I have been an elementary school teacher for 12 years. I have a masters degree and have to constantly attend professional development to keep up with current trends and educational standards. I also spend endless hours a week planning and implementing instruction to 40+ students, all of whom have different abilities, needs, and behaviors. Being a teacher is demanding and extremely difficult, however, I can confidently state that I know what I am doing! I hate it when parents question my decisions and abilities, but it happens all the time.
BUT I am also a parent of a school aged child. I am now experiencing some of the same situations I have encountered throughout my career. But as a parent, I am now on the other side of the teacher’s desk. Let me tell you, it ain’t easy! I’ve become THAT mom!
My oldest son is five years old and in Kindergarten. Instead of loving school, he comes home tired and frustrated. The long hours and intense academic schedule are causing a lot of stress in his little life, and not surprisingly, he’s acting out to avoid the work.
As a teacher I know he’s the kid that gets under your skin. He’s impulsive, always talking (even to himself), he can’t sit still, and constantly has to get in the last word. And trust me, as his mother he gets under my skin too…but he is MY son. I also know that he is smart, and funny, and compassionate.
To make things even harder, he’s now on a behavior chart. This little chart is causing chaos in my house! His mood depends on whether or not he earns a little smiley face. It’s also teaching him that he should constantly be rewarded for his behavior. I want him to succeed and be happy, so I find myself making excuses for some of his behaviors on the days he gets a sad face. I mean really, how does his teacher expect him to sit and read for 20 minutes!? Who cares if he had to use the bathroom three times!
However, I do not want to be that parent I hate. I don’t want to question his teacher’s decisions and abilities to problem solve. But all moms know, when it comes to your children’s well being you can’t hold back those mama bear instincts. I’ve really had to rein it in and approach the situation bearing in mind the thoughts and feelings coming from both sides of the teachers desk.
Here are a few things that have helped me keep the positive lines of communication open as both a teacher AND a mother:
1. Always make a phone call. It’s very easy to misinterpret tone and intention in an email or note. Just pick up the phone in order to ask clarifying questions. If something comes up address it right away.
2. There are always two sides to every story. Kids are the best storytellers! My rule of thumb is that I will believe half of what a kid says about the teacher, as long as the teacher only believes half of what is said about the things at home.
3. Kids need to feel that they are heard. Both parents and teachers need to offer opportunities for children to express their feelings. Kids also need to know that it’s ok to have negative feelings (being sad or frustrated). We just need to teach them appropriate ways to handle those emotions.
4. Everyone’s entitled to a bad day. There is no such thing as a supermom or super teacher. Both are just regular people with pretty important jobs. You never know what the other person is dealing with. Maybe they have sick kids at home or are coping with a death in the family. On occasion parents AND teachers might lose their cool. We both make quick decisions in the moment that we might regret in hindsight.
So the next time you question your child’s teacher, or as a teacher you get an email from that parent, just remember we are all just regular people. When dealing with small children some days we are just trying to survive. It’s important to acknowledge that although we are on opposite sides of the desk, the best interest of the child always comes first.