I’m old enough to remember that as a kid, our schools were never fenced in. You could go there after school or on weekends and play on the monkey bars (which were never really safe) or shoot baskets at the hoops. School lunches included items from each of the four….yeah just 4…food groups! Homework was rare. We took naps in Kindergarten. We practiced duck and cover in case of a nuclear attack. There was never a Back to School Night or Open House. The only time the teacher talked to your parents was when you got in trouble!
That was over 40 years ago! Ladies and gentlemen, let me reveal to you a teacher secret. That school…the one 40 years ago…is non-existent. So is the one from 30 years ago, and the one from 20 years ago and even the one from just 10 years ago. If you haven’t stepped into a classroom in the past five years, you are out of touch with how education and schools function today!
So, I’m going to get you up to speed with your new role in education as a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, guardian or supporter of education. School is DIFFERENT, and your role has is even more important!
MAY I HAVE YOUR SUPPORT, PLEASE!
More than ever, I, as a teacher, need your support. With the increased rigor and demands of what students must not only learn but MASTER, I can not do it alone. There just aren’t enough hours in a school day to get it all done. That is why homework is important. Homework was rare back in the day, but now it is common Kindergarten through college.
We need students to practice what they are learning. As a parent, we ask that you support that by making sure the homework gets done. If your child has difficulty in doing the homework, that’s a sign that your child missed an important lesson or wasn’t paying attention in class. Trust me when I tell you this: I would never send homework home that covers something I have not taught in my class. No good teacher would do that. Ask your child about that day’s lesson. Was it about the material that’s on the homework? Hold your child accountable and ask why he or she can not do the homework? Teach your child to ask for help when needed. So many children just sit there and don’t ask for help, instead act helpless.
My parents would never have thought to question a teacher about my behavior or grades in the class if I got in trouble or had low grades. The teacher was respected. What the teacher reported was fact, not opinion.
Today, unfortunately, we have the majority of parents questioning everything a teacher does in the classroom and everything the teacher reports. Think about when parents argue, in front of their child, about how to discipline the child. That child gets a mixed message and also discovers which parent can be manipulated. It’s the same with the teacher-parent relationship. If you have a concern, let me know privately. We can discuss it. Then bring in the child to discuss it. But denying that there is a problem or that it’s someone else’s fault is not going to help your child. No parent wants to hear negative reports about their child, but it will only get worse if you do not acknowledge the problem and support the teacher in trying to correct behaviors or failing grades.
TEACHERS ARE TEACHING AT 120% ALL THE TIME
I have been teaching for over 30 years. There have been so many changes in education that every teacher feels like a brand new teacher every three to five years! But one of the biggest changes educators have seen is the INCREASE in kids diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This is a medical condition that can only be diagnosed by a medical doctor or psychologist. A school can not just diagnose your child with this condition, we are not medical professionals!
Maybe 30 years ago, I may have seen one child like this. But 30 years later, I have in my classroom at least three to five students with the diagnosis or who are undiagnosed (teachers are trained to notice behaviors and symptoms of ADHD). Imagine trying to juggle 3 chainsaws, while running in circles and holding five conversations simultaneously and now you know how hard it is to teach with so many students like this in ONE classroom. Of course, we are trained and we are professionals and we have our bag of tricks. But, it is exhausting and difficult to give all the REST of the students the attention they need when a teacher is just trying to get those three to five ADHD students on task.
If you suspect your child is ADHD or a teacher or other professional suggests that may be the case, please take your child a to medical professional to seek treatment. It does not always involve taking medication. But if you do nothing, your child will suffer (and fall behind) and so will the rest of the class. Is it fair to have one child negatively impact a class to such an extent that the rest of the class does not receive the education they deserve?
The same is true of poor behavior. Thirty years ago I always had one or two students who needed a lot of redirection and guidance for some mild misbehaviors. Now, it is usually five to seven children in ONE class with very poor behavior ranging from defiance, disrespect, hitting, lying, stealing, profanity, and more. The behaviors are sometimes extreme. We need your help in stopping these behaviors. They are NOT learned at school. This is from parenting or lack thereof. Hold your child accountable for these behaviors at home and carry through on discipline at home. Believe me, taking away a recess is not going to stop these kinds of behaviors. We need YOU to discipline at home so that your child knows that teacher and parent will not tolerate these behaviors. We need to work together as a team so that your child knows you support the teacher’s decisions and as well as, the teacher supporting yours.
