Parenting

Want Your Child to Succeed in School? Start by Encouraging His Teacher

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Among the ranks of elementary teachers, it’s pretty safe to say: once a teacher, always a teacher. I taught third grade and kindergarten before my children were born, and I was the quintessential elementary teacher. With a lifetime’s aspirations and my degree finally in hand, I embraced it all, right down to the plaid jumpers and wooden jewelry. (It was pretty extreme!) I even ran our home the way a teacher runs her classroom. Our menu was displayed on a color-coded bulletin board, our shelves were stocked with children’s literature and curriculum, and I kept notepads shaped like farm animals.

Robb teased that he knew summer break had gone on too long when he would come home from work to a series of interactive learning centers for him to complete. He was kidding, but the sentiment stands firm: I was a teacher, through and through.

With two boys of my own—one in third grade and one in fourth—I’m on the other side of the parent-teacher relationship now. Still, I haven’t lost the sense of everything a new year brings to the lives of teachers. This annual back-to-school season evokes in me a deep need to make name tags, create bulletin boards, and sharpen pencils. There’s just something so magical to me about the endless possibilities wafting through the waxy rainbow scent of a brand new box of the Crayola 64. I love the start of a new school year. Love it.

Your child’s teacher is living, eating, and breathing thoughts of her students. She has lists upon lists—and lists of lists. She is awake past midnight completing lesson plans, field trips arrangements, parent correspondence, and updating the most current information for her page on the school’s site. She thinks of your kids when she’s eating breakfast, brushing her teeth, and taking a shower. It’s not weird; it’s the teacher brain.

She wants to do her best, love your child, and partner with your family to make this a great year. In the meantime, she needs to meet some seriously compelling and measurable standards from the district and state. She’s got a lot going on, and your kid is on her list—both literally and figuratively.

With all of this in mind, here are a few ways to love your child’s teacher, to launch a strong start for a new school year.

1. Smile

Be the parent she’s excited to see, one who encourages her with just the look on your face.

2. Happy Little Notes

 She’s buried in emails and notes from parents, and most everyone needs something from her. Send a note just to tell her she’s doing a good job.

3. Remember She’s Not Always A Teacher

Because the role of teaching can be so very consuming, look for ways that you can support her life outside of teaching. When you think about her as a person, perhaps aside from her role as your child’s teacher, you can help her to feel valued and known.  Maybe she would like an easy dinner out at Subway, or perhaps you can help her to take some time to read a good book at Starbucks—by getting her a gift card to Starbucks or a book to enjoy.

4. Donate School Supplies

Here’s a guarantee: your teacher is spending her very own dollars to maintain the environment in your child’s classroom, and she’s not exactly at the top of the socioeconomic stratus with her career choice. Send in some new things now and then—pencils, Kleenex, markers, or gift cards to Target.

5. Evaluations Matter

Tell the principal what you like about the happenings in the classroom.  Encouragements and affirmations go a long, long way.

6. Speak Well

 In every community, there are people who thrive in cultivating dissension. The parent community can be the greatest asset to the classroom, but they can also be the greatest detriment to teacher morale. If you hear parents talking poorly about the school, classroom, or the dynamics involved, then—at the very least—don’t fuel the conversation. An even better choice? Be the positive voice in the dialogue.

Welcome to a new school year, my friends. Love your teacher well.

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