Sunday, May 26, 2013

12 Things Your Child's Teacher Wanted to Tell You...But Couldn't

Please help me give this week's guest a warm welcome!  She helps us all have a new perspective on what many teachers would like all parents to know.  Enjoy!

Hey y'all! I'm Christina and I blog over at The Scrappy Housewife. Before I was a blogger though, I was a teacher. At the time, there were many things I wanted to share with parents, but couldn't, so when Jenny asked me to guest post, I knew this could be my only chance! Below, you'll find a list of twelve things that teachers desperately want you to know, but don't often have the opportunity to tell you. I hope you will be encouraged by it and that it helps you and your child grow in your walk through their education.

1. We don't like those standardized tests either - There's a lot of talk these days about standardized testing and how teachers "teach to the test". The sad truth of that is that yes, we do. Often, we have no choice. Teachers are often faced with losing their jobs if students don't perform to a certain level OR we're required to check off a thousand boxes in a set list of standards.

With that said, testing is necessary. Teachers know that we need to assess a student's progress, but it should only be a tool, not the make or break, stress inducer it has become. No child should be anxious or stressed out by a test.

2. Grades aren't everything - We get it, you want your child to make all "A"s. We want that too. Really. But we also really want you to know that a C in second grade doesn't mean your child won't get into a good college. And a C isn't a "bad" grade either. I had a wonderful administrator once who told parents that C means "average" - it means your child is where they should be for their age and grade level­. If your child is making all "A"s, that often means that they're exceeding what's required. Children, especially those in the primary grades (K - 3), are still very young and grades are often not the full picture of what they are learning.

What we as teachers really want to see is progress. As long as your child is progressing, learning and improving, we feel they are successful. We want you to feel that way too. We want you to celebrate progress and not just a letter on a piece of paper.

3. Your child probably isn't gifted or in need of special education - Along with grades, we want you to know that making all "A"s on a report card does not mean that your child is "gifted". Gifted children (those meeting the requirements for gifted and talented programs) meet a very specific set of requirements and grades are only a very small part of that.

In that same vein, if your child is making Cs consistently, that doesn't mean they need special education services. Just like the Gifted and Talented program, special education has a very specific set of requirements and grades only play a small role in the decision to place a child in special services. Remember, Cs really mean that your child is meeting grade level standards. They are a good ol' average kiddo.

4. Children grow and develop differently - and that's OK - It's very easy to compare your child to another, especially when you see them with their friends and classmates. We, as teachers, don't. We know that while your child may cut proficiently at 4, another one might need a little help until they're 6 - and that's OK! We want them to succeed, and to feel that success, but we know that pressuring them to look like their classmate can make them shut down and not want to perform at all. That leads to hating school! It's important to remember to celebrate your child where they are right now. Please don't point out what the other children can do in an effort to push your child to do more. Your child will get there. We'll be glad to help with strategies that can both make your child feel successful and get them where they need to be.

5. We want to work with you - So often in this day and age, teachers are seen as the enemy. Every small mistake or oversight sends parents to the principals office to complain - or worse - to the county office! Here's the absolute truth - we can't help you, if we don't know what the problem is. We truly want to work with you. We want to be an ally in this journey with you. Please come to us first. We aren't out to "get" your children and often what might get relayed to you at home isn't entirely accurate. That same sweet administrator I mentioned above, used to say - "If you promise not to believe everything that you hear about school at home; I promise not to believe everything that's said about home, at school." ;)

6. Please allow your children to have milestones at appropriate ages - Here's something you might not have considered, but we teachers think about it a lot. That limo you rented your second grader to attend the Taylor Swift concert, isn't as innocuous as you might think it is. Children need age-appropriate milestones or they're going to grow up way too fast. If your child's teacher could tell you, they'd want to tell you that they want your children to be children as long as possible. Things "get old" for kids very quickly. Once they get that limo or those fish net stockings (sadly, I've seen that on a second grader - I couldn't make that up if I tried) - they'll look for other "grown up" things to do next - most of which are not age-appropriate. Consider the implications when they're 15.

