When you’re a teacher, there are so many things you wish you could say to the parents of your students. You see, there are these secret, unspoken rules about what you can and can’t say to parents. There is a fine line between teachers and parents that you don’t want to accidentally cross. You never know whether or not you may offend a parent and the last thing you want to do is jeopardize the relationship because it could adversely affect their child. But now that I am not currently teaching, I want to take the time and speak up for those who cannot. My goal is not to upset or to offend parents. My goal is to tell parents some of the things that teachers wish they could tell them so that maybe, just maybe, they understand teachers better.
Now of course, these are just the opinions of myself and some teacher friends. They do not represent every teacher you meet. When I surveyed my friends, I selected the issues that were mentioned multiple times. For instance, I would have put on here that I am a firm believer in inclusion and will fight anyone that stands in the way of it. But, that is a very personal opinion so it does not fit in this list. Instead, this is a list compiled of things multiple teachers wish you could know.
Thank you to all of my teacher friends that helped me put this list together. I could not have done it without you! The world is a better place because of all of you.
Communication/Relationships with Parents
We want to hear from you. Whether you have concerns, a question, or want to say hi, we love to hear from you. Understand that it may take us 24 hours during a work week to respond (and that we may not respond on the weekends), but we do love to correspond with you. We think that open communication with parents is extremely important. Don’t be afraid to message us, we aren’t scary. But if you add us on Facebook while your child is in our class, don’t be surprised if we hit decline (although some of us will happily hit accept after your child is no longer our student).
Find out your teacher’s preferred method of contact, and use it. Some teachers hate e-mail. Others have trouble finding a phone they can use. They waste precious time waiting in line for the phone. I know I was an e-mail only type of teacher. At the beginning of the year, most teachers will tell you the best way to contact them. Use this method and you will get the quickest response.
Show up to your scheduled conferences, back to school nights, open houses, etc. Try your best to make it to any event geared towards parent and teacher interaction. We understand that you may have to work or have other obligations that you can’t get out of. Please send us an e-mail to tell us you can’t be there and ask us what you missed – we’ll be happy to tell you or meet with you at a time that works for you. We can hold phone conferences or even an e-mail conference if that’s all you can do. Please don’t stand us up at conferences. It happens more than you’d think and it’s frustrating.
If you are concerned about your child for any reason, please speak to us. Sometimes we can squash your fears. Other times, we have no idea your child is struggling as much as they are. And if they’re being bullied, please tell us so that we can try to remedy the situation. Is your child struggling to make friends? Let us know, we can actually help with that in ways that will not embarrass them. Kids can be really good at hiding the fact that they’re struggling so if you know something is up, please tell us.
Our Perception of Your Child
Sometimes personalities just don’t mesh well and your kid just doesn’t like us. Sometimes your kid and I don’t mesh well. Just like in life, not everybody gets along. Even if your child doesn’t like me, I will give them the same treatment and opportunities of every other student. I still want nothing but the best for them and hope that I can get them to come around as the year goes on. But, I will never try to force them to like me by bribing them or being overly friendly. It’s important to remember that we are not your child’s friend. While we want them to like us, we have to have rules and we have to give them grades.
Nice children always stand out. You may think that a child’s intelligence level is the most important thing on our list. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Pleasant, hardworking, polite children get much further than their rude, smart-aleck, peers. Funny children are wonderful as long as they know when it’s appropriate and when it isn’t (make sure they understand that making a joke in the middle of a teacher administering a test is not the best timing).
Hygiene and Clothing
We notice the way your child dresses/if they’re clean. Want your kid to pick out their own clothes? Your kid will get known as the free-spirit. Is your child wearing the same pants three days in a row? We may worry. If they have a favorite pair of pants they refuse to take off, please let us know so we don’t get concerned. Is your child wearing the most expensive outfit you could find? We probably won’t notice unless we’re up on current children’s clothing trends. If your child is wearing something inappropriate, it reflects on you more than your child. If they come to school in something you know isn’t allowed, don’t expect us to be okay with it.
