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Kelly Wickham

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Kelly Wickham is an assistant principal at a magnet school for technology in the Midwest. She authors Mocha Momma Has Something To Say for Babble and maintains a personal blog at Mocha Momma where she writes a lifestyle blog that includes personal stories about being a single mom, stories about race, and tales from her educational adventures. Originally from Chicago, Kelly lives in Springfield, IL with her boyfriend, The Cuban, and two of her four children.

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10 Things Teachers Want Parents to Know

By Kelly Wickham |

I have something to say about the battle between teachers and parents. Why, exactly, are we fighting one another? Look, I know that many parents aren’t happy with teachers and vice versa, but a lot of the time what I hear about publicly comes from parents who are disgruntled about something that a teacher did. Heck, I’ve not been entirely pleased with every single teacher that my children have had in the classroom. But this is supposed to be a teamwork thing and, in some instances, I see a whole lot of Us Versus Them on the educational front. I thought it was time to hear from teachers about what they wish parents knew and, boy, did I get an earful. There isn’t one thing on this list that I didn’t entirely agree with and feel strongly about as a classroom teacher. Now, of course, I’m an administrator in charge of teachers so I get to hear from parents far more regularly and passionately. In an effort to bridge the parent/teacher gap, I asked some teachers what they wanted parents to know about and this is a culmination of that research.

 

1. Know the value of practicing the art of reading at home. Tracy is a college professor who notes that even though parents swear that they are making their child read at home, she isn’t seeing the evidence of that in the classroom. Children won’t be good writers if they’re not good readers. This is also true of math. If you don’t allow your children to help make change or do flash cards for multiplication facts, then you’re expecting all of that learning to take place at school. Parents need to take some of the responsibility of helping their child at home. I’ve heard from many parents “It’s YOUR job to teach. I don’t have to do that.” That is exactly the wrong attitude about education. They learn from home first.

2. Parents need to separate their own learning styles from their children’s. My friend and parent advocate Dina suggested that parents who are helping their child at home and find the task frustrating should consider that they aren’t teaching to their child’s style. My own son Mason is such a different learner than I am that I farmed out his homework to his father or sister because I, clearly, wasn’t capable of teaching him in the same way in which he would learn. Don’t put your learning challenges on them and say this phrase in front of them: I was never good at such-and-such so he’s not going to be, either. Not true! Lots of children are completely different from their parents. So what if I wasn’t good at math in high school or I hated it? That’s no reason to give my children the excuse to lower their expectations of themselves.

3. Check with your child’s teacher to determine whether extra interventions are necessary. My friend Deva noted that too many kids are being sent to Kumon or other tutoring services when they don’t actually need it. Some could use the enrichment while others might need some extra help, but parents spend a lot of effort sometimes in helping their child when it truly just stresses them out unnecessarily. Teachers have the expertise to provide those interventions and challenges when students need them. Just ask them.

4. Come to school meetings with an open mind and a willing attitude. The approach to finding success for children may be different, yet we have to work together as a team to achieve academic success. In my 18 years as an educator I have seen this one every year around parent-teacher conference time. A parent is frustrated and angry with a teacher for something their child isn’t able to yet accomplish at school. Teachers really do have the best intentions when it comes to teaching, but if you show up ready and on the defensive it impedes our ability to accomplish anything.

5. Allow us to hold your children accountable. This goes for both their behavior and for their academics. When parents come in and “play lawyer” having only heard the version set forth by their child, it doesn’t even allow us to set boundaries. I have had parents tell me that I’m not allowed to discipline their child the same way that every other student gets disciplined by our handbook. Tying my hands isn’t going to help. Discipline actually comes before a child does something. A consequence comes afterward. When teachers have gone through the trouble of setting up their classroom and getting students to abide by those rules, it’s damaging to watch only one child get away with not having to follow them.

6. College isn’t the only successful answer to post-graduation. Pushing children in that one direction exacerbates the academic failure that is prevalent in schools today. Many professional teachers can attest that their former students have experienced career success without having a college degree. When this issue is pressed onto the educational system and becomes solely their culpability, teachers feel a burden that’s beyond the stress of the demands they already feel. College is great and fine and nice, but it isn’t for everyone. Don’t be offended if teachers suggest as much.

7. Don’t keep important information from your child’s teacher. Tell us what your child needs and what works for them at home. Erica, an educator from Chicago, says that when teachers don’t know about the struggles a child has it can penalize him or her and also make it difficult to instruct them. Don’t make us reinvent the wheel if you already know what motivates your child. If something works for you at home, let’s try it at school, too. After my youngest son’s diagnosis of ADHD, I wrote yearly letters to his teachers highlighting his strengths and his weaknesses. Every teacher told me they appreciated this because he ended up having other issues as well and they were keenly aware of his learning because of it. Conversely, ask us what you can do to help us instead of asking, “What are YOU going to do to fix this?”