7. Bullying isn't what you might think it is - I can't tell you how many times I've gotten calls from angry parents claiming that their child is being "bullied" when in fact, it's just that a couple of kids had a bad day and said an unkind word or two to each other. Here's something we teachers want you to know - bullying is a repeated act. If little Johnny says something mean to your child on Monday, that does not make it bullying. Bullying would be Johnny saying mean things to your child every day - over a period of time. Most of the time, children have a rough day, say things they don't mean to say, or are less than kind, but that doesn't mean they're bullying each other. Consider this - You might have a bad day at work and snap at a coworker. You aren't bullying that coworker. You're just having a bad day! Kids are the same. Give it a couple of days and see how things play out.

Please note: This does not include acts of physical harm or things that could put your child in immediate danger. Kids are creative and they can often hide things, even from their teachers. If you feel that your child is truly in immediate danger report it immediately.

8. Please be open to what we have to say - Often, as teachers, we have to say things to you that we know you don't want to hear. You can trust me when I say to you that we measure our words carefully and say these things out of concern for your child. We want your child to be the best they can absolutely be, and sometimes that means they need extra help. We don't take these decisions lightly and we aren't bringing these subjects up on a whim. If a teacher wants to talk with you about any of the following, listen carefully and keep an open mind:

- Special education services

- Behavior issues


9. Please schedule appointments with us if you want to discuss your child's progress. (Emphasis on "schedule") - I cannot tell you how many times I and my colleagues have arrived at work, to find a concerned parent at the door. Often it's because of something they've heard at home the night before. They want to have a conference right now - in the few minutes before the bell rings while we're getting children settled in for the day. This is not the right time to discuss what are often private concerns.

Here's why: You really don't want other children and parents hearing our conversation. I don't either. I want to protect the privacy of you and your child. Also, we don't often have time to adequately address your concerns at that time. Consider this: When you get to work, do you want a disgruntled coworker/patient/client standing at your office door? Can you calmly address their concerns in the few minutes you have before your day begins and things get hectic? Nope.

Scheduling a conference will ensure that we are in the moment with you, we are prepared, and we can spend more time with you.

10. There's a time to step in and there's a time to let your child work things out on his/her own - In this day and age of "helicopter" parenting, we teachers often see parents stepping in for their children way too quickly. Children argue, they refuse to share, they may find a mistake in the way we graded their paper. I could go on. The rule of thumb we would love for you to follow is this - If your child is not in danger, let them try and handle things first. By rushing in to make sure they feel no sadness or frustration, you are robbing your children of quality problem solving opportunities. School is a "safe-zone" for children to practice maneuvering in the real world. This is where they learn to stand up for themselves and others in a safe environment. Bad things are going to happen in life. What you don't want is your child never learning to be resilient and strong in their own right. This is an integral part of their development. Without being able to solve their own problems, you are ensuring that as adults, they won't know how to handle adversity.

11. Let your child be bored - We currently live in a world where children are drastically overscheduled. So often I've heard parents say, "Well, I want my child to be well-rounded." I totally get that. But here's the truth - boredom is a good thing. Downtime on their own is important. This is where children learn to be creative and to fill time. When we provide multiple nightly activities, tutoring, lessons and playdates a week (or even every night!) children don't have the opportunity to spend time with themselves. These "down" times are often where you can learn a lot from your child - what they love and are interested in; how their mind works. It can be a wonderful opportunity for growth!

Teacher's Note: This is not a free pass to plop down in front of the TV or video game time. This is a time to unplug. No electronics.

12. Be present/talk with your children - Have you ever been to a restaurant and seen an entire family plugged in to a smart phone, tablet or video game? Teachers often cringe when we see that. Dinner time should be the time when everyone is unplugged. It might be a cliche, but children grow up so quickly. Be present (and unplugged!) with them as often as you can. Talk to them, and most importantly listen. The sad truth is that children are educated by the world all the time - not just at school, and not just in your presence. If you don't take the time to talk with them daily, about the little things, they won't come to you when the big things come up. You don't want them learning about things from their peers. Build that relationship when they are small.

Most of all, remember that we are with your child eight to nine hours a day and we know your child pretty well. We care for and love your children as though they are our own. We only want the best for them, and for you. Any teacher worth her salt will bend over backwards to help your children learn and grow.

Thanks again for letting me guest post Jenny! I hope all of you will visit me over at my blog too. I'd love to have you. :)