Parents, I don't know everything. But as your child's teacher and as a person who has been teaching children for more than fifteen years now, there are some things I would love to tell you. So, today, I guess I will.
I've updated this post as the school year of 2021 begins and I begin my twentieth year of teaching. I hope these words come out in the loving way they are intended but are built upon my experiences of these years as well as many colleagues.
1 – I'm glad to teach your child.
I love to teach. I'm glad to be here.
2 – I don't know everything.
Of course, you already know this. You know that there are lots of things I don't know about your family or your child. But what you may not know is that even though I work with lots of kids, I may not always know when something is going on at home or your child is upset. So if even lots of people know, don't assume I do. I don't like gossip but run from it.
Help me out and let me know as much as I need to know to help your child, even if it is just “my child is having a hard time.” Knowing their frame of mind will help me be a better teacher. You don't owe me more explanation than you want to give. I won't tell other teachers unless you ask me to, so you might want to tell them too.
3- There are more than two sides to every story. Would you please make sure you get mine too directly from me?
In a class of twenty children, there are at least twenty-one versions of every incident, including mine. Nowadays, there are more because every child snaps, updates, and shares their version, and all their friends and followers re-share. So, no matter how inundated you are with “facts,” please make sure that you and I talk before you confront me about the “facts.”
As a teacher, the only person I can talk to about my “side” is you and my principal. A teacher can't publicly share such things. The best way to work things out is to talk with one another. So before you make up your mind, please make sure of a few things:
a) make me aware of what you think I've done,
b) hear me out about your child's involvement in the issue and
c) give me the benefit of the doubt before you go in angrily.
Our ability to work problems out often depends on the volume of our voices as we start.
4 – Kids can exaggerate.
See #4. Kids (and adults) can also mishear and misunderstand. Sometimes the exaggeration isn't intentional.
5 – Kids can lie – even yours.
A teacher friend once had a child turn in the entire poem word for word as their original creation. It begins like this,
“I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky; and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.”
John Masefield wrote this poem. My friend showed the poem in the book to the parent in front of the child. The parent looked at it and said,
“All I know is my child doesn't lie. If he says he wrote this poem, he wrote it.”
To which my friend replied,
“If your child wrote this poem, go ahead and send him to college.”
That parent was letting her child lie and doing the worst form of lying possible – she lied to herself. Sadly adults lie too, but kids can lie as well.
Never underestimate the power of self-preservation on a child's version of “the truth.”
6 – I make mistakes.
When I know it, I ask for your child's forgiveness. I think they should do the same thing. Part of what kids learn in my classroom is how people interact and solve problems together.
7 – We all have bad days
Teaching is hard work. I try to be my best every day, but I won't always be at my best, no matter how hard I try. So try not to judge me by my worst, and I'll try to give grace to you and your child on their worst day too. When we go through the hardest things in our life, we need the most forgiveness, love, and understanding. (See #1.)
8 – We may be allies, but you're the parent.
I respect your role as a parent. However, when discussing things – like your decision to take your child out of school – I will defer to your parenting choices.
9 – Children are made by their habits.
When you let your child miss school for the smallest reason frequently, you're setting up patterns for their life. I see kids who can't come to school flunk out of college because they didn't feel good enough to get out of bed in the morning, and they had no one to wake them up. I've seen kids become adults who could never hold down a job because they didn't know what it was like to show up every day. So, consider this and remember #7 and I'll remember #8 always.
10 – When your child misses, help me make sure they make up the work.
While it is your job (see #7) to decide why your child misses school, it is hard work for them and me when a child misses school. When they have been planning a trip for months and don't tell me and come back to school afterward and say, “did I miss anything?” then I feel like you've not done your part in this partnership to educate your child. There's only one of me, and I'll do my best to be patient, but communication is our friend. I'll work with you but cooperate with me too. Understand when I'm worn out and your child misses a week of direct instruction that I can't make it up in twenty minutes after school.
Would you mind not mistaking my exhaustion for disapproval of your decision to have your child out of school? Just take it for what it is. I'm a teacher. I stay tired. And when I teach 140 kids, and ten of them miss a class during a week, I have ten children to track down, not just one. I want your child to take ownership of their work, and if they do, your life will be easier as a parent. So let's work together on this.