Teach your child to close the bathroom door before they enter Kindergarten. Many kids are used to using their bathroom at home and don’t think about closing the door. This results in lots of giggles and embarrassed children. Make sure to teach them that when they’re in school, they need to shut the door (especially when the bathroom is in the classroom).
Make sure your child starts to use deodorant when they need it. Did you know that some fourth graders smell like a man that’s just run a marathon through a cow field? Put a bunch of kids starting puberty in a hot classroom together and it becomes unbearable. Pay attention to how your child is smelling starting around the end of third grade – seriously. Try sitting in close quarters with them after playing outside and take a big sniff. If they stink at all, get some deodorant. I know it sounds crazy to ask you to smell your kid, but you don’t want them to be made fun of or for kids (or teachers) to avoid them because they stink.
Lunch & Snacks
Some kids throw away half of their lunch or more. If you saw how much food was thrown away at lunch, you’d be shocked. Ask your kid honestly what/how much they are eating so they don’t waste your food, time, and money preparing them things just to have them throw it away.
Most kids eat their dessert first (See above – this means they throw away the good stuff). You know that banana you send today, it’s most likely at the bottom of the cafeteria’s trash can.
Kids trade food. Sometimes, kids will trade a part of their lunch with another kid. The lunch staff can’t supervise every kid at the same time, so some trading falls through the cracks.
Your kid has trouble with their containers and has to ask for help. Try to send food in containers you know your child can open. When kids are younger, we know that’s not always possible. But you’d be surprised at the older kids getting help to open containers. This means they may be sitting around waiting for assistance before they can eat (which results in food not being eaten and thrown away).
Every item is on the supply list for a reason. We are not using your Ziploc bags for our own lunches or your tissues in our own home. It may not make sense to you that we need 4 black dry erase markers, but we’ve been doing this for a while and we know that we tend to go through a pack or more a week because kids forget to put on caps or they’ve just run dry. We really struggle when making the supply list and believe it or not, the list you receive has been cut down a lot from what we actually need.
If you can’t afford to purchase supplies, it’s okay. We understand. Buy what you can afford (if anything). Most of us purchase or use donated items when a child cannot afford them. As hard as it may be, please let us know so that we can make sure your child has what they need to succeed. It’s harder for your child if you don’t tell us and suddenly they are scrambling for a supply they don’t have during a lesson.
We run out of supplies mid-year. You know that list you think is so big at the beginning of the school year? We actually run out of many of our supplies midyear. Some of us are allowed to request more from parents, others have to buy the supplies ourselves. If you have the ability to purchase some additional supplies throughout the year, we will be more grateful than you can imagine. A couple of glue sticks and a pack of pencils is the way to our heart.
We spend a lot of our own money to teach your child. If you think your bill for your child’s back to school supplies is high, you should see the total we spend on our own classroom at the end of each year. We use money from our own salary to fund your child’s education. If you are angry that the school system doesn’t provide supplies, we get it. We’re not happy either. But instead of getting mad at us, try to do something to increase school funding (like sending letters to a senator or voting on a legislation that is in favor of increasing the school budget). Please don’t be angry at us for something we have no control over.
Students Receiving Special Education
(I could write a post on this alone. Here are the top ones)
We fight for your child, daily. You see, not everyone is still on board with inclusion. Not everyone understands IEPs or how to work with a child that has different abilities and or needs. Not every administration understands your child or what we do. It is our job as their case manager to advocate for your child. We do it every. single. day. If you ask any of my former colleagues, I think the majority of them would agree that I fought hard for the rights of my students. Being a special education teacher is hard. We can make a lot of enemies. But, we do it because we truly believe your child deserves the right to a free and appropriate education like everyone else. And we will try our absolute best to get them the best education possible.
Read your child’s IEP, and if you don’t understand it, ask. Please make sure you are just as informed about your child’s IEP as I am. The truth is, at some point in your child’s career you may meet a teacher that doesn’t follow your child’s IEP. You are their advocate as well and it’s important that you know it just as well as I do.
