It takes a village to raise a child. I have always said that my kids need two villages. Outside of us (the parents), educators have played the biggest role in my children’s lives and I never take that for granted. During the school, they spend more waking hours with their teachers than me and that places a huge responsibility on their teachers.
Teachers are my favorite village people. Maybe I have a different prospective because I have spent many years as a classroom teacher so I know what it’s like to walk in those shoes but we couldn’t have made it without amazing teachers along the way. When my kids graduate high school, it’s not just because of our efforts as parents, but it took a village to get us there.
Now, I am going to be honest. We have not loved every single teacher that my kids have ever had. To be fair, my kids are not easy. They are all dyslexic and all have either ADD or ADHD and a few more acronyms. When my boys were younger they had ODD and not all teachers are equipped to deal with that. My kids have a tough past that, since our adoption, we have tried to overcome. This has made them “different”. Different can sometimes be intimidating. Just because you are a good teacher, doesn’t mean you know how to deal with extreme behaviors, and no, that is not something teachers are taught in school.
All of this just makes my job as a parent even more important. In my opinion, there is a misconception that teachers are to know everything about your child automatically. As a mom of three, I sometimes call my kid by the wrong name, mix up schedules and give one kid lunch money and forget the other. I am not perfect so I do not expect teachers to be, especially when they are juggling twenty plus children.
How do I open the lines of communication? Well, I start it. I don’t wait for the teacher to reach out to me. Before my kids got to high school, each year I would email the teacher before school or the first week of school and let them know how excited we are to start the year. I give them tips to help my child. For example, my middle child has a processing issue. I need the teacher to know that if you give him multistep directions, that he will either remember the first thing you said or the last.
I also always tell the teachers that my kids are adopted. They are very open about this, their past and their struggles. I kindly remind them that we are raising survivors, not victims, and even if they share their stories that may be sad, they need to be held to the same accountability as everyone else. I usually close my email with, “It’s my job to make your job easier so please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need support.” This means donations or a come to Jesus moment with one of my precious cherubs.
When making communicating a priority with your child’s teacher, please consider these things:
You are on the same team. I promise you they want what is best for your child.
There is a process for everything. That doesn’t always mean that it’s fair or even right. Trust me, all three of my kids have a 504 plan and an IEP. That didn’t happen overnight. Teachers are given certain procedures they must follow, including specific timelines. That doesn’t mean they agree with it but it their job to do what they are told.
Your child is your sun, moon and stars. You would move heaven and Earth for them. Your child’s teacher, on the other hand, is managing a sea of crazy planets, all going different directions with different needs. Be mindful of that.
Teachers are human. They make mistakes. They lose track of time and forget to send something home. They get sick and have substitutes. They also have their own children and spouses.
You need each other. Parenting is hard. Teaching is hard. Adulting is hard.
Be supportive and give grace. I’m telling you, there is nothing worse than not having parent support. Before making a quick judgement or giving anyone the benefit of the doubt, talk to them. Emails also can get lost in translation. We make assumptions on tones but sometimes we are way off. If you have a question, pick up the phone and ask. Being a teacher and knowing how kids are exceptional story tellers, I always told my children that I was going to believe the teacher until I got to the bottom of it. My boys like to tell me that their teacher didn’t grade their paper correctly. Um, I’m not sure that’s how you ended up with a 50 on your test, son. Our kids are lacking accountability and it’s easier to place blame.
I always told parents that I would only believe half of what their child told me about them if they would extend the same curtesy. Ha. Seriously though, parents would die if they knew all the things their kids say at school. Die. Sometimes they make up stories because a friend told a story and they want to fit in. Sometimes they are just running their mouth, ha. If I had a nickel for every time a kid told me, “My mom said my dad is lazy because he sleeps in his chair and drinks beer” or “My mom got fired from her job because she keeps falling asleep at work” and my favorite, “My parents said you work for them and have to do what they says!” Ha.
Don’t wait. If a teacher told you they would get back with you tomorrow and it’s three days later, they probably forgot. It’s not out of spite. They are juggling a million balls and unfortunately sometimes the drop one. Call or email to follow up.
I think when it comes to communication, it’s my job as the parent to make sure things are going smoothly. Something I have learned over the years is that I am the teacher that matters the most. I am their first and last teacher in life. I am their advocate and punisher. I am their accountability and have the last word. I need to make sure that not only is their teacher doing everything they can to support my child, but that I am doing everything I can to support them. Even if we have had a difficult teacher, I remind myself that it’s only for a year. We can survive anything for a year.
When I tell teachers that it’s my job to make their job easier, I whole heartedly mean it. I think all parents should spend one day substituting in a classroom so they have empathy and more realistic expectations. You have less excuses for your child when you realize your child is the match that lights the fire of ciaos is a teacher’s classroom.
Lastly, every year I remind my children that I will be the mother they need and that looks different for each of them every year. If you need me to be a helicopter mom, then that is what I will be. If I need to sit back and let you do your thing, then that is what I will do. If I need to email a teacher to check in weekly for their sanity and mine, then that is what I will do. And, on those days when I know my child is pushing that teacher to the edge, I email them a Starbucks gift card (because it’s illegal to send a bottle of wine, ha) and say thanks for loving my kid unconditionally. We NEED good teachers. Good teachers NEED supportive parents. It’s a lovely partnership when we each do our part.
Remember you are on the same team. Love your village and know that they are doing their very best to love your child. Teachers understand the responsibility they have. They are helping to raise the future. It’s their future too.