11 – I'm the scorekeeper. Your child is the earner and learner.
I don't give free, unmerited credit for work not done. If your child fails, I will feel as if I have failed, but people don't appreciate things they don't earn. Some of the hardest things I've had to do are give an F to a child who deserved it and cause them to be athletically ineligible. (Note: During the pandemic the ‘give no zeroes' policy, while understandable, has perhaps made this one more difficult than ever and there will be friction if this policy goes away in the fall.)
I cry over every F that a child deserves but make no mistake, while some teachers give many zeroes. I work very hard to be fair, give credit for late work, and track down children to do the work. So, by the time they have an F in the grade book, they've earned it. They have been very few but there have been a few.
12 – Life is too short to hold grudges.
Would you please help your child work out their issues with other classmates and with me? Remember, I can't read minds. (See #2.)
13 – I know what you think of me through the words of your child
I know if you back me up at home because your child will repeat what you say. I can tell because it is typically something only an adult would say. I appreciate it when you back me up. Even more, I know it. The person who benefits most when we work together is your child.
14 – Not every child will like me.
That is OK. I always tell my students that I hope they'll thank me when they're twenty-three. By then, they will have grown up knowing that the hard truths of life I tried to teach them are true.
But when you tell a child that they should only work hard for teachers they “like” and that they deserve only great, happy perfect teachers is like telling an adult they deserve only awesome bosses. The sentiment is nice, but it isn't grounded in reality. If you set false expectations for your child about their teachers, you're setting them up to become disillusioned adults. No teacher is perfect. All of us are learning.
15 – How you handle your problems matters more than how you tell them to handle their problems.
Many behaviors are learned. More is caught than taught.
16 – Problems are the canvas upon which we paint a masterpiece of learning to live a good life.
Kids don't do what you say; they become what you teach them to be by how you expect and teach them to act.
We can make a massive difference in your child's life when we communicate and respect each other.
17 – If you have a problem with me – tell me before going to the principal to give us a chance to work it out.
18 – If you have a compliment, tell the principal first.
He likes to be given a chance to communicate positive things to me. It helps our relationship. Eventually, tell me, sometimes the principal forgets. ;-)
19 – As much as we love them, sometimes kids try to manipulate us. When we communicate – everyone is better off.
20 – Unnecessary drama hurts learning and everybody's quality of life.
You can't take back some things when they are done, our said. But, our relationships are important, so let's proceed with respect and wisdom.
I think of the time a child told the parent an untruth and the parents called me from the car and had me on speakerphone with the child in the car. What a terrible experience. They were angry before they even called me but the child had walked in five minutes before school was letting out to tell me he was going to be gone for a week and the major work was due next week! Wow. It was a mess and the misunderstanding was never corrected and it still hurts me how this was handled. A quiet phone call for five minutes could have saved everyone a lot of hurts.
21 – I'm a learner too.
Sometimes I try things that don't work. But if I'm learning, I'm growing. When your child sees me learning, they learn how adults can still learn, experiment, and grow.
22 – I like to laugh.
There's nothing wrong with enjoying learning. Just because we laugh doesn't mean we're not learning. Sometimes hilarious situations happen that seem off the wall but make sense if you see the bigger picture. So try to trust me even when the stuff we do seems different.
There's nothing wrong with enjoying learning. Just because we laugh doesn't mean we're not learning.
23 – I dislike some school rules as your kids dislike them, but I have to enforce them because it is my job.
Please don't be mad at me when you let your child knowingly break the rules, and they get caught. Remember that they'll do the same thing to the rules in your home when you do that. Rules are rules, even if we disagree with them. However, I will not say a word to you or your child if I disagree with the rule, it is my job to enforce the rules. If you don't like a rule, the best person to discuss it with is the administration.
24 – I respect your right to parent as you see fit; however, I have many kids from many homes in my classroom.
So, don't expect my classroom management strategies to line up with your philosophy of parenting. I'm always willing to listen, though, because I can always learn, and I hope we can talk about the differences before your child hears the criticism of me.