Work on goals at home. We’re not the only ones that can work on IEP goals. You can work on them at home as well. It’s important for our students to generalize the information they learn and apply it at other times in other settings. Working on goals at home will immensely help them maintain their skills.
An IEP does not mean your child will always earn A’s. Sometimes parents feel that if their child has an IEP, it means they should be receiving top grades. They will be graded fairly like everyone else with their modifications and accommodations in place.
When it comes to teacher appreciation, holidays, & end of the school year, please don’t forget about us (or your child’s other service providers and para-educators/student assistants). I am not saying that we need gifts. But it’s nice to feel appreciated. Sometimes we work with your child more than anyone else. We’d love a thank you note or a letter to our Principal saying what great work we are doing. It’s hard to be forgotten when you work so hard.
Para-educators and student assistants are the most underpaid positions in the education field. They work so hard and are paid so little. Please get to know them and don’t forget about them. I could have never done my job without them.
It should not take your child all night to do one worksheet. If it’s taking too long for your child to complete their homework, please talk to us. We want your child to love school. We also want them to be well-rounded individuals and have time to play outside, go to scouts, spend time with their family, and even watch T.V. (every kid needs a break). So please, if it seems like your child is taking too long to complete their homework, let us know. This also lets us know if they are struggling on a certain topic and that we need to revisit it with them or that maybe the level in which they are currently on is too high.
Be careful what you say and do in front of your child. We hear everything (especially in the younger grades).
We work many more hours than we’re paid for. It’s rare to find a teacher that isn’t spending late nights at school or bringing work home on the weekends. There’s no such thing as overtime for teachers.
We don’t get paid for our time off in the summer. One of the biggest misconceptions is that we are paid to be off during the summers. While some of us still receive a paycheck during the summer, it’s because we have chosen the option to pay our salary out all year instead of just the months we’re being paid to work (some systems don’t even offer this as an option). So no, we don’t get paid to sit by the pool.
If you don’t respect us, neither will your child. Please avoid talking poorly about us in front of your child even if you don’t like us. Kids tell us what you say, believe me. Talk about us privately where your child cannot hear you. The thing is, if you talk badly about us, your child will have no respect for us and their education will be affected.
Don’t talk poorly about other children in front of your child or with other parents. Kids repeat things and it’s not nice to talk negatively about an innocent child. Also, you may think you have another child all figured out but you may also have things completely wrong. Children don’t deserve to be gossiped about. If you have a legitimate concern about a child, speak to us or to the parent(s). Adults can be bullies towards children as well and that’s not okay.
We have lives outside of school. Shocking, isn’t it? We have children of our own, pets, friends, family, and sometimes really difficult things going on in our lives. Remember that we are human and we are doing the absolute best that we can. We all make mistakes or have bad days. We can’t always answer your e-mail at 5 pm on a Saturday night, so please be understanding of our time outside of school.
We dislike the curriculum, politics, administration, lack of holiday celebrating, rules, etc. just as much as you. Sometimes, we are just as unhappy as you about the school rules/guidelines. But, we don’t have a choice. We have to do the job the best that we can in the restraints we are given. If not, we’re without a job.
We love volunteers (all of us, not just classroom teachers). We love to have volunteers – even specialty teachers. Often times, special ed teachers or art teachers, etc. are forgotten about. If you don’t have time to come in but still want to help, you can still ask the teacher to help. A lot of times they have projects they can send home with you to work on while you’re binging some Netflix. If you choose to volunteer, please remember to keep anything you see or hear in the classroom confidential and to never go snooping. As much as we love volunteers, we would choose no volunteers over nosy volunteers that like to gossip.
More than anything, we want your child to succeed. We are rooting for your child every step of the way. Sometimes it seems like parents feel that we are looking for their child to fail. We aren’t. Our students are so important to us and we want them to do well. Even if you think that we don’t like your child (which is probably unlikely), how would it help us if they failed? It would only hurt us. Just know we are rooting for your child to prosper, always.
Looking for some back to school ideas to make your child’s school year a little more fun? Check out these 25 ideas.