In my 15+ years of teaching 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students, I tried to keep a very complicated system as simple as possible. We kept our standards high and did our best to reach them. I only asked one simple question to determine the success of my students and their efforts….”Are you PROUD?”
Whether I was talking with the smartest kid in class, or the one who struggled the most, this one question was all I could ask for from each and every student. There is a connection when you look a student in the eye and ask this one question that any standardized testing will never be able to capture. Let’s remember that every student is an individualized learning anomaly. As parents, it is hard to keep an open mind when your child is grouped with his or her peers and is struggling in comparison. However, just like learning to walk, each child is able to rise on their own 2 feet when their mind and body are ready to do so. The main objective for both parent and teacher is to be a great supportive net to help each and every child when they are ready, and be there to support them in good and bad times.
With that being said, I always wanted my students’ parents to know 10 things when their child was in my care:
1. Your child does not treat me as they do you. You are their parent and they will test you 100 times more. Don’t get me wrong, they will also test me in the classroom (it is a part of growing up), however, I have the power of peers, the Principal, and you on my side. If you teach your children to be respectful, chances are they are being respectful!
2. In Elementary School, your child will tell lots of stories of what goes on at home! We only believe half of what they say, but the question is what half do we believe?? 🙂
3. I am not perfect. I, too, will make mistakes. I am sorry. If there is a problem, please approach me with a mindset of what is best for your child, and don’t hold it against me. (Remember I know we are both not perfect- see #2!)
4. Your child’s education is not about you and any embarrassment you may have. I simply want what is best for your child to be successful. This may mean being honest with your child. There is nothing wrong with being honest about negative behaviors you are observing with your child as long as you reassure them you are there to support. Please work with me if I approach you. I am doing so to help your child, not to inconvenience you.
5. Most important- Stop focusing on getting Straight A’s!! This is propaganda being pushed by society. If your child gets a C, it does not mean they are failing, it means they were average. There is nothing wrong with having a goal of A’s, but getting some B’s and C’s in 4th grade will NOT stop your child from getting accepted into Harvard as you may have planned. I do not give out grades, your child earns them. Be PROUD of a “hard earned C”, because it is better than an “easy A”!
6. Elementary School is NOT as easy as you remember it. Sure adding and subtracting is easy for you now, but can you find the mean, mode and median? How about naming the parts of a plant cell? Indirect objects? Prepositional Phrases? How about labeling all 50 States and their Capitals? Trust me, your child is not struggling to frustrate you. Take a deep breathe, remain calm, and listen. (Remember that I have to do this with 25+ students everyday!) Frustration is a fine line- It is good cause it means they still CARE and desire to be better! However, you have to be careful, because the next step is to quit. Make sure your child knows “You are not allowed to quit!” No matter how frustrated they are, let them know you care too and will help or get help for them!
7. The most important skills your child needs to learn in Elementary school are- Study Skills! From flash cards, to note taking, your child must learn to study for Secondary and Post Secondary years. Especially keep an eye on your child if they are a straight A student- as elementary school may be too easy, but eventually the subject matter will become increasingly difficult and they will be ill-prepared to study and ill-equipped to handle failure.
8. Don’t compare your child’s learning to any other child’s learning. For both success and struggle, asking your child to be like another child is just wrong. Keep it focused on what your child can accomplish. Forming better study habits or asking for help, are reachable tasks that can help a C student shoot for a C+ or B on the next test/report card. If you know your child has worked hard, be proud, show encouragement and your child will continue to put forth the effort and blossom!
9. Don’t compare me to any other teacher your child has had, or will have. We, like the students, are unique in our own ways and styles of teaching. What makes this great is that it mimics the real world where your child must adapt to others in leadership. From colleagues to the boss, your child must use the experience of school to help adapt into the workforce. Social Skills are important to learn during these years, so empower your child by allowing them to handle their issues. Your support is important, but your personal involvement should be the last option.
10. Lastly, but most importantly, I care for your child as if they are my own (In my mind, they are a part of my family and always will be). I have but 180 days to instill a passion to be a life long learner and empower them to chase their dreams. It is NEVER about straight A’s, but rather taking steps forward, no matter how small. Failure is NOT an option. I will be there to help out even when they have moved on to higher grades if ever needed. I am just a phone call or email away, for help, or simply to update me!
Just like every other profession out there, 10% are bad teachers. Unfortunately you will have to experience one or two educating your child. Use it as a learning experience in adapting to make the most of a bad situation (for you and your child), and never hold it against your next teacher! Do what you need to support your child and document everything! Lastly, if your child is struggling and you feel there is something wrong, ask for your child to be tested. Document all of your worries and things you see, approach your teacher, and don’t stop until you see results. Lastly- remember to “Thank a Teacher” when you appreciate the work they are doing. At a time of teacher evaluations based on standardized tests, government mandates, and the norm of teacher bashing, a simple handshake or a note is priceless in uplifting the spirit of a teacher.
To all of the parents whose children are now considered “my kids” also, I thank you! Thank you for your support. Thank you for your input. Thank you for your time. Thank you for your efforts. I did my best everyday to be a positive influence on the students. I am proud to say that your children have had as much of a positive influence on me!
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