8. Listen to us. When we tell you that something is going on, please don’t go on the offensive of not my child. Children find themselves in situations over which they have no control and without giving in to the possibility of other factors in control over their lives. These emotional, social, and academic concerns aren’t a way to blame your DNA for a broken child. Trust us when we say that we think something else is wrong. When we look at the Whole Child and do it from the vantage point of a professional team, we are far better equipped to put things into place that will be helpful in the classroom. We’re not blaming you; we’re helping your child.

9. Don’t tell us things like this: “Well, he doesn’t do this at home. Well, naturally. We don’t expect your child to have the same behavior everywhere. We have different expectations for our children at church and in the grocery store. The water park and a funeral home. Unless you’re asking your son or daughter to learn, listen, and be engaged for extended periods of time while you’re assessing whether or not they’re learning, don’t tell us they don’t do the same stuff at home. Unless you are working with 30 other children at home and trying to get them to all learn the same thing and then assess it or else your federal funding gets cut, then you can’t make that assumption that these two different locations will garner the same behaviors from your child.

10. Remember that teachers are professionals with lots of training, college degrees (many with advanced degrees!), and on-going professional development. Often, I liken this to how you would treat your general practitioner and the respect that they get in their offices from you as a patient. Teachers are doing an amazing job of instructing a variety of different learners in their classrooms and feel beaten down when parents view them as the enemy. We don’t expect you to agree with every thing we do or expect from your child, but we do deserve to be listened to as professionals. Sometimes that mutual respect doesn’t happen because of the negative views of our work and, trust me, that’s reflected in a teacher’s paycheck. Educators spend a lot of time trying new things and accommodating in the classroom, but we don’t always receive the courtesy of a professional. A respectful attitude toward your child’s teacher goes a long way in how your child acts in the classroom, too.

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About Kelly Wickham

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Kelly Wickham

Kelly Wickham is an assistant principal at a magnet school for technology in the Midwest. She authors Mocha Momma Has Something To Say for Babble and maintains a personal blog, Mocha Momma, that includes personal stories about being a single mom, stories about race, and tales from her educational adventures. Read bio and latest posts → Read Kelly's latest posts →

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15 thoughts on “10 Things Teachers Want Parents to Know

  1. Kymberli aka JW Moxie says:

    Brava, Kelly & contributors! As an educator for 13 years, I can stand up and cheer for this post. I wish that this were something we could print and give out at Open House. It should be mandatory reading for parents. I especially agree with numbers 5, 6, 9, and 10. It is important for parents to remember that school is a different setting than home, and with that comes different behavioral expectations (and different behaviors in general) for the students.

    I teach 8th grade, and a lot of career counseling begins at this level. I’ve had a parent practically curse me out for suggesting that college might not be the best higher-education route for her son. She took that as an implication that I said her child wasn’t “smart” enough for college. Once I explained that given his temperament, HIGH level of intelligence, lack of motivation to perform well in any subject that didn’t interest him, and his obsession with mechanics and cars, she was more open to the idea of helping him consider a 2-year vocational program. And when we discussed his potential earnings as a mechanic, well…she shut right the heck on up.

    In April during Teacher’s Appreciation Week, I wrote a similar list on my blog: http://thesmartness.com/smartone/2012/05/dont-hate-appreciate-teachers.html.

    Thanks for helping give a voice to teachers everywhere!

  2. Angelina says:

    I think this is a great post. I have always tried to find a balance between being my kid’s advocate and letting my kid’s teachers do their job. I respect the work that teachers do a great deal and I listen to their suggestions and ask how I can help my kid at home. My son has ADD and OCD and has a really tough time in the classroom so I have to communicate with his teachers a lot. Most of the teachers my son has had have gone way out of their way to accommodate his needs and to help get the best out of him even though they all have a lot of other kids to teach at the same time.

    I have to admit, though, that there are teacher/principal meetings that I just break down in. When a teacher says there’s nothing more they can do and they’re talking about my kid and I already feel so frustrated because I can’t fix the problems – sometimes I just can’t hear one more negative thing about my kid and I just cry. Not very helpful to anyone.

  3. Shannon Campos says:

    i also agree with this post. a lot of the parents i hear talking badly about my kids teacher…how dare they pass judgement, when they can’t even teach their own child manners. i love teachers they are a great breed of people. to tolerate what they do, they are amazing.

  4. LisaOnTheLoose says:

    Love the article.

    Always have found it interesting when a parent complains about a teacher bringing up an issue. To me, if a teacher brings up an issue, it shows he/she cares about the student — that he/she is looking out for the child.

  5. Hey, thanks everyone! These are things that teachers talk about A LOT but we never share with parents. If there were a way to share it at schools that would be great. We have parent educators who could share this, but we educators have to keep talking about this, too.

