Thursday, November 11, 2010

From a Teacher to a Parent

One of my traits as a person is that I try very hard to be honest but tactful.  Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't.  The honesty part is usually pretty much there, but the tact...well, sometimes not so much.  My entry yesterday was an open letter from a parent to all teachers.  Well, what's good for the get it.  I'm going to try to be tactful but honest, as I tried to be yesterday.  So if you've ever wondered what a good teacher thinks about when it comes to working with children (including your child) and families (including yours), read ahead.  If not, stop right now and I'll see you soon.  :-)

Dear Parent,

Ours is an interesting relationship.  You have entrusted me to educate your child.  I have entrusted myself, as has the school system, to meet a variety of skills and milestones within a certain amount of time.  During the nine months your child is in my care, s/he will have approximately three hundred skills s/he will either develop or master.  Yes.  Three hundred.  That's close to two a day.

My day starts with my own family in getting them up and ready for their own school experience.  I arrive at school an hour before your child, to ensure that all the materials I have (many of which I have purchased with my own money) are ready for your child to learn.  My littlest one is at home today with strep throat and a high fever, and I'm worried about her, but I'm keeping a smile on my face and trying to check my personal concern at the door.  If I have a chance, I'll call her at lunchtime.

I do a sweep of the room, consult with other teachers, ensure our day is planned and ready and we are all on the same page to greet your child and make sure today is a great day.  The children arrive and we're delighted to see them.  After all, this is my chosen profession.  I enjoy every minute with your child.  However, sometimes I have to have difficult conversations with you.  One of your children threw up before entering the building, and I had to insist he go home today, even though you were sure he was fine.  It's a licensing rule I am not allowed to break, but I wasn't sure you understood that when you looked angrily at me and told your child that I didn't want him in school.  Nor was it easy when another child came into our peanut-free environment finishing off her breakfast--a peanut butter sandwich.  One of her classmates has such a severe peanut allergy that the spores alone, in the air, could kill her.  So I managed to get the peanut butter child to the sink pretty quickly and make sure she's washed really well while you left.

One of the more challenging aspects of my job is helping you understand that your child needs you to do certain things in certain ways.  For instance, saying goodbye.  If you leave him or her because it seems like a good time to sneak out, I'm left comforting your child's hysteria five minutes later when they realize that you tricked them.  When you don't take home their work, or pay attention to it, or talk about it, that is difficult too.  Your child feels like it doesn't matter.  If it doesn't matter to you, then why should it matter to them?

I really wish you would ask me questions, but in a kind and respectful way.  If you don't understand or agree with the curriculum, ask me!  I'd love to explain it to you and show you how your child is learning.  If you are unsure of certain policies in our classroom or our school, I may be able to help clear that up, or at least send you in the right direction.

Please remember that despite how easy it looks, I went to school for a long time to learn how to educate. I don't babysit.  I am a teacher.  My long term goal is always on expanding your child's knowledge base. I have taken years of courses, done multiple assignments, spent hours and hours in the field and a variety of classrooms to finally be able to spend time in my own.

I realize your child is precious to you, and he or she is to me, too, but in a different way.  When I bring issues to the table for you to hear, it is out of the best interest of your child.  It's because I want what is best for your child in this environment, and s/he may need some help.  I am NOT the parent--that is and always will be your role.  Instead, my role is that of your child's teacher--a role that will help expand his or her mind and prepare him or her for certain aspects of life.

I want to have great communication with you, but sometimes I'm slow to respond.  My child is sick, I have staff meetings, I have outside obligations that make it difficult to meet immediate demands.  Please be patient with me, and if I forget, remind me.  I promise I didn't forget on purpose.

Lastly, please know that when I talk with you about difficult subjects, it is because I care deeply for your child, not out of malicious intent.  Sometimes I may be wrong, like most people.  But I feel I ethically am responsible for informing you when things are not working.  Hopefully we can work together.

Your child's teacher.


  1. Love this, Michelle! I wish I could have handed this out to all of my parents when I taught school. It's a must-read for parents!

  2. Thanks, Amanda! Sometimes it's hard to remember there are other perspectives out there!