Teachers receive numerous requests from parents. “Can you please move Billy’s seat away from Nick’s?” “Could you please remind Abby to wear her glasses?” “Please excuse Missy from homework on Wednesdays because she goes to her father’s house.”
From accommodating personalities and abilities to sparking an interest in school, parents ask many things of the teachers our children spend a large part of their days with. With all the requests and questions educators receive, few are comfortable or able to freely reciprocate and make requests of their own to parents.
When graduate student Laurel Smith Tubbs surveyed 500 elementary and high school educators nationwide in 2002, teachers acknowledged the hope for a wide variety of things. It’s enlightening to learn what the teachers would request of parents — if given the opportunity. While many parents would suspect the obvious requests of extra supplies, revised textbooks or additional classroom aides, it is interesting to note some of the most popular wishes of teachers are also the most unlikely.
Education is a Partnership
Third grade teacher Jennifer Kozlowski believes that a child’s education requires a strong and united partnership with parents and she’d like to see more parents support that.
“Offering pertinent information, supporting the educational decisions made both at school and at home and joining the ‘team’ is very beneficial for students,” she explains. Kozlowski’s hope is shared by more than 80 percent of the educators Tubbs studied.
Teachers like Kozlowski agree that working as members of a child’s educational team has benefits that reach beyond spelling tests and dioramas. “If a child realizes that his parents and teacher respect and support each other’s roles in his life,” says Kozlowski, “he’ll show more respect for the lessons and ideals they are all working to instill and will thrive in the school environment.”
A degree in ESP?
“A lot of parents think we automatically know their child isn’t happy coming to school or that a parent is concerned about the child’s progress,” explains Jan Miller, a kindergarten teacher of nine years. Teachers frequently face assumptions of what parents expect is going on in class or is being taught as part of the curriculum. The best way to avoid false assumptions or confusion is by asking your child’s teacher for clarification.
“Children are often able to mask their feelings out of insecurity or discomfort while they’re at school. It’s better to assume a teacher doesn’t know a child is unhappy or needs a different plan of attack,” encourages Miller. Providing information that may seem repetitious or obvious is generally preferred over expecting or assuming teachers know “everything” you feel they need to.
In her survey, Tubbs found that more than 75 percent of teachers welcome questions and comments from parents. “The teachers expressed they’d much rather a parent ask why a child may be struggling or why the teacher may be opting to implement a particular teaching method rather than assume the answer,” Tubbs explains.
A Realistic Attitude
After spending 10 years as a high school teacher, Beverly Benson Ph.D. became the dean of a private school for nearly 15 years. “It was always difficult to effectively guide a child when the parents had unrealistic expectations of the child’s ability or goals,” says Benson. Developing expectations that are realistically based on a child’s abilities and interests helps to ensure everyone has a successful experience.
Honesty Really is the Best Policy
If your child has a special need or difficulty adjusting to a new teacher, it’s best to honestly and openly communicate this to his teacher. Ethan Emmerson’s parents learned this lesson the hard way. “I thought I was shielding his new teacher from how he was feeling. I was trying to spare everyone’s feelings instead of realizing I should strategize with the teacher,” explains his mother Kim. This mom’s struggle to help her son adjust to his new class didn’t have to generate so much inner turmoil. “Once I finally opened up and expressed the situation, I realized his teacher was very committed to helping him adjust to his new class.”
Teachers can tell if parents help a child write his book report or put together a science fair exhibit. “There is a difference between proofreading a report and re-writing the entire thing,” says middle school English teacher Vanessa Marchetti. It is natural for parents to want their kids to succeed and earn outstanding grades; however, completing assignments for your child doesn’t help him learn the lessons he needs to.
“Parents are usually so excited to make sure their child excels, they forget that the child needs to do the assignment in order to absorb the material,” adds Marchetti. Additionally, in Tubbs’ survey, she found that offering guidance, support and a second pair of proof-reading eyes as opposed to reworking an entire project is preferred by an overwhelming 97 percent of educators.
If the teacher sends home a note saying your child misbehaved in school or forgot to turn in an assignment, teachers appreciate a respectful show of support. Jan Waldo, a sixth grade science teacher, explains, “It’s always disheartening to be have a parent accuse me of not being truthful about a child’s performance or behavior.”
Admittedly, some children read better or recite math facts easier amidst the comfortable and relaxed setting of their home. “The vast majority of teachers are ethical and have their student’s best interest at heart. Based on that, we wouldn’t intentionally conjure up a story about bad behavior erroneously,” adds Waldo. “Demonstrating a trust in your child’s teacher and for the teacher’s perspective doesn’t indicate you don’t trust your child,” assures Benson. “It shows that you’re willing to see your child as an individual who can make mistakes.”
Understanding the perspective of your child’s teacher will help ensure your child’s educational process is a successful partnership based on mutual respect and a common goal. You’ll be able to better support your child and the process that guides his education.
Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer and licensed clinical social worker and mother.
WHAT TEACHERS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT PARENTS
- I wish that parents would believe only half of what their child tells them about the teacher! I only believe half of what their child tells me about them.
- I wish that parents would tell their children that “down south” is not a city and state.
- I wish that parents would recognize the value of their children’s art. Like the child, her artwork is unique, one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable and priceless. Please encourage, value and cherish their artistic creations.
- I wish that parents would not criticize their child’s teacher in front of the child.
- I wish that parents could see life through their children’s eyes. Life is not logical and task oriented, it’s whimsical and multifaceted. Find out what your children are interested in (you may be very surprised) and let them explore.
- I wish that parents would say no to the question “Can I stay up a little longer?” Tired tots are terrible to teach!
- I wish that parents realized that TV is the Great Distorter. It either presents a fictional world that has little basis in reality, or it presents a world of hyper-realism in which every flaw in human relations is magnified. Children watch this, and some of them, anchorless as they are, have no hope of connecting with the real ground zero. The more they watch, the worse it gets.
- I wish that parents knew how much teachers care and how much time they spend trying to meet the needs of their students.
Source: What America’s Teachers Wish Parents Knew (Longstreet; $5.95), compiled by Judy and Tony Privett