An Open Letter to Parents from Your Child’s Teacher

A few weeks ago I shared a funny post titled 10 Misconceptions of Moms and Back to School. Today I’m so excited to have my sister, Kate, guest posting for me and sharing something from the other end of the spectrum.  She consulted some of her (and my) teacher friends to get their input into this and I think you will find it enlightening.
teacher, open letter, parents, school year
Photo Credit: Barineau

Hi everyone! I’m the big sister of The Girl Creative, and I am so happy to be writing on her blog! I couldn’t be more proud of what she has done here!

My name is Katie, and I’ve been a blogger for about…I’ll say a total of about 16-18 months all combined (over the course of four years…oops!). My new blog home that I’m committed to is A Hundred Affections.

As you might guess from my stats, I’m not a professional blogger – but I am a professional teacher. I have been a high school English teacher for 12 years now, and this time of year always gives me palpitations. In about a week from now, the nightmares will start, and they are always the same: the kids are going buck-wild, I’m screaming like a lunatic, and anarchy is reigning in my classroom.

Thankfully, that only has happened in my nightmares, not in real life, but I think every teacher wonders about the class she’ll get in the fall. Will I have good kids? Motivated? Open to learn? Or will they be lazy? Hard to handle? Apathetic? I’ve had the whole gamut…some years I’ve loved teaching and some years I swore this was it for me and I was never going back.

Well, obviously, I went back.

I can speak probably for a majority of teachers, that we pour our heart and soul into your kids. Truly, we do. Our job is NEVER done at 3:15. Our evenings, weekends, holidays, vacations are not our own. Most teachers I know are grading, planning, creating. For your kids. We don’t leave our work at work at the end of the day. Our work comes home with us more often than it doesn’t. Even when we aren’t working, our minds are constantly going…with new ideas, brainstorming, problem-solving, wracking our brains for ways to help your child ‘get it.’

Now, I’m not saying all this for pats on the back or applause. I say that so you know how thoroughly invested we are in the success of your child. Trust me. We would not be teaching if we weren’t; the financial return for the investment of time, energy, and our guts just doesn’t add up. We don’t feel good about ourselves and our job if your child is not successful.

If you have kids in school, regardless of the age, you know how important the trio of student-parent-teacher is in a child’s education.

If you will allow me, on behalf of your child’s teacher, I would like to present you with an ‘Open Letter to Parents,’ some things your child’s teacher might say to you, if she or he could…

Dear Parent,
Every fall, we teachers start out so hopeful and excited to begin the new year with your child. We come in with hopes and dreams of what this year will be like – and all of those visions include good things for your child. While we are willing to put in the effort, the hours, the creativity, the enthusiasm – there are some things on your end that would be incredibly helpful for us – which result in the overall success of your child. That is what we all want.

Here are 10 things from inside that would help us all along:

1. If your school has an online portal, please use it. We work very hard to keep record and grades up to date. It is impossible for me to call or email you every time your child does not do his homework. I know some of you are ‘not into’ technology, but can I respectfully ask that you ‘get into it,’ for your child’s sake? I’m not asking you to get a Facebook account, but the way of the world -business, education, communication – all of it – is locked into the Internet. For good. It’s not going away. These systems have very valuable information about your child’s progress. Please check it. Often. It is much easier to catch your child before he sinks if you know he is in danger. We need your help on the homefront to ‘be on top of him.’

2. Beware of the other side of technology. TV is a distraction as well as the Internet, cell phone, video games, etc. Watching TV sitcoms will not help your child be a better student. They need to be reading; they need to be exposed to good writing. This will benefit them in every class, not just English. That might mean you may have to model good habits and turn the TV off yourself. Set ‘no technology’ zones and times. And enforce them. Your kids are on their cell phones all night, texting back and forth, and then they fall asleep in class. And honestly, most kids are addicted to their devices. They cannot part with them even for a class period. Please support us when we make rules about iPads and phones in the class and when we confiscate them. As much as we would like to think they are an asset to education, 99.9% of the time they are a distraction. I know as an adult, sometimes I have a hard time separating myself from my cell or iPad. You think a 15 year old has that kind of self-control and discipline?

3. Please have an open mind if we need to call you about an issue at school. I know it is hard to believe that your darling could behave that way at school, but trust us – we are way too busy to invent stories to call home about. We are not calling to badmouth your child. We are calling for intervention and solutions.

