We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled program as soon as I no longer feel like I am dying.
As an elementary school teacher, I have experienced my fair share of humor and horror alike. Whether it’s children who tell me every intimate detail of their parents’ personal lives, or catching the local kindergarten Romeo behind the bleachers with his Juliet, my job has always provided me with both laughs and gasps of horror. However, there have been some occasions when I neither wanted to laugh or felt amused in any way. Unfortunately, these situations are usually parent-related. I’m not sure why it is, but parents are a lot harder to understand than children, even though you’d think it would be the other way around.
For example, consider the parents who insist upon parking in the spots reserved for wheelchair accessible vans, and then use profanity that would make a sailor blush when asked to move their vehicles…in front of their child. It has been my experience that children will almost always emulate behavior that they witness, yet these parents are the first ones to seek me out and demand to know where their child learned the F-word.
Perhaps the most important parent-teacher interaction comes when there is a conference. It is then when the teacher is able to discuss problems that a child is experiencing, along with any praise that is due. These meetings also enable teachers to form relationships with parents, which is integral to gaining a better understanding of students. I have found that students I perceive to be troubled are more easily understood and dealt with after these meetings, as I am better able to understand how to interact with them after meeting with their parents and speaking candidly about their child.
One such example is Audrey, a sweet-natured girl who was eager to please, but who was gradually falling behind in her studies and risked the possibility of having to repeat second grade. Her mother showed up for our meeting 15 minutes late, bleary-eyed and still wearing her makeup from the night before. My initial conclusion was that the mother was a partier and neglected her daughter’s studies; upon talking to her for a while, however, I discovered that she was a single mother who worked nights at a bar in addition to occasional day shifts at a local diner, in order to spend afternoons and evenings with her daughter. However, because she had never been taught proper study skills by her own parents, she didn’t know how to help Audrey with her homework. After our meeting, in which Audrey’s mother and I outlined a basic study schedule and created a worksheet that would be signed every day, Audrey started showing marked improvement, and did not have to be held back.
When meeting with your child’s teacher, never be afraid to voice your concerns or contribute to the conversation in other ways. I had a student, Declan, who had been homeschooled for kindergarten and first grade due to his parents living in a school district known for its poor educational standards, prior to moving to my town. When he first entered public school, he was shy and withdrawn, and his grades were not what I believed they could be. I requested a meeting with his parents, and his mother came to see me the next day. Rather than sitting quietly and listening to my prepared remarks, she came with a list of what she felt were her son’s shortcomings, along with ways that she had learned to counter them. She also offered insight into her son’s educational experience that allowed me to develop a more tailored approach to him. Two years later, Declan is happy and well-adjusted, and doing very well with his classes.
While it is true that teachers are educated and trained in their field, no one knows your child better than you. There are many ways that we can draw a shy child out of their shell, or teach a challenged child how to learn effectively, but nothing can replace the intimate knowledge that you have. You are your child’s first and most important teacher, but when it is time for your child to go to school, encourage him or her, and make sure that you have clear, open lines of communication with your child’s teacher. This will not only set a good example for your child to follow, but it will make educating them a lot easier and enjoyable for everyone involved.
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