Monday, August 08, 2005

Teachers: Your Partners

Lately when I walk into Wal-Mart a little thrill runs through me. Why? Because at the door are the school supply lists for the elementary schools. Just around the aisle are the pencils, the paper, the notebooks, crayons, rulers, and glue—evidence that in a few weeks moms and dads all over the United States will be dropping their children off at school.

Although my children have graduated and one has children of her own, I still feel the old excitement. I remember the anticipation of having some “free time” after a summer of five children 24/7. That feeling lasted a couple of weeks, maybe three at the most. Then I found myself wanting to partner with their teachers and work together as a team.

As I worked with my children’s teachers, I gained a new understanding—a new perspective—of their world. Teaching isn’t a 9-5 job. It is a lot like my job as a mother, 24/7. They work nights and weekends. None that I know get paid overtime. One unique thing about being a teacher is you are answering to more than your direct supervisors. If a teacher has thirty students, he or she is answering to thirty parents. And not all the parents are supportive.

Are all teachers saints? No. However, they may have started that way. But after being held responsible because little Johnny failed his spelling test—let alone that when he was home he played video games and watched television never once having the parent practice the words with him—or having to spend extra time with little Susie because she doesn’t get enough sleep, or little Taylor who is a discipline problem at school and at home, a teacher over the years may lose heart.

That is why I volunteer. Teachers are not to take the place of parents but to partner with them in education. Parents are teachers,too. They should also be child experts where their own children are concerned. I have a few suggestions of ways to partner with teachers. If you have any to add to the list, please leave them in a comment and I will be glad to list them. This year make it your goal to “Partner with your child’s or children’s teachers” no matter if it is elementary to high school. Your kids will be the real winners!

1. Write a brief bio about your child. In a classroom of twenty or more children, it is a daunting task of knowing each child. I sent a note to each of my children’s teachers describing their personality, their siblings and their birth order, likes and dislikes, learning style, and in the case of my son Charles whose eyes-what some callbedroom eyes-always made him look sleepy, I’d inform his teacher that he is getting enough sleep, he just looks like he doesn’t. I had to revise my note in Jr. High to read, “he gets enough sleep and he’s not on drugs!” You might also want to tell of any food allergies or health information and any family problems that could affect your child.

2. Ask the teacher how you can help him or her.

3. When shopping, pick up extra pencils, paper, and crayons and give them to the teacher. Often times when a student runs out, she or he pays for them from their own pocketbook.

4. If at all possible, never miss a meeting with your teacher. Try not to be defensive on your child’s behalf. There have been times that the truth was hard for me to hear, especially when it came in the form of venting from a frustrated teacher. This is where knowing your child really helps. There did come a time when the accusations pointed at one of my children didn’t add up.
It didn’t do any good to get angry or argue with the teacher. Instead we spoke with the principle and counselor and resolved the problem. Always try to remember there are two sides to every situation. The important thing is to handle yourself with dignity and integrity. Believe me, I’ve done it with and without

Those two character traits always achieve better results.

5. Spend time at home doing something school related with your child. Reviewing spelling word or information for a test. Correcting wrong answers on a test. I found that this time didn’t need to be long and drawn out. My children had spent the entire day in the classroom and didn’t need to spend all evening there as well. But, by spending a few minutes communicated to them that I considered school important and supported them.

6. Read to your children. Turn off that television!! It drains creativity and quality time from the family.

7. Play card or board games with your children. It makes them think and is great for family communication.

How about you? Any ideas? Be sure this school year to let your teachers know how much you appreciate them. They are not babysitters, they are people who want to join you in producing productive members in society.

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