4. We love involved parents; we do not love helicopter parents – the ones who hover and do not give their kids a chance to grow up and learn. You are crippling your child and doing a disservice to him if you always come to his rescue and never let him experience the consequences of his decisions. Cut the apron strings. Please. You are not helping your child in any way by enabling them, babying them, or making excuses for them.

5. We give 150% during the week when we are with your kids. Please, do not call us at home or on our cell phones. Ever. We need to have some boundaries to keep our sanity. Even if a teacher gives you her cell, don’t use it. Call the school. Send an email – just go through the professional channels and respect her privacy. And please let us have some down time on weekends. Please do not expect replies to emails or return phone calls on weekends. We try to detach as much as we can on weekends. We need to do this for our sanity and to be a better teacher.

6. One of the best things you can do is to teach your child character. This goes along with #4. Life is unfair sometimes. Your child will get hurt. Your child will be treated unfairly. Your child will struggle. I know, it hurts even just thinking about it. As much we all want to, we cannot protect him from every source of pain and discomfort. This is heart-breaking – I wish we could. We hate to see your child suffer, too. But what we can do is teach them how to navigate through these difficult parts of life with character: integrity, honesty, self-respect, maturity, and perseverance. Teach them coping skills. Teach them how to resolve conflict. Those are life-lesson that are invaluable! I can’t stress that enough. That will serve him much better in the long-run than rescuing. And believe or not, his character has a lot to do with the overall outcome of not just his education, but his life.

7. Speaking of things to teach, two of the most important qualities we need you to help us build in your child is discipline and self-control. We live in an instant-gratification society. We want what we want yesterday. Teach them to wait. Teach them discipline. Teach them to work hard, to persevere, to discipline themselves to create good habits and break bad ones. Teach them that they do not have to react emotionally to every emotion they feel. If they are weak in these two areas, everything unravels quickly after that. Give that some thought: discipline and self-control.

8. This seems minor, but late work gets graded last. If your child turns in work late, it goes to the bottom of the grading pile. Don’t expect to see that one graded overnight.

9. I didn’t ‘give’ your child a bad grade, and I didn’t ‘fail’ him. Your child earned it. A harsh reality, I know. But let”s call a spade a spade and go from there.

10. Finally, we really, really love your kids. We want to encourage them. We need you to encourage them, too. This only works if we all are on the same page. They really need positive adults who believe in them. We know they aren’t perfect. We don’t expect them to be. But they do need to know that we believe in them. Even if your child disappoints you, lets you down, frustrates you – never neglect calling out the best in them. Let them know you think they are better than that. Never put them down – it is a horrible motivator. They need to know you love them and accept them. Unconditionally. They need to know that you believe in them, not just that we do. Deep down, most kids really, really want you to be proud of them. Never under-estimate the power of life-giving words.

So, dear parent, while this isn’t the be-all, end-all in teaching or parenting, this might be a good place to start. And the stakes are huge.

On behalf of all teachers, thank you for letting us play such an important role in your child’s life. We recognize that we might spend more time with him on any given day. That is an honor we do not take lightly.

Sincerely,
Your Child’s Teacher

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6 Comments

    1. Hi Amanda! I don’t if it’s protocol for me to respond to comments or Diana, but just wanted to say hi and thanks for reading! I’m guessing you are a teacher, too?? For real – wouldn’t it be helpful if parents got all that???

      Wonder what administration would say if that was in the 1st day packet!

  1. Thanks, Katie! Good advice. Sometimes it is hard to take a teacher’s call about some issue. I have received far too many. But, I realize it probably would be easier for the teacher to avoid the call. They call because they care. There is an issue and they want my child to succeed in life. I felt early on that I was my son’s defender. But the Lord recently spoke to my heart that He is my son’s defender. I must recognize and accept the truth and encourage my son to be the best he can be.

  2. that was soooooooooooo true. My sister is a teacher and I thought I was reading her words.
    Well said Kate.
    We certainly need teachers who care and you, like my sister, do.

    Mireille

  3. Very well said! Exactly what all parents need to read! Can you tell I teach also? #7 is especially important…..self-control, discipline! Blessings and have a happy new school year! ~Lynda

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