Guest Post: Appreciate Your Kids’ Teachers

One of our readers, Jen Strange, emailed me through the complaint form (I love that thing!!) and asked me if I would post this. I am absolutely glad to, it is a wonderful post.

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This morning my son and I walked into his school and met his 3rd grade teacher.  As I reflected on his 4th year in public school, I wrote a blog entry for my friends to read, at first thinking only about school supplies and teacher gifts.  Then I wanted to share it further.  So here I am.

This school year, your child’s elementary school teacher will spend more time a day/week/month with your child than anyone in the world but you.  (And depending on your schedule, possibly you, too.)  They are a huge influence and part of your child’s life.  Why NOT take some time here and there to let them know you appreciate their hard work, their care for your child, their patience as they deal with dozens of children day in and day out?
Yes, it’s a job and they get paid for the job – but my experience with teachers is that they work much harder than their pay entails, it’s emotionally taxing, and they truly have a heart for the students in their class. A good relationship with your child’s teacher is just as important as sitting down together to do homework or making sure he takes time for reading every day.

Teachers are very often left buying school supplies for their classrooms with their own money.  People, your kid goes to public school for free (i.e. you are not paying tuition each month.)  The LEAST you can do is contribute to the running of the classroom.  Buy not only every school supply on the list (I buy multiples when the deals are good – a few extra boxes of 25 cent crayons aren’t going to kill my budget), but also buy as many wish list items as you can.  Look at the dollar bin at Michael’s or Target and grab some cute pads of paper (teachers are forever writing notes.  Grab some good pens while you’re at it to send.)  Send in an occasional Starbucks giftcard, just because.  Ask the teacher from time to time if there’s anything she needs for the class, and then get it for her!  My best friend often sends in a Target giftcard with a note to use it for any supply needs. You don’t have to bankroll the classroom, but there are little things here and there that can really
help.

When the teacher does something great, send the principal an email and let him know!  Last year the principal told me in response to such an email that he almost never gets good news emails, only complaints.  It takes 30 seconds to shoot off that email.  Just do it.  If there is an issue with your child, talk calmly with the teacher about it to try to figure out what happened – never start with accusation, as much as you want to defend your child.  Explain that you want to understand what happened.  Don’t escalate to the principal until you have at least spoken to the teacher.

Stop for a second and assess your attitude toward teachers.  They are not just a necessary evil.  They are not indentured servants.  They are not teaching because they can’t do anything else (do you know how competitive it is to GET a teaching job?  Even harder to KEEP.)  Your child’s teacher is your PARTNER in working with you to ensure that your child grows into his full potential.  You want your child to enjoy school, learn as much as possible, and grow into an amazing adult.  Respect the person who is helping you in that endeavor.

Have a great school year, friends.

Jen Strange

http://jenjen.typepad.com/layouts

13 comments for “Guest Post: Appreciate Your Kids’ Teachers

  1. Heather
    August 3, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Just a quick note: education is not free. It is paid by local property taxes, state taxes and federal taxes. And it is paid by all of us, whether we have children or not. (And yes, I understand and agree that we all have a stake in a well-educated society.)

    Despite the “No Child Left Behind Act”, schools are still failing. Why? Many reasons. Too much bureacracy, too much “politcal correctness” (having to change to cater to every single special interest group who might get “offended”), spending too much time learning how to take tests and not enough acquiring a passion learning – which is critical to the future us of all.

    And yes, there any many AWESOME educators out there. And they definitely deserve our support and appreciation. And you have provided many great ways of showing that appreciation 🙂

    However, I would add the following:

    1. When you have an ineffective teacher, demand action. If enough people voice concerns, attention will be given. If most are silent, many children will lose an entire year of learning in that subject area. This happened to my sister’s middle son. The next year, with an awesome teacher, he made Honor Roll. No change in study habits or other factors. Just the educator.

    2. While it’s nice to appreciate and support our teachers, first do the same for your children. Ensure that they get a balanced diet (including breakfast) so their brains are ready to learn. Ensure that they get sleep. And exercise. Minimize “electronics time”, except as it relates to school work. Give them a quiet place to work. Nag them about homework. Help them when they need help. If you can’t, find someone who can in your school, neighborhood, church, etc.

    3. Don’t let the schools raise your children. Ensure that you are the primary educators. Children should learn their values and beliefs at home. And it’s ok if they don’t match everything taught in school. We are supposedly still a free country 🙂 Encourage them to question (respectfully, of course).

    4. Participate in the PTA when you can. It shouldn’t be about bake sales and other fund raisers. It should be a forum for providing meaningful communication between parents and teachers.

    Personally, I would love to see “Study Saturdays” or something where the children of LaVergne gather in neighborhood homes to do their homework, hang out with friends, and maybe learn something new JUST FOR FUN 🙂 Education is such a privilege. We should treat it as such.

    Regards (and apologies for the long speech…)

    Heather

  2. michaelinLV
    August 3, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    +1 Heather!

  3. August 4, 2011 at 8:36 am

    I was waiting to see how long it would take for someone to blame the teachers in the comments after this LOVELY post.

    Sadly, it didn’t take long.

    No Child Left Behind is not failing because of the bureaucracy. And
    I’m not sure what you mean by being too “politically correct”. What examples could you give?

    I’m not going to argue every point, Heather, because sometimes I get fired up and don’t type things out appropriately lol. Thank you, Jen, for your thoughts. If more parents thought the way you did, teachers would have the support they so desperately needed.

    • Heather
      August 4, 2011 at 10:08 am

      Adrianne,

      I don’t know about your job, but mine is not beyond assessment and review. As a consultant, I am subject to feedback – both negative and positive – from my peers, my boss, my colleagues and my customers. Teachers are no different.

      Some of the most influential people (from a positive perspective) in my life have been teachers. I have a graduate degree – and I didn’t do it for the piece of paper. I did it for the learning. I am very passionate about it.

      All I am saying is that we should apply the same energy in dealing with the substandard teachers as we do to supporting the great ones. I think that’s very fair…and common sense.

      Considerably more money is spent on education, per child, than it was 50 years ago. And the average high school graduate today does not possess the same body of knowledge of those 50 years ago. THAT is where my frustration is. I am not blaming it on the teachers. It is a system-wide problem that spans the community, schools, parents and children.

      I’m sorry you don’t agree. But that’s ok 🙂 We still live in a free country where we can exchange ideas.

      • August 4, 2011 at 10:36 am

        I agree that it is a system-wide problem, but comparing cost and body of knowledge to 50 years ago doesn’t fly with me.

        And I can’t agree that applying the same energy to bad teachers as supporting good ones is any solution. Much more important is understanding WHY our children are not doing well in school.

        I’ll share this article with you because I used think the same way you did and this has good examples of why I feel the way I do about our educational system.

        http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/nov/11/myth-charter-schools/?page=1

        This cites MANY MANY studies concluding that children are not failing because of the very few bad teachers. In fact, only about 10% is attributed to ANY teacher, good or bad. I highly recommend anyone and everyone read this article and then research these studies. I have spent most of my adult life on this subject. It is my passion as an American and as a mother.

        • August 4, 2011 at 10:38 am

          I’d also like to discuss the politically correct comment and what you meant by that.

  4. michaelinLV
    August 4, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Adrianne, did you actually read Heather’s post? Where do you see the teacher bashing?

    • August 4, 2011 at 9:59 am

      Um, what? Of course I read it. Not one thing she said was in support of teachers. Wait, I’m sorry. There was this one, “And yes, there any many AWESOME educators out there. HOWEVER” That rhetoric is adding to the toxic environment that teachers are dealing with these days. No support. Pointing out what’s wrong with the system without pointing out what’s right with the people that are teaching our children. They are, in my opinion, THE most important people in our country. They do not make enough money and they do not get enough support. They are pushing uphill. Always.

      Again, I’m not going to argue all of her points, because I have a feeling it’s fruitless, but I do want to know SPECIFICALLY what she means about political correctness.

      • michaelinLV
        August 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm

        You said she was bashing teachers, she clearly is not. To say “nothing she said is in support of teachers” is not equal to bashing. It would be like if my wife cooks dinner for us, and I do not comment on it one way or another, you would call that bashing.

        • August 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm

          Actually, the word “bashing” was never typed by me, if we’re nitpicking. 😉

  5. michaelinLV
    August 4, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Let me add, I don’t have much disagreement with the original post. I do disagree with the assesment that kids go to school for free. Last I checked it was $7,700 per pupil in Rutherford County. But I understand the intent (you don’t have to cut a check at the front door for tuition).

    Instead of the “teachers have a tough job so appreciate them” theme, I would prefer a “teachers have a tough job so help them” theme. The best teachers in the world can’t make your kid study, that’s on the parents. I think a bad teacher can do more damage than a good teacher can do good. I don’t know if that makes sense. To use a sports theme, if you kid has a baseball coach who they hate, they may end up hating baseball alltogether. If they have a baseball coach that they like, they probably aren’t going to like baseball any more than when they started.

    • Jen Strange
      August 5, 2011 at 10:24 am

      I had the worst teacher on earth in 3rd grade. Luckily I was well behaved and a girl – she seemed to really dislike boys, especially the ones who weren’t “neat.” She would dump their messy desks out at their feet while screaming at them. It didn’t make me hate school. It made me hate HER. (This was 25 years ago, and strangely enough, she is now in a mental institution . . . )

      I feel very strongly about parental responsibility, and you’re right that parents are the ones who need to make a kid study (and get plenty of sleep and regular meals, etc.) I actually think all parents should teach their children to read before they send them to school, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post LOL. I didn’t touch on all that in this particular entry, because I was just reflecting on one aspect of dealing with teachers – my main idea being to approach the relationship positively.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

      jen

  6. Jen Strange
    August 5, 2011 at 10:15 am

    I thought that I clarified my point about going to school for free when I added the caveat “i.e. you do not pay tuition.”

    What I mean is that as a family, you are not monetarily affected whether you send one child to school in the public system, or ten children to school. We all pay taxes into the city, state, and national governments, but when it comes to actually figuring out the logistics of sending your child to public school, you don’t have to set aside any amount to pay.

    Thanks for the comments.

    jen

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