Friday, September 9, 2016

Dear Moms: What Your Kids' Teacher Wants You to Know

It's a new school year.  My time is spent organizing school supplies and teaching routines, introducing new concepts and getting to know new kids.  This season of change is exciting, sentimental, and challenging not only for the students, but also for their teachers and parents.  Last year, I was asked to give a quick talk on thing teachers wished parents knew.  This post is the fruit of notes from that night of sharing and collected conversations, and it seems like a great time of year to share it.

Here are the seven things I wish every mom (and dad) knew:

1. You are the first and most important teacher of your children.
Nothing can replace your influence. We are your partners in this endeavor to help your child grow into the kind, loved, talented, responsible, intelligent person God created him to be.

2. If you are wondering what you can do to help your child's education: Read & Pray. 
Read to them, read with them, let them see you read.  
Pray for them, pray with them, let them see you pray. 
Both of these things, although they may seem simple, matter and influence every other part of a child's formation and education.

3. Love multiplies, not divides.  
Your child is everything to us, but she is also one of 25, one of a whole school. We strive to see every individual, to know her, to support and challenge her, and we also have to care for every kid in our classroom, each year, in every school.  

4. "Fair" and "Equal" and "Same" are not black and white words in our classrooms.  Please don't compare what has been determined to be the best educational plan for each student. I won't talk about another child with you, but you can be assured I won't talk about your child with another parent.

5. We appreciate your communication.  
A quick note, an emailed question, checking in during pick up- You are your child's best advocate, so certainly speak up when you have a concern or question. But please, in tough situations, don't assume the worst of us. Be willing to listen to another adult perspective before jumping to conclusions.  We are so grateful to be respected as partners in your child's education. 

6. To be honest and practical: 
A teacher will graciously accept the pinterest created/inspirational nik-nak/cutesy collectible as an appreciation/Christmas/end-of-the-year gift. But do you want to know our real love language?  Give us a handwritten card from you and your husband and/or a picture or letter created by your child- I will keep and treasure those long after I have to figure out what to do with this year's collection of gifts.  If you really want to spend money, buy us classroom supplies.  Ask us for a wishlist and stock up on all the things we love to provide for our students that don't fit in the school budget.  Or donate to a charity in honor of our class.  And if you must... Starbucks Gift Cards are always welcome :) 

7. Most importantly, it is a privilege for us to teach your children.  
We are blessed to spend time with them, to help form them and watch them grow. We are grateful to be a part of your family, even if it is only for a school year. Your children will always matter to us.

And a few bonus topics that came up in conversation as a result of my talk:

-When I spoke to several teachers from different schools and grades, ALL of them brought up communication as something they wished teachers and parents were on the same page with.  Here are a few of their thoughts:
Talk to us instead of your child's classmates' parents.
Expect a reasonable response time, especially when emailing outside of school hours- we respect your family time and appreciate the same consideration.
Take advantage of the many ways that most schools communicate- websites, social media, newsletters, etc.
As is age appropriate, have you asked your child first? Help him to be accountable and responsible.  

-How do you support your child when they have a teacher they don't get along with?
This is tough.  My thoughts are a balance between advocating for the well being of your child as well as helping them grow in the virtue of fortitude and the skills of navigating challenging relationships.  Your reactions could range from teaching your child coping mechanisms and helping them self-advocate to intervening on their behalf.  It all depends on the maturity of the child and the severity of the situation.  

-When do you intervene in your child's school social situations? (Building friendships, helping them learn to play with others, etc.)
Social growth develops so differently for each child and doesn't always follow a specific "grade level" trajectory.  Again, it's important to advocate for your child and keep the teacher in the loop with social situations that might be happening outside of school, but you also need to let the kids stretch their wings.  An intervention from a parent can end up being the worst thing when trying to foster social situations, especially as kids get older.  It is important to encourage your child to build lots of types of friendships in different situations, even with kids of different ages.  Play groups, activities, neighborhood friends, etc.- these all can help model appropriate social behavior and how to be a friend.  

-How can you encourage a more Catholic atmosphere in your child's classroom?
My suggestions for this are to help the teacher by "finding" great resources for them to make it easy to weave in faith throughout the school day.  Purchase a favorite Catholic book and donated it to the class.  Loan Catholic books or a DVD from your family's collection for an upcoming Feast Day.  Offer to come in to lead an art lesson or story time that relates to the Liturgical Season.  Email links to solid (educational, well made, age appropriate) Catholic printables/activities.  When you are involved in classroom parties, take advantage of the time to infuse the faith as you plan games and activities.  Invite the teacher to local retreats/studies/speakers to strengthen his/her own faith.  And super importantly- pray for your kids' teachers.  We all need your prayers more than anything! :)

So those are my thoughts.  Educators of all kinds, what else do you wish parents knew?  Parents, what do you want teachers to know?  I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments! :)


  1. thank you for this post Katie! God Bless! i hope you have a great school year. ~lis

  2. Lots of wisdom here! Miss seeing you more often - have a wonderful school year, Katie!

    1. Thanks, Margy! Can't wait to see you at Great Oaks, but I do miss running into you all the time in Henry! :)