Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dear Teacher

Please note this piece is not directed at any of my son's teachers - it is a general letter to all educators about the hopes I have for my son's (and all kids') education...   

Dear Teacher,

I can only imagine your reaction as you see this note from me... the dreaded note from a parent. A parent who also happens to be an educator - trust me, I know how I feel when I get one of those notes or messages. Well, before you start getting defensive and thinking about how you might respond, please just hear me out and understand that this is not about you or me... it is about my son and my hopes for him.

You see, as a fellow educator, I am always hesitant to send you any notes or make contact via email or the phone because I don't want to be THAT parent; I don't want you to think I am trying to tell you how to do your job or that I think I know better; I don't want you to think I don't understand my son's areas of need and his strengths; I just don't want to be THAT parent but today I realized my own concerns or fears are impacting my ability to be an advocate for my son and I can't allow that anymore. So, that is why I am finally reaching out to you... not to complain; not to share my opinions about your work as an educator; not to be negative or critical. No, I am not doing any of those things - I am just sharing my hopes for my son as it relates to his educational experience.

While my son is in your care during the school day, my two biggest hopes are that he feels safe and that he is happy. Yes, I want the educational experience to be a happy and joyful one for him. I realize school cannot be all fun and games (we are lucky if the current landscape of education allows for any of that) but he should find some joy in his learning during the day - he should get excited about something that he is experiencing (aside from lunch and recess). I know you are a great teacher and you clearly reflect on your teaching but during that process, please don't forget to reflect on my son's learning - help him find the joy in school! As for his safety please understand that I am not just thinking about his physical safety because I am concerned about his emotional well-being too. Trust me, I know you do your best to ensure it but please understand that this little boy is my heart and soul so his safety is the most important thing because I really believe if he feels safe, he will avail himself to learning, thinking and growing.

While my son is in your care during the school day, please make some time to connect with him or simply check in with him. I know you are busy and that there are a lot of kids in your class but if you could just make some time to talk to my son - really talk to him about his passions, interests and experiences - I think he will learn to trust you and value you in a different way. He is an amazing kid and while he may not always be the model student (I know he talks too much and rushes with his work) he has had many life experiences that have shaped him and impacted his trajectory and I hope that you learn about those experiences too - not just the curricular experiences. I think if you talk to my son, really just talk to him, he will make you smile, laugh, think and maybe even enlighten you on any given subject (likely something to do with video games). So, even if it is once a week or once a month, please make some time to connect with my son - I really think it will be worth your time.

While my son is in your care during the school day, please share all the amazing things happening in your classroom - trust me, your families want to know! I would love to know what happened in social studies today or what the morning meeting looked like or about the trip you went on. I don't want to know so I can sit back and judge you or criticize your work- no! I want to know so I can be part of my son's learning experiences. I want to know so I have an entry point for discussion with my son. I want to know so I can support your efforts outside of school. Please don't wait until weeks after something has happened to share it with your families because we can be an amazing resource and we can support, or even extend, the learning in school. Trust me, I ask my son about school every single day but getting information from him can be tough at times so please share all the awesome experiences unfolding in your classroom as often as possible!

While my son is in your care during the school day, please take the time to check his work - both his classwork and the homework. I know you are really busy and every minute of the day is accounted for but please place value on the work you expect my son to do. I am not asking for extensive feedback (that would be awesome whenever you have time) but I am asking that you at least look at his work - really look at it with your own eyes - so you can get a sense of how he is doing and so that he knows the work is important to you. My son wants to please you so if he knows homework is important to you and that you will check it every single day, he will approach it differently - he will be more careful and thorough with his work.   

Finally, while my son is a member of your classroom community, please remember that he has a life outside of school. He has family, after-school activities, friends and passions that he wants to devote time to and wants to experience. Yes, I know homework is considered to be important (research is still out on that one) but please help us maintain balance because as we both know, life experiences are really important in a child's development too. So, while I understand you have to address the state standards and that you are preparing the children for the many assessments they will encounter, just remember that my son has a life outside of school that is really important to him. I know school is a priority, and I will always support your efforts but my son's life experiences are really important too and I don't want them to be compromised because of a homework assignment or project.

So, I am hopeful that this note was received in the way it was intended - an opportunity to share my hopes for my son's educational experiences. This note is not about you or me - it is about my son and what I hope school looks like for him. I hope you understand that I am not trying to be THAT parent and I don't think that I am asking for anything unreasonable. I believe you want the best for my son too so if I can support your efforts or if you simply want to follow up, please let me know.

Thank you for taking the time to read my note and for making my son's educational experience a priority - your efforts are greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,
A Hopeful Parent  

11 comments:

  1. Tony,
    What an incredible post. I love it for so many reasons. I worry that being the child of an educator has some disadvantages sometimes. You've inspired me to take this post and write one of my own...along the same lines. You rock. Thanks for being there.

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  2. Tony this is great! I am getting ready to meet with my daughter's teacher on Tuesday and wasn't really sure how to approach it.I too don't want to be "THAT" parent but like you I want to advocate for my child. Thank you for putting this down in writing and helping me prepare for Tuesday.

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  3. Tony, your blog is a great reminder of what our priorities need to be as educators: we need to make sure our students are enjoying themselves, are safe, and that we are making connections with them. Without these priorities in place we will never get to the academic learning we want to take place.

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  4. You are so very right when you say that teachers are over-busy throughout the day and we do often forget that the kids need to come first. I started the year out with that intent but have slipped a bit. Thank you for the reminder.

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  5. Tony, your heartfelt words about Paul's educational life ring true. May all educators realize that our children need to be respected as individuals full of energy and life. They are our future so care needs to be given to their educational lives and that means looking at the whole child.

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  6. Toni (from Barcelona), Here is the same... As a teacher I can just tell you I try to do my best. And besides we, teachers, are a model/referent/pattern for them.
    We are always teaching, not just with the subjects, without words -with our behaviors.
    Let's keep going... the show must go on
    As I like saying to my students: lots of luck in the ART of life!

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  7. What a great post Tony! I can definitely relate to those feelings and concerns. :)

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  8. Your poignant post is something all teachers should read to be reminded of the important elements of each student in their classroom. I will be sure to read this post at several points of each school year when I am become a teacher.

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  9. Tony,
    I appreciate your post and think all teachers should give it a read. It is all about connections, relationships and understanding. As a parent and principal it is easy to relate to this letter and I appreciate your reflection. Well done!

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  10. this is beautiful,thank you for posting it. I am going to share it with my daughters teachers, one who understands and sadly one who doesn't.

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