This June marks the end of my tenth year of teaching elementary school. Ten years may seem trivial to some, but to a teacher, it’s an eternity. A life sentence without the chance for parole.
Elementary Education is a very specialized degree, and unless you are interested in an entry level position or going back to school, finding a new job is next to impossible. There are a few lucky ones who get hired on by companies like Pearson (standardized test developer) or Harcourt (textbook publisher)- if you consider that lucky– but the rest of us are stuck playing the lottery, praying each and every night that our six lucky numbers will flash across the screen on the ten o’clock news… Or is that just me?
Since day one I have proclaimed that I would teach for ten years before hanging up my hat and moving on to greener pastures. At twenty-two, “greener pastures” looked more like a white sand beach than diaper duty, but as we know, babies change everything. And though it scares the hell out of me, I am sticking to my guns and walking away from teaching at the end of the year, because quite frankly, there is nowhere I’d rather be than at home with my little love muffin.
I can say with some degree of confidence that teaching elementary school has knocked more than a few points off of my IQ. What a dismal realization! There is some good stuff here, however. Through teaching, I have gained some very unique insight into parenting, more specifically, I have learned what kind of parent I will NOT be when it comes to my child’s education.
If you’ve ever wondered what your child’s teacher really thinks about you, read on. This is a list of dos and don’ts that I vow to remember throughout Jack’s schooling. This list has evolved over the years and is 100% a product of my personal experiences. If you choose to veer from my list, that is your prerogative. Just know that your child’s teacher is most likely laughing at you, talking about you, and/or hiding from you on a regular basis. Not me, of course. I would never do that.
Consider yourself warned.
1. When conflict occurs (on the playground, for instance), never assume that your child’s version of the story is the whole truth. If you decide to contact the teacher regarding the situation, always ask for his/her perspective before throwing accusations around and/or assuming that your child is completely innocent. This leads to number two…
2. Never email your child’s teacher when you are angry about a situation that relates to school. Take a few minutes to cool off and think rationally first. And certainly don’t contact the principal before contacting the teacher. That is a sure fire way to end up on the “high-maintenance” parent list. Everyone knows who the “high-maintenance” parents are, and nobody wants to teach their children.
3. Never email the teacher when you are intoxicated. Late night emails with poor grammar are always a dead giveaway. You aren’t fooling anyone.
4. Do not initiate a parent-teacher conference during morning drop-off, lunch, recess, or dismissal. Only conference with your child’s teacher during an agreed upon meeting time (and know that they are probably watching the clock like a hawk, annoyed that you are eating up the only time they have to get anything done all day).
5. Stop making excuses for your children. Let them learn from their mistakes instead.
6. Children are very capable individuals. Don’t do things for your kids that they can do themselves, like unpack their backpack or spoon feed them at lunch. Learned helplessness is a very hard habit to break.
7. Dress your child appropriately for the weather. It is not okay to wear shorts and sandals when it is thirty degrees outside.
8. Don’t ever say to a teacher, “Why didn’t you tell us about ________ (the homework assignment, field trip, class party, etc.)” if you do not check emails, folders, and newsletters on a regular basis.
9. Never exclaim, “My child is so disappointed. He really wanted so-and-so for his teacher,” to your child’s new teacher for the year. That’s just rude.
10. Do not ask the teacher to name the best teachers in the following grade level when class placement time rolls around.
11. If you have a problem with a teacher, your child should never know it.
12. Do not share inappropriate details of your personal life with your child’s teacher in hopes of befriending her. I’ve heard it all… Marriage woes, infidelity, sex life… Nothing surprises me anymore.
13. Talking badly about other children, parents, or teachers in front of your child’s teacher is just bad form (even if it’s what you are actually thinking).
14. Keep your husband off of the “creepy dad” list by forbidding him to touch the belly of your child’s pregnant teacher. He should also refrain from snapping candid photos of the teacher on his phone when she least expects it, and he should never ask the teacher if she plans on breastfeeding her baby.
15. Stop pulling your child out of school weekly to attend extra-curricular activities.
16. When you volunteer in the classroom, put some damn clothes on! Nobody wants to watch you prance around school in a tennis skirt that barely covers your bum… Especially if have you no business wearing one in the first place.
17. Bring your child’s teacher their favorite Starbucks drink when they least expect it. Small tokens of appreciation go a very long way.
18. Consider medicating your child if necessary.
19. Consider medicating yourself if necessary.
20. Repeat after me, “Fair is not always equal.”
21. For the love of God, let your kids be kids! Elementary-aged children should never feel stressed out. Let them play and laugh and relish in the ignorance that accompanies youthfulness.
21. Above all else, teach your child to be gracious, appreciative, and polite.
If you are guilty of any of the above behavior, do your child’s teacher a favor and stop already! Pull your head out of your a**, find some self-awareness, and thank that teacher for all that they do, because whether you realize it or not, they really do love your child.