purchase books from a bookstore rather
than go to the library, please consider picking up an extra book of the
same type and donating it to your child’s school.

9) A lot of really awesome, incredible, motivated, inspiring
teachers become burned out, dispirited, discouraged, and less
enthusiastic over the years because their effort and hard work is not
noticed or seems to be unappreciated, and the undone work, the
staggering weight of the unmet needs of students and the problems in a
school system become overwhelming. Worse, most parents only call school
to complain, not to praise. If your child has a great teacher, someone
he or she loves, someone who inspires a love of learning in your child,
please help to invest in that person, not just for your child’s sake,
but for the sake of all the children that person might teach in the
future. Go to school board meetings and advocate for better schools for
your child. Support the efforts of teachers to improve learning
conditions in your child’s school. If your child’s teacher takes the
time to call home and talk to you regularly, thank them. If they call
to tell you good news, thank them. Tell your child’s principal when
your child’s teacher does great work.

10) Your child’s teacher is a partner with you in caring about your
child’s learning. Treat them as a partner, not a boss or a servant.

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