I wouldn’t be a teacher for all the tea in China. And I drink a lot of tea.
Not because of the kids, but the parents. I think it must be a tough gig, and I don’t care how long the holidays are.
The current crop of parents (I’m one) is more engaged with their kids than previous generations, and that’s great. We want to know who our kids’ mates are, what their mates’ families are like. And we want to know everything about what’s happening at school. Above all, we want our kids to be happy. But is that happiness coming at the expense of teachers’ satisfaction? Does it matter? Of course it does. Because teachers are important and if there’s no joy in the job, they’ll leave. I think we need to back off a bit – take a leaf out of our parents’ book.
When I was at primary school, mum knew my teacher’s name (but rarely her first name) and possibly where my classroom was. That was about it.
Teachers hit me reasonably regularly. Sister Carmel* would use a plastic gladioli (snatched from a vase at the feet of a statue of Our Lady) to whip girls on the backs of the legs. I never told my parents, because they’d be furious. Not with Sister Carmel, but with me. In those days, parents sided with the teacher.
Now, the pendulum has swung the other way. I don’t think this is a bad thing, but it must make life tough for teachers trying to maintain order with the result that teachers (many of them presumably good ones), are leaving in droves.
Today, new teachers remain in our profession an average of 4.5 years, and many of them list, ‘issues with parents’ as one of their reasons for throwing in the towel. Word is spreading, and the more negativity teachers receive from parents, the harder it becomes to recruit the best and the brightest out of colleges.
So, what can we do to stem the tide? What do teachers really need parents to understand?
We are educators, not nannies. We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and see your child in a different light than you do. If we give you advice, don’t fight it. Take it, and digest it in the same way you would consider advice from a doctor or lawyer. I have become used to some parents who just don’t want to hear anything negative about their child, but sometimes if you’re willing to take early warning advice to heart, it can help you head off an issue that could become much greater in the future.
Trust us. At times when I tell parents that their child has been a behavior problem, I can almost see the hairs rise on their backs. They are ready to fight and defend their child, and it is exhausting. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I tell a mum something her son did and she looks at him and asks, ‘Is that true?’
Well, of course it’s true. I just told you. And please don’t ask whether a classmate can confirm what happened or whether another teacher might have been present. It only demeans teachers and weakens the partnership between teacher and parent.
Please quit with the excuses. If you want to help your children be successful, stop making excuses for them. I was talking with a parent and her son about his summer reading assignments. He told me he hadn’t started, and I let him know I was extremely disappointed because school starts in two weeks. His mother chimed in and told me that it had been a horrible summer because of family issues they’d been through in July. I said I was so sorry, but I couldn’t help but point out that the assignments were given in May. She quickly added that she was allowing her child some, ‘fun time’ – it wasn’t his fault the work wasn’t complete.
If you don’t want your child to end up 25 and jobless, sitting on your couch eating potato chips, stop making excuses for why they aren’t succeeding. Instead, focus on finding solutions.
Be a partner instead of a prosecutor. It’s OK for your child to get in trouble sometimes. It builds character and teaches life lessons. If we give a child a 79 on a project, that is what the child deserves. Don’t set up a time to meet with me to negotiate extra credit for an 80. It’s a 79, regardless of what you think. This one may be hard to accept, but you shouldn’t assume that because your child makes straight A’s that she is getting a good education. A lot of times it’s the bad teachers who give the easiest grades, because they know by giving good grades everyone will leave them alone. Parents will say, ‘My child has a great teacher! He made all A’s this year!’
Wow. Come on now. It’s usually the best teachers who are giving the lowest grades, because they are raising expectations. Yet, when your children receive low scores you want to complain and head to the principal’s office.
I had a child cheat on a test, and his parents threatened to call a lawyer because I was labeling him a criminal. I know that sounds crazy, but principals are telling me more and more lawyers are accompanying parents for school meetings dealing with their children.
We know you love your children. We love them, too. We just ask you to trust us, support us and work with the system, not against it. We need you to have our backs, and we need you to give us the respect we deserve. Lift us up and make us feel appreciated, and we will work even harder to give your child the best education possible.
That’s a teacher’s promise, from me to you.
Of course, there are horrible teachers. People who have been in the job too long, whose wisdom and experience are clouded by crankiness. They’re hanging out for retirement.
My memories of Sister Carmel have faded (although the gladioli story is a favourite with my kids). My great teachers left a more lasting effect. The ones who fostered my love of reading and told me I could write. Gina Brosnan**, is one of them and is still at my old school 27 years after I left. I see her occasionally and am always struck by her dedication and enthusiasm. I hope people like Mrs Brosnan are still becoming teachers, and more importantly, they stay teaching.
Who was your favourite teacher ? What is that makes you remember him/her?
* Not her real name
** Her real name