real life

What teachers want to tell you

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.

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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.

American teacher and writer Ron Clarke wrote an article on CNN.com entitled, What Teachers Really Want To Tell Parents.’  He writes in part

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.

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.

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. \

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.

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

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