25 – I'm a humble servant of your child's learning, not their childish whims.
I would rather make your child upset today by having a hard conversation and having them thank me for the rest of their lives than avoid the talk and set them up to live a life of regrets.
26 – I teach more than my subject if I'm a good teacher.
27 – Your child's self-worth and your worth as a parent are not directly connected to the grades on the report card.
Every child is a beautiful, unique creation worthy of respect. A child can make a C or F on their report card, but they are all an A+ creation of infinite worth.
28 – We teach with more with our lives than with our lips.
It is a great thing for students to see adults work together, work things out, and communicate. Kids will do what we do not what we say, many times.
29 – Communicate with me during regular hours unless it is a special case.
Late-night impromptu phone calls where you wake me up to scream at me never end well for anyone.
(Many years ago this happened once. I know it has happened to other teachers as well.)
You might feel better, but it will be hard for me to forgive you for such inconsiderate behavior. (Since I still remember everything about this situation all these years later. What a sad way to be remembered!)
However, if someone important dies or has a desperate need because of a difficult, unusual circumstance and I can help – call me anytime. I want to be there because I care.
30 – Let's work together for your child's good.
You're the parent, not their BFF. I'm not their BFF or their parent; I'm a teacher. So we're better off when we each do our job to the best of our ability.
31 – Let's respect each other because we are both important parts of your child's life.
I'm not a very good replacement parent. I don't expect you to be a perfect replacement teacher. Let's both do our part because we want to do right by your kids.
32 – Let's enjoy the journey and celebrate our wins.
Please email me when your child does something awesome. I want to know! I want to congratulate your child. I wish every parent of every student in my class would do this at least two times a semester! It is great when students are noticed and I need help knowing what they've done that is worth celebrating!
33 – When you are kind, it thrills my heart, and I am grateful.
Through the years, 99%+ of parents have been the kindest, most loving, awesome, considerate people. I'm so grateful for all of the parents out there who encourage and help me be a better teacher. It also helps to have kindness because, in our world, people rarely give compliments but often only call when there is a problem. I try to compliment children genuinely to parents and I so appreciate kind words as well. It gives me fuel to move forward when I'm tired and working hard.
34 – When you don't buy your child the school supplies they need – I do.
Kids won't tell you they need school supplies when you yell at them every time they ask. Instead, they'd rather me do it if you always fuss about buying them.
Buying too many supplies for too many kids can mean that sometimes in the past, I've been short on some things I want for myself personally. That irritates me because it makes me feel like I don't have anything for myself. But, on the other hand, some parents buy school supplies for me, and I appreciate it because I give them to the kids. This seems little, but it can make even teachers who can afford to spend the money feel taken advantage of, especially when kids expect it and don't say thank you.
That said, if a child needs a pencil, I keep a stash and pick them up so I'll have some for those who need them.
2021 Update: I went and bought a thousand pencils and pens with an Amazon card a parent gave me — so this is handled. It wasn't worth getting upset over anymore.
35 – Life is too short to be a drive-by parent – be as involved as you can be.
You can't be at everything. But when you are, why not cheer for other parent's children and hope they'll cheer for yours when you're not there? A school community that cheers for everybody's kids is a special place where kids thrive. So, cheer for other people's kids too.
36 – Thoughtful, loving parents make me a more thoughtful, loving teacher.
My students always seem to have the best parents. The parents that have caused the other more negative items on this list are pretty few and far between, but, let's say — they've left their mark. The notes parents write, and the kind words they give me are awesome.
37 – If we can train up thoughtful, loving kids – the whole world will thank us.
When teacher appreciation week happens, a nice personal note from a child can mean just as much as something you purchase for me. You don't have to spend money to make me feel appreciated; the kind notes and emails have meant so much to me over the years — and I save them and re-read them when I have a tough and tiring day.
38 – Social media is a distraction during school hours.
If your child posts on social media during my class, it is without my permission, and they are hiding it from me. It doesn't mean I'm ignoring them; it means they are sneaking around. If they tell you they have my permission, they are lying, and you should address it. I don't follow my students on social media, but you should.