  6. Sherry Carr-Smith says:

    My son will be in second grade starting in July (year around school calendar), and we have been so lucky to have teachers who really *got* him. I’ve also been very lucky that, when I told the teachers, “Hey, this is my oldest kid and it’s been a long time since I was in school, I want every bit of advice you can give on ways to guide him to be successful,” they’ve taken me at my word. That’s not to say I loved everything they’ve ever told me, but when you come from a place of mutual respect, you can almost always work it out.

    Now, can you please write a post offering advice on presents for teachers? Specifically holiday, Teacher Appreciation, and end-of-year. Thanks!

  7. Tricia (irishsamom) says:

    Truly appreciated this as a parent and a teacher. I try to work with my children at home as part of the team work that I know it takes. I am also big on letting my kids learn their own lessons and face their own mistakes, as in completely supporting their teacher if she or he suggests something that isn’t being done. It’s tough sometimes being on the receiving end of a parent who doesn’t take responsibiity for some of the points you mentioned, but for the most part I’ve been blessed with great parents who know that I love their children and want what’s best for them. Then again, I’ve been teaching young children and I think it’s easier than when they get older. Thanks for writing this, I’ve shared it and hope many other people read it. : )

  8. BakingSuit says:

    I hope the parents reading this also apply this to other teachers in their child’s life. I’m a swim teacher and no, I don’t see the kids every day, I see them for short amounts of time, but the entire above list applies.

    I’ll add one more if I may: if your child has sensory issues, attention issues or otherwise has something that needs to be addressed, PLEASE fill your child’s teacher/coach in on it. Even in broad or general terms, we can work with that child differently. I’ve had parents hand me the entire IEP before and you know what? It was the first session the child enjoyed swimming class because we were working together to help them learn. Is that necessary? Maybe not, but for me to know that little Johnny needs a focus reminder and little Susie can only really hear out of her left ear, I can better teach your child.

    I bet a lot of activity teachers/coaches feel the same way. Don’t make us guess, we lose a lot of instruction time that way.

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  11. Liz says:

    Yeah, well, here’s 8 things parents want teachers to know
    1. Our children are not your therapists. Keep your problems with your spouse and kids at home.
    2. Our children will drive you insane. Remember, these are our kids. Half of us are diagnosable thanks to the little monsters by 7AM. By noon, we’re scouring for gray hairs, and by 5PM, Happy Hour is our only saving grace. We don’t look down on you for needing Thorazine. But we do insist you take it regularly & as prescribed by your psychologist.
    3. Can the communist punishment schemes. The kids resent you for it, and so do we. A call us at work to tell us our kids have done nothing wrong, but we should speak to them about the importance of good behavior at school interrupts our day, accomplishes nothing, and makes you look incompetent.
    4. Do not scream at our children. They can hear you. Chances are, they are choosing not to. You’ve lost their respect somewhere along the way. Increasing the volume of your voice doesn’t make them more likely to listen to what you have to say.
    5. If you’re going to comment on a child’s misspellings, make sure those comments are free of spelling errors.
    6. Snack time isn’t about you. If a child breaks out a 5lb bag of sugar and a spoon for snack time, then yes, you should intervene. A Twinkie on good faith every now and again, on the other hand, is none of your business. Unless you are footing the bill for groceries, you don’t get a say in the shopping list.
    7. Stop asking for tissues. We don’t have boxes of tissues lying around the house. We’re simple folk. We use toilet paper. If our children can use toilet paper to blow their noses at home, they can do it at school.
    8. Stop using No Child Left Behind as an excuse. You are not victims of ridiculous government policies. You choose to be there. So choose to teach our children, while you’re at it.

  12. Sean says:

    While it’s very easy to agree with all the gripes of teachers, I think one aspect has been left out. What if others teachers are not you? And can somebody help Liz? She sounds overwhelmed or at least, just pissed off.

  13. JP says:

    A comment on the background of teachers. Much of what was described is most true for public school teachers. Not necessarily true for people working as teachers in private, parochial, and charter schools, these institutions can typically set any requirements they want as far as teaching qualifications.

  14. I would disagree with you, JP having worked in both the public and private sectors of education. I’ve seen this all in both places but maybe with a little more entitlement in the private one.

    Sean, while I truly thought about that, these are the most common that teachers want to convey to parents. Especially the one about separating your learning style from your child’s – this has come up every single year of my educational career. And, yes, Liz needs to get some help. Earlier this morning when I saw her comment I sent her a very nice email about that. I’ve pasted it below for the sake of transparency.

    Hi Liz,

    I tried reading your comment in good faith, as it were, but you seem very upset about some specific things whereas my article was generalized about experiences from many educators. Here’s the thing: many teachers, in their professionalism, have to sit and listen to parents rant and don’t often get to respond. You sounded angry from the jump off so I’m not taking it personally. I hope you’re taking these concerns to your school and getting some sort of help for them. It sounds like you really need that.

    Best of luck,

    Kelly

  15. Mary Valenzuela says:

    Would love to also have a “10 things parents want teachers to know”, too!

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