THEY NEED BREAKFAST!
When I was a kid, I didn’t need anyone to help me pour some cereal and milk into a bowl. Or pop some bread into the toaster for toast. Or pour some orange juice or milk in a glass. I was perfectly capable of getting my own breakfast. When I was a kid, schools did not serve breakfast, only lunch. Not having breakfast meant waiting for a long time to finally eat lunch!
Fast forward to 2017 and at least half my class comes to school without breakfast! Why? They don’t know how to serve themselves or there is no one to tell them they MUST have breakfast. Now, they will have to wait four more hours to eat lunch. How is a child supposed to concentrate on learning, if all they are thinking about is food and having hunger pangs? Sure, you can bring a snack at recess, but most kids just want to play. Or worse, they bring a junk food as a snack.
I am not only a teacher, I’m a parent! I always make my kids eat breakfast, even if all they want is a yogurt. There’s a reason it’s the most important meal of the day. Examine the word breakfast. You are breaking a fast. Meaning the last time you ate was dinner the night before. So if you ate dinner at 6 pm and then don’t eat lunch until noon the next day, you have gone 18 hours without eating! Your body needs energy. And did you know that most kids just want to play at lunch time? So they do not eat everything or just gulp it down. What happens then? They return from lunch with hunger pangs or a stomach ache!
Make your children have breakfast. Teach them the importance of having three well-balanced meals every day. We know some people just aren’t hungry when they first wake up. But breakfast is necessary so a child can focus on learning and not hunger pangs – which will come. If you are in a rush in the morning, consider sending your child to school with a breakfast bar or juice carton. Most schools now serve breakfast as well as lunch. They can have breakfast at school! Don’t skip breakfast. Make it a habit.
CAN WE TALK? OR SHOULD I SAY LISTEN!
I remember as a kid watching old black and white movies. The slower pace was mesmerizing. The way everyone talked and listened to each other harkened back to a day when life was slower paced. We now live in a faster-paced world, but somehow that has also translated into the world in which no one wants to listen to someone else. Instead, everyone talks over each other and no one is heard.
As I am giving directions or explaining how to do something, invariably I have a student raising his/her hand asking what to do! This is not a one-time occurrence. It happens DAILY throughout the day. Children are just not listening. They tune out when others speak. They talk when the teacher is instructing. Why is this happening? Because students need to be taught how to listen respectfully. Take a look at this old adage: children should be seen and not heard. Maybe a little extreme for today’s parenting, but I think it brings up an important point. Children need to be taught HOW to listen, not interrupt a speaker and ask questions AFTER the speaker has finished. And I’m guessing if children spend more time actively listening, they would learn more as well.
In my classroom, I remind students that they can only ask questions after I have finished explaining everything. If not, I get constant interruptions of questions that I’ve actually just answered. I use a lot of techniques to make sure students are listening. I break up instructions into smaller parts and have the class repeat them. I have students turn to a partner and discuss. I have students write instructions down. Parents can do the same with simple questioning techniques such as: Can you repeat what I just asked you to do? What was the first thing I asked you to do? How many instructions did I give you? etc.
Also, teach your child how to have a conversation. If your child is constantly interrupting you, say you will stop the conversation until the child stops interrupting. Teach your child conversation cues about when to speak and take a turn. In a class that is really needed. Twenty or more students in one class need to learn how to take turns to share in a discussion and listen. As teachers, we teach children how to discuss in large groups. But that can’t be done if a child can’t even have a one-to-one conversation without interrupting or actively listening.
GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO…HAVE PATIENCE!
And it’s true! We seem to live in an on-demand world. Everybody wants everything NOW. But life doesn’t work that way. Learning to be patient is a skill. And those who have learned it, have a good virtue which will get them far in life. As a kid, I had to wait to see the new episode of my favorite cartoon. I didn’t have