39 – Help kids make wise choices
Charge the cell phone in the kitchen. Kids who go to bed with their cell phones aren't mature enough to turn it off. Cell phones make poor alarm clocks because they aren't just alarm clocks.
I wish every child would get 8-10 hours of sleep a night. As a result, their grades will be better, and they will be happier.
40 – Don't worship your kids – they're only human.
Worshipping your children is like building a home in a sandcastle – when the tides of teenage years come, some of the facades will wash away, and you're setting yourself up for disappointment.
41 – Your kids don't tell you everything.
A wise person once said you don't get the whole story until you talk to everyone involved. So, waiting to make up your mind is a great idea, especially when loving your children.
42 – Not every teacher I know agrees with me, nor do I agree with them but don't ever ask me to speak negatively about a colleague.
If you have an issue with another teacher, take it up with the principal, not me.
43 – I won't judge all parents because a few of them make it tough to teach their children.
Likewise, please try to give me a chance even if you've heard from others about me.
44 – I love teaching and expect great things. Expect great things from your child, too.
I love kids. I respect you as their parent. I rejoice in teaching awesome kids with amazing parents but know that I expect awesome and always get it.
Understand that we often get what we expect, so expect great things from your children.
Many kids who end up in prison as adults were told by their parents, “you'll end up in prison.” They try to please you even if it means doing bad things, so speak blessings and joy into their life. When you destroy your child's hope, you make it hard for me as their teacher to give it back. Choose your words wisely – your children are listening and trying to be what you expect – so expect greatness.
45 – Teaching is hard, and I appreciate your respect and prayers
God called me to teach, and I'm grateful. But even though I'm called, it is hard doing this job. I hope we can work together to help your children learn, grow and find their strengths.
I hope you'll be patient with me because we all have to learn. They have to learn about the subject I teach and our classroom, but I have to learn about them and you. So, while they have one subject, I have as many subjects as I have students! The more we can learn, the better teamwork we can have. Let's work together in respect and mutual appreciation – raising kids is a hard job best done in partnership between great parents and teaching professionals.
The greatest dream of my life is to be a game-changer for your child and to show them the love of the Living God who loves me so much. We both have a difficult job but a job worth doing well. So let's learn about helping your child become the best version of themselves possible.
46 – Writing this scares me to death
I know how many people HATE teachers. I mean hate them. And I know that I've likely misstated or misspoken or said something wrong. And one thing I've learned from eleven almost sixteen years of blogging is that people are far more forgiving of themselves, their children, and most people than they are for teachers.
Teachers rarely get grace.
I know that as a teacher that I'm held to a higher standard. I can live with that. But living with the disdain of a society that should love the many amazing teachers out there can be hard sometimes. A college student may become a serial killer, but society doesn't hate college students. Likewise, a business person may steal from stockholders, but we don't hate all business people.
And I honestly never understood why teachers have to die before people realize that we give our lives for students every day. I do think that perhaps as we move through this pandemic and (hopefully soon) out the other side, that many more people appreciate the struggle teachers have but I hope the commensurate respect and compensation sometime will go along with it.
If people say great things about teachers, it is usually when we are dead or retiring. Otherwise, we take many heartaches, including the self-induced heartache we have over the kids we tried to reach and couldn't and the normal failings of being a human being.
I hope that you'll know that I don't profess for this to be a perfect manifesto of wisdom I wish parents knew, but these are certainly some things I do wish parents knew.
Teaching is my life's work, and I know that I need to honor, respect, and have great relationships with parents to do it well. As for me at this point, I have some of the most fantastic parents on the planet and am grateful for their kindness to me all the time.
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This is truly beautiful! As a sixteen year teacher and a mom, it was spot on!!!
LOVE this read!! Thank you, thank you!!
These are hard things to write but it sounds like you have lived some of the misunderstandings caused when we don’t get these things out!
Beautifully written and well said! Brought tears to my eyes thinking of my own children and the children I have taught. Thank you!
Actually crying on the bus home as I read these. Thank you. I’m tired, I’ve had several bad moments today, and I needed to read this – thank you.
I am glad this helped you. We serve in a hard profession but it is worth it. Keep up your chins as my Mama says. You will make it.