Aside from their parents and family, children spend most of their waking hours in the classroom. Because of that, it’s in everyone’s best interest that parents and teachers have a healthy working relationship. Unfortunately, that does not always happen, and often the results are disastrous. Whether you’re getting along well with your child’s teacher or whether you’re engaged in an ongoing struggle, understanding these few truths about teachers is likely to improve the relationship.
Teachers are on Your Team
Unless something has gone terribly wrong and a teacher has become bitter and cynical, you both have the same goal–whatever is best for your child. Teachers don’t become educators so they can take revenge on students for their own childhood experiences; nor do they get their own classrooms as a way to exert power over the virtually powerless. In fact, getting a classroom of their own is the most humbling, frightening and exciting experience for all teachers.
No, teachers are passionate about their subject matter, and they want to inspire their students to have that same passion. They want your child to learn and grow in all areas, just as you do, and that means they’re on your team. Unfortunately, personal differences and frustrations can get in the way of this goal, and it doesn’t always seem as if you’re even speaking the same language or playing the same game. Get beyond those issues and focus on your child. That is your common ground. If you can do that, the whole team wins. You’re on the same team.
Teachers are Human, Too
It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? Although they’re trained professionals, they’re also human beings and therefore prone to all the frailties and weaknesses common to us all. While an accountant’s primary focus is numbers and an electrician’s primary focus is wiring, a teacher’s primary focus is children. Dealing with people is fraught with potential frustrations, as you well know, and it’s easy to get frustrated and discouraged when a student doesn’t seem to be “getting it” or isn’t giving much effort. You sometimes get frustrated with your child in these ways, too. Now multiply that by 25 or 30.
Sometimes a teacher’s frustration is more self-directed. She may know that what she’s been doing isn’t working but has no idea how to do it better. Be patient. She will figure it out, if not for the sake of her students then for her own sanity and satisfaction. Don’t ever excuse bad or inappropriate behavior by a teacher toward your child, but do allow her to be an imperfect but dedicated teammate.
Teachers are Professionals
Part of being a professional is the ability and willingness to learn, grow and adapt. When one thing doesn’t seem to be working, teachers generally begin trying other methods and techniques to accomplish their students’ learning goals. It may not occur as quickly as anyone would like, but the odds are good that you’ll see results. Teachers have many resources available to them, including their educational training, their mentors and their administration. Once the need for change becomes evident, professionals figure out how to make it happen.
In some ways, society shows great respect for teachers. In other ways, however, society thinks of teachers as being glorified babysitters who work easy hours and have their summers free. Whatever your view, if you treat teachers as the trained professionals they are, they will generally rise to your expectations and solve the problem.
Teachers are Flexible
Perhaps if you’ve had a “run-in” with a teacher, you might not believe this; but consider the constant disruptions they have to deal with almost every day. If a colleague is sick and there is no sub, teachers give up their precious planning time to help cover the need. If the weather doesn’t cooperate and students are dismissed, teachers have to revamp their plans on the fly. When an unruly student acts out, teachers have to regain control and focus. When an unscheduled convocation, musical rehearsal or play practice is held during the day, teachers have to “go with the flow” and still accomplish all their goals for the week and year.
Teachers also serve as unofficial nurses, therapists and detectives. They are, in any given day, encouragers, disciplinarians, decision-makers, cheerleaders, managers, strategists, problem-solvers and listeners. Oh yes, and they also teach. As a parent, you understand the flexibility needed for all of these unplanned tasks.
Don’t assume that because they don’t agree with you they are being inflexible. Sometimes they are, but since they obviously know how to be flexible, consider the possibility that they may be holding to a decision simply because they believe it is the right one. That doesn’t mean they’re right, but don’t automatically assume they’re just being stubborn or intractable.
Teachers Love their Students
This may not be true of every teacher in every classroom across the country, but it is certainly true of the majority. We’ve heard countless stories about schools that experience a crisis, such as a shooting, and teachers risk their own lives to save their students. It’s not just one story but many, and it’s not just in one part of the country but everywhere.
Of course most teachers are never required to literally risk their lives for their students, but they certainly make other sacrifices for them. Teachers attend concerts, sporting events, recitals and other activities on their own time to support their students. They commit to extra duties, often unpaid, to provide extra programs for students, and they certainly give their time outside of the classroom grading papers and preparing what they hope are interesting and productive lessons.
Just as parents do unnoticed things around the house to keep everything running smoothly because they love their families, so teachers invest their time and energy not for the big money but because they love their students. Understanding this may give you a little different perspective on that weary teacher sitting in front of you during parent-teacher conferences or a special meeting.
These five things are simple reminders that teachers are people, too. While it may not take an entire village to raise a child, it does take consistent cooperation and understanding between the two groups with whom a child spends most of his formative years: teachers and parents.
J. Itson is a teacher and educational consultant for a school assembly program that promotes character education and making healthy choices. For information on educational BMX Stunt show assemblies for schools, visit: http://perfectiononwheels.com
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