I am your student’s parent. I know that she’ll have plenty of teachers along her path in education, but there’s only one me. I’m the most important influence in her life, or at least I’d like to think that. Sometimes I forget just how important my duties are, maybe because it’s just too darn scary. I barely know you, but you see my kid for far more hours in a day and week than I get to. That worries me. It gets to me sometimes. I wish we could have a candid talk, without those walls of preconceived notions of who I am and who you are. I think if I’m going to get this right (“this” meaning parenting), I should start breaking down those walls between us. So I write this list of suggestions, with that in mind.
1. Support me, don’t bash me, in front of my daughter. She hears enough on TV and from friends about how she should mistrust all parents, in general, and feel disdain toward me, in particular. It’s hard to see her become independent and need me less and less. I support you when she has less than positive things to say about you. Please do the same for me.
2. I know you think you know my son, but there’s a different side to him you might not see. I’ve held him in my arms when his grandpa died, I was by his side when he got stitches, he melts me when he whispers, “I love you, mom”, and the worst conversation of my life was when I told him his dad was leaving. I know he seems like a tough guy with an attitude to you, but he has a softer side, too. I know you’re busy, but maybe you could tell me when he’s done something good sometimes, instead of just the bad. Because he’s more than what you see in the hallway.
3. I’m an office manager. I’m a wife. I’m a mom to three kids. Sometimes I have to do things other than sit alongside my middle daughter while she works through 2 hours of homework. I couldn’t help her complete her cell project like I wished I could, because my boss was demanding I work overtime and my youngest had piano lessons. Sometimes I forget to sign something that comes home from you, and sometimes I miss my kids terribly. Cut me some slack, please.
4. I’m not sure how to combat public opinion that all I do is let my son sit in front of his Xbox at home, but I’m too busy to care. Believe me when I say that my child is the most important thing in my life, but there are always other demands on my time, too. I wish I could join the PTO, but they meet on Tuesdays, and my oldest has swim lessons. I wanted to make it to parent-teacher conferences last month, but my mother had surgery and I needed to bring her home from the hospital. I know you work hard, because why else would you enter grades 4 weeks after my child took the test. Believe me when I say, I work hard, too.
5. Contrary to popular belief, I really do think most teachers earn their salary, and I want to believe that you have my child’s best interests in mind. But I saw Facebook pictures of my son’s teacher from last year that included solo cups and a ping-pong table, and it makes me wonder. Not to mention the almost-daily news stories of teachers who’ve had inappropriate contact with their students (one of them from my own child’s school!). Forgive me for being a little skeptical, if not untrusting. You’ll need to prove yourself to me, if you don’t mind.
6. When she’s had a bad day, my daughter tends to spill the beans on what goes on at school. Don’t ever forget that. I don’t pry, but she has a way of slipping tales of teacher drama into our evening discussions. I thought you should know. For example,
Parent: “So how was school today?”
Daughter: “Fine…but Mrs. Smith told us how much she hates Mr. Jones because all he ever does is sit at his desk, and doesn’t help with some sort of tests they have to grade. And at lunch, the principal accidentally had the speaker on when he told Mr. Langly that Timmy was an idiot.”
Parent: “Ok, but did you actually learn anything today?”
Daughter: “No, other than Ms. Capper used to be married to Mr. Walters, but they got a divorce and now Mr. Walters is dating Ms. Slade.”
7. For one year, you’ll see my child almost daily. I doubt you’ll think of him much after that. I’m his parent for life. Don’t assume that I want you to be my child’s parent and teach him how to solve for X. Things like morality, religion and…oh….sex? That should be something I get to do at home. Leave your political and religious views out of your lessons. If I choose to teach my child about God, don’t trump me and tell him God isn’t real. If I want to vote for the Republican candidate, I shouldn’t hear from my child that you told him all Republicans are right-wing fanatics that hate immigrants and kill bunnies. And please don’t think just because you know how to conjugate a verb, that you have the best advice to give when it comes to my kid and sex.
8. My kids are a reflection of me, I know. But I send them to school for 7+ hours a day, and I need to know they are safe and making wise choices. I can’t make school a priority for them if they feel scared, alone or depressed because of experiences they have in the hallway, on the bus and in your class. The best way for my kid to learn, is for him to first feel safe and loved by his teacher. That’s the best teacher/student relationship I could hope for. I’d rather know you love my child, than see your “teacher-of-the-year” plaque hanging on your wall.
9. I wish I could come in and see my child in your class, but my schedule resembles something close to what I imagine to be a NASA space mission to-do list. But I still want to hear from you. Email me, call me, send me a letter. Don’t assume that it’s a me-versus-you world. When I don’t hear from you, I assume you don’t care. When you don’t hear from me, don’t assume I don’t care. See # 4.
10. I get tired. I get cranky. Not everyday is a good day in parenting. Sometimes I fall short, sometimes my child falls short, sometimes the daily grind makes me feel jaded. When it happens, there’s nobody more disappointed in me, than me. When my child falls short, believe me when I say he really does care that he messed up. We’ll make it right, I promise. Because in the end, parenting is who I am.
The parent (Oh, and I have a name. It’s not the same as my child’s last name, but that doesn’t make me evil. I know parents get a bad wrap in your world, but we’re not the only reason education is failing. It’s not all my fault.)
About the Author:
I am a wife, mother, step-mother and an “on-a-break” teacher. To me, one of the biggest problems in educating our collective youth in America is the vast disconnect that exists between parents and teachers. There is no longer any resemblance of “working together”. It has become more than just a wall. It is now a wall, from which both sides hurl fiery insults and blame at the other. Until both sides can come together, admit their failures, and find solutions, it will continue to be the children that suffer most and ultimately pass those same behaviors and beliefs on to the next generation. Visit my accompanying “Dear Parent, From Teacher“ letter to get an opposing viewpoint.