Tomorrow is August, and that means school is just around the corner. Have you ever wondered what keeps a teacher from crossing the crazy line of sharpening pencils to sharpening children’s fingers? It’s as simple as a little gardening, and below are the tools to help you have healthy, productive relationships.
1. Start the beginning of the year with a token that lets your child’s teachers know that you are cheering them on. This can be something as simple as a notecard of encouragement or as lavish as a gift. A little encouragement goes a long way, especially when a teacher is overworked, underpaid, and always a pencil snap away from joining the loony bin.
2. Back off and let your child take some responsibility. I know you just earned your wings for being the world’s best helicopter parent, but by the ninth grade, students don’t need their mommy and daddy on the payroll as their personal assistant. There are times when a parent needs to get involved at school, but for goodness’ sake, allow your kid to transition into a young adult.
3. Teach your kid the proper way to interact with his teachers. I’m never surprised by the behavior of a parent of a student who is known for losing his temper, whining, complaining, and blaming others for his failures. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Model and coach your children on how to respectfully interact with others, especially those in authority.
4. Only call a teacher when it’s a pressing issue. Most teachers dread the ringing of their classroom phone, knowing that answering it could force them to shuffle all of their responsibilities to the evening, when they are in need of getting their personal responsibilities complete and spending time with their own children. Typically, teachers only have a fifty-five minute planning period a day to do what takes three hours. They are expected to work on lesson plans that are not only creative and cutting edge, but that will also be more engaging than Netflix. They must make copies, build their online portal, grade tests, papers, and quizzes, return calls and emails, collaborate with colleagues, attend meetings, and help students who drop by with questions. Email is almost always the best option.
5. If an issue arises, don’t assume (insert donkey joke here) and don’t point fingers. As adults, come to the teacher first. You don’t need to run to the administrator to have them take care of a problem that might not exist. It’s been my experience that most “issues” that pop up are not even issues. Parents were fed misinformation from their child and all it took was a quick e-mail, or in some cases a necessary phone call, to clear it up. Healthy problem solving always strengthens relationships.
6. Encourage them throughout the year! I know this sounds like a repeat, but most of your child’s teachers manage approximately 100 students a day and often feel empty at the end of it. They have poured, and poured, and poured into the lives of their students until their buckets are dry. And wouldn’t you know it, invariably some smarty pants comes and smacks that empty bucket right out of their hands and sends it clattering to the ground before they can even leave for the day. Write a quick email, drop a card in the mail, or even stop by the office with a smoothie or coffee to let them know they are doing something right, that they are appreciated, or that your child enjoys their class. Encouragement refills a teacher’s bucket more than you will know.
7. Okay, so this one might sound silly and a little off topic, but can you please not give food as Christmas gifts unless you are a pastry chef? Teachers end up with three plates of fudge, four-dozen chocolate chip cookies, ten pounds of candy, and enough hot chocolate to make a cocoa faux-beach in their backyards. I know it’s the thought that counts, but the thought of wasting so much food is equally disheartening. If you must bake, consider keeping it to a much smaller portion.
8. Don’t drop by a teacher’s classroom unannounced unless it’s just to briefly say “hello.” Respect a teacher’s schedule. She has so much to do and such little time to do it. Stealing twenty minutes from her might take her two weeks to gain back what she lost. If you must meet, schedule a time. This allows her to shuffle her responsibilities accordingly.
9. Support a teacher’s decision and model healthy reactions to disappointments. You and your child’s teacher are on the same team. Remember your teacher is the expert in her field and should be treated as a professional. And for heaven’s sake, don’t send her articles about how she should do something based on the current research. That’s as silly as diagnosing yourself on WebMD and then telling your doctor you’re certain you have Sarcoidosis and should begin treatment immediately.
10. At the end of the year, thank them. Most teachers are ready to stick their own fingers in the pencil sharpener by the time May rolls around, and nothing says, “it was worth it,” than getting notes from parents who praise the year their student had. Really want to put the cherry on top? Have your student write the thank-you.
It’s true that you reap what you sow, not only in your own garden, but also in your neighbor’s garden as well. When it comes to your child’s teachers, consider pulling some weeds for them and planting grace, encouragement, and love. The harvest will yield plentifully.
…And for the parents out there with something to add from their perspective, worry not! I’m sure I’ll be writing from the other side of the coin once I send my little one off to school. 😉