This week I interviewed a couple of teachers. Both have a unique perspective on what a teacher is and how that roll can affect the children they teach. They also have a desire for parents to understand that teachers are not the only people involved in the education process. It is a partnership between the parent and teacher that needs to remain healthy in order for a child to succeed. This health begins with how involved a parent involvement is in their child’s education.
The Bell Has Rung
For parents all over the country, the first day of school occurred within the last couple of weeks. For teachers, their school year began in late July to early August. Preparing lessons, getting classrooms student-ready and brushing up on the subjects they teach. We never realize what goes on behind closed doors. The only thing we see is the culmination of the months of preparation a teacher does.
When you clock out at work, you go home and relax, watch TV, or maybe go out for the evening if you have the energy. A teacher? Once the last student leaves and the lights are turned out, they do go home, but what awaits them is usually more work. This is the time they use to grade papers and go over what they are teaching tomorrow. A teacher’s job is tireless and never-ending.
With this new school year beginning, I want to help us parents get a glimpse into the minds of teachers everywhere. What is it that goes through their mind as they are teaching our kids. Moreover, what is it that teachers desperately want parents to know about the job they do, and about the kids they teach.
I asked each teacher five questions about teaching and what they want us to know about the areas they need our help in.
Thank you to Mrs. Nixon and Mrs. Smith for taking the time out of your busy schedules to assist me in writing this blog. Thank you for dedication to teaching our kids. While it often seems unnoticed, know that you are loved and appreciated. God bless you, and God bless teachers everywhere.
What do you love about teaching children?
I stared each off with a question that would set them at ease and allow their minds to drift back to why they chose children’s education as their career. Of course, both answered that they loved the interaction they have with the children they teach.
Mrs. Nixon believes the best part of teaching is when a child has that “ah-ha” moment. Their face lights up as they finally understand something they are being taught. “It is amazing,” she says. She also loves the sweet hugs that she still gets years later from former students, “Those are pretty awesome too.”
Mrs. Smith echoes that sentiment. “Being around kids warms my heart. Serving them lifts my spirit,” she says recognizing that through teaching, the children aren’t the only ones who are being blessed. She adds that children need time and attention. She explained to me that, “Sometimes parents are too busy with life to address these needs in their children.” Teaching gives her the ability to fill some of that void.
What do you wish for each of your children to experience through your teaching?
Both teachers desired for their kids to grow and develop within particular areas. They want their kids to increase their love of learning.
Mrs. Nixon wishes that her kids would develop a love of learning through reading. Reading is an important part of growing up. Books are essential to that growth because the books children read today, will become part of who they will be when they get older. Stories they will remember and then, in turn, convey to their children. Also, in her classroom, Mrs. Nixon wants each child to know that someone loves them, even as she sets strict boundaries through class rules and expectations.
Mrs. Smith is an Art teacher. So, for her, it’s about the creative process. “I want them to experience the joy of creating, the satisfaction of finishing a piece, and the confidence that builds in them when they have accomplished a new work.” She has a unique way to condone this creative atmosphere of her class. “I don’t give them a new paper when they make mistakes. They have to learn to continue working through the mistake and make art out of it.” For the first nine weeks of school, there is no such thing as erasers in her class. “They stress out at first, but eventually they relax and have fun with it.” Her goal is to teach perseverance and tenacity this way.
What are our expectations of each child you teach? (Please expand beyond the syllabus.)
Setting rules are crucial to the teaching process. These rules are spelled out usually in a teacher’s syllabus. This document lays out the law of the land in the classroom. However, I wanted to go deeper than outlines and rules and to see what underlying expectations teachers have with their students.
Mrs. Nixon has a firm belief in practice makes perfect. She doesn’t like enacting rules that a child may not be used to. So, before any consequences are handed out, she likes her kids to get used to her expectations, “I expect the children to follow the clearly defined, and rehearsed, and rehearsed and rehearsed, rules that I have set.”
Mrs. Smith desires her kids to be able to identify with the art they create. “Where did the idea come from; was it inspired by a famous artist? If so, what do you know about that artist?” Not only the what and why, she expects her students to experience the how thoroughly. This comes through what materials they use. ‘Why did they use that method versus another?’ And ‘How did it feel to use that method?’ are frequent questions she asks her kids.
What’s the most important thing a parent can do for their child to make the child’s life easier?
As parents, we should not expect teachers to do everything. Schooling does not stop at the car pick up line. In fact, it is just the beginning. Education continues at home through reinforcement of what our child’s teacher is doing in the class. Without support from home, the teacher’s job becomes more complicated than it already is.
Mrs. Nixon emphasizes the importance of spending time with your kids. She is a big proponent of reading and says, “Read and explore everywhere with them. Not just bedtime stories, but the back of the cereal box, the signs on the road, the packages at the grocery store.” She goes on to encourage parents to help their children identify letters; to make games out of it. “The best thing about this type of fun is that it doesn’t cost money or take much time. So, it’s worth it,” she says.
Mrs. Smith also stresses the importance of being there for kids when they get home from school, especially when it comes to homework. The time you spend with your kids, no matter how insignificant it may feel “goes a long way for bonding and making memories,” she explains. She wants parents to make sure their children know that they are loved. “Don’t assume your children know.” Love needs to be reinforced by telling them and showing kindness continually. “It’s all about the time. Get everyone off technology and get everyone into doing family things together.”
What is the most important thing parents can do for their child to make a teacher’s life easier?
Think of this: every year a teacher gets a new assortment of children. 20-30 of them. Each one has a different background. Each one has a different life circumstance. Sorting that out can be an excruciating ordeal. All of this on top of the agenda for each day that a child needs to accomplish. So, anything an individual parent can do to help simplify a teacher’s life is welcome.
Mrs. Nixon asks parents to remember two things when considering your child’s teacher or teachers. The first is to teach your child to respect authority. Respect is something to emulate. If you are showing and teaching human value in the home, your child will reflect that behavior in their interaction with their teacher. It should also be reflected in their interaction with others.
With that said, always remember when your child comes home with a story about another child in the class that there is always another perspective. “Don’t always assume what your child is saying is golden.” Always ask questions first. Don’t let them see you jumping to conclusions. Mrs. Nixon says, “I have always asked my own children when they would tattle, “What did you do first? Or “What happened right before that happened?” When the full story comes out, then you can better understand the teacher’s reaction. Then she encourages parents to reinforce consequences laid out by teachers, even at home.
Secondly, work with them. “Parents are the child’s first and most important teacher.” This goes hand in hand with reinforcing what is taught in the classroom. Try not to challenge what the teacher is trying to do. If your child’s teacher is teaching that the sky is blue, but the parent is teaching the sky is purple, then the child will believe the sky is purple. “So, teach them right” Also practice needed skills like holding a pencil; identifying letters, especially those found in the child’s name; and allow them to use scissors are a few of her examples.
Mrs. Smith also encourages parents to teach respect of authority to their children. “Teach your child that their number one job is to be a good student.” Like Mrs. Nixon, she says this begins in the home. When a child learns respect, this will make the teacher’s job much easier.
Organization is one thing that not only helps the child; it helps the teacher. Missing assignments not only place your child behind, but it also sets the teacher behind. She asks parents to help teachers by remembering to check backpacks, take-home folders, and binders for homework assignments and important papers that may need to be read and signed. Check them when they get home AND, check them before they go to school. Teachers get way too many, “I forgot my homework at home.”
She also says sleep is important. “Have your child get a good night’s sleep. Create morning routines that help them arrive at school in a pleasant mood, ready for the day. I have parking lot duty when the children arrive in the mornings. You would be surprised at the number of children who get out of the car with a bad mood already set.” It is hard for a teacher to start the day dealing with the assortment of various bad moods.
Remember, Your Child is one of Many
From the time your child exits the car to the closing bell, a teacher has hold of your child’s attention. For those eight hours, she expects your child to learn a variety of different subjects. And through it all there is one common thread; the teacher. They are there to see that your child receives the education they need to succeed in life.
One complication is that some parents believe their kid is the only one in the class and that teachers should know everything about their child from their middle name to the way they like their toast. Parents must realize that their kid is one of many. You may feel that your child is the most precious thing in the world and the teacher should treat them that way but remember sixty other parents feel the same way about their kid.
A Teacher’s Door is Always Open to Parents
Teachers have it tough, but each one is in that profession for a reason. And it is not because it’s the only job where you have Summer’s off. Teachers have a passion for children. They live and breathe to pour intelligence into the empty recesses of a child’s mind. You and I as parents either make that job an easy process, or we complicate the heck out of it.
I encourage you, when you have questions or concerns, talk to your child’s teacher. Each teacher in my child’s school has a conference time, their email address is up on the school’s website, and they are always open to discussing concerns I may have. I have confidence that your child’s school sets their contact information up the same way.
I hope our two teachers this week have given you a better idea as to what it’s like to be a teacher today and that we as parents are an integral part of the education process. We work hand in hand with them through what we teach our kids at home, reinforcing what they are teaching in the classroom, and having involvement in their lives. Our children are special to us, and they are special to the teacher as well. Just don’t be upset if she doesn’t know your child’s middle name is Elizabeth and she likes her toast with butter and grape jelly.