Teaching is a hard gig. So is parenting. GOT wants parents everywhere to know he appreciates their challenges to raise their children to become confident, self-sufficient adults that someday they will turn to in their old age for support and comfort.
GOT also knows that parents support him in his job to teach their children not merely a subject but to help them develop their characters and internalize the discipline and resilience they will need as they encounter new responsibilities for learning and life.
It’s not easy. We work together. When Teacher Appreciation Week comes along, GOT wants parents to know he doesn’t need a gift. A mere thank-you is enough. Even that is not necessary, but there are a few things that would help.
Parents, here’s how you can appreciate your children’s teachers:
- Keep your child in school. Delay your family trips and vacations for the times school is not in session: Winter break, Spring break, Summer. It is a huge disruption in your child’s learning to pull them out of school for a week, not to speak of two or more weeks. Teachers understand an emergency, but children should not be sent to provide care for an extended period of time. That is an adult job.
Similarly, birthday milestones should not be a two-week trip out of the country during the school year. Also, no matter how talented your child may be, they should not be missing school to engage in a hobby.
2. When they miss school, make sure they follow the teacher’s procedure to identify the work they must make-up; then, see that they do it. In GOT’s experience, the students don’t make up the work. Not only does that impede further learning as their gaps in understanding ensure future difficulty, it means they will receive a failing grade for the quarter.
Today’s student doesn’t seem to understand that assignments must be done regardless of their presence in class. They seem to believe that an absence means they don’t have to do it. This is especially true for athletes. They miss class to go to a game and make no effort to make up the assignment.
You can appreciate teachers by making clear to your children that they will complete all work or they won’t participate in extracurricular activities.
3. Teachers know, GOT teacher among them, that there are inevitable times when children miss school: doctor/dental appointments, funerals, court, etc. But when your child calls you in the middle of the day and says pick me up, you can appreciate a teacher by asking why and refusing to take your child out of school because the child merely wants out or has a test to avoid.
Don’t do it. Insist that your child remain for the full school day. GOT has seen parents who routinely take their child out of their last period class and then wonder why the child isn’t passing.
If your child is having a problem at school, show them that avoidance is not the solution. Meet with the administrator so the problem can be resolved.
4. Understand that a secondary teacher has a class load of 150 students if they are lucky. Many teachers have upwards of 200 students on their rosters. Teachers don’t have the time to contact you about missed homework or other minor academic concerns.* It is unrealistic to tell a teacher that they need to contact you every week about your child’s progress, and for those who demand a daily contact? It’s not going to happen.
Utilize the online tools that school districts have made available. You can monitor your child’s grades and assignments.
Then, if you have a concern, by all means contact the teacher. GOT responds quickly.
Also, know progress report and report card dates. Children will lie and claim that they didn’t get one or that you got the date wrong. It’s a simple visit to a school district’s website to know when your child should hand you these reports.
*Teachers have four hours of planning time per week, sometimes less, and much of that time is not discretionary time for correspondence and grading. Most schools mandate meetings during some of that time as allowed by contract.
5. Believe teachers and administrators when we have to call you about your child’s behavior. Beyond your presence, your child will act different at times. The stronger you are as a parent, the more likely it is that, when you are absent, your child will behave differently. Much of that is due to the age and the adolescent agenda to break away. They will experiment and try out different personas to see how their peers will react. Their brains are highly sensitive to a dopamine rush in a way that ours are not and that rush comes from the approval of peers.
Do not worry. Much of what teenagers do is to reject your values so they can adopt them as their own.
But when they act up at school, believe us when we call you. Your child really did what we are telling you.
6. When you need to speak to your child, call the school. A message will arrive to the classroom for your child to call you. GOT points them to the classroom phone. When you text your child, you are interrupting their learning and causing a classroom behavior problem. Whenever GOT catches a child texting, they always respond it’s their Mom. Somehow, children are never using their phone to contact anyone except their Mom.
Cell phones are a huge classroom problem. You can appreciate teachers by using the school’s phone number to contact your child, not their individual phone. Then we can police cell phone usage.
If your child uses their phone to text you, respond that they shouldn’t be doing that. Tell them to ask permission to use the school phone if they really need to talk to you.
Not only will that reduce the cellphone problem, but it will also promote the independence your child should be acquiring. You can’t solve every problem for them. Remember those self-sufficient adults you want them to be. They cannot become one if they constantly contact you to solve every difficulty for them.
7. Make sure that your child understands that the responsibility for learning is theirs. If they waste the opportunity their teacher gives them, it is not the teacher’s fault.
Sometimes, children have to learn the hard way. Failure can be the best teacher if that teacher is needed.
Let them fail so you can show them how failure is not final. Point them back on the path to success. Be patient; they will go down that path once it can be their decision.
GOT, as do teachers everywhere, will work with you. Children, especially teenagers, are going to make mistakes. It is not our job to prevent that, but to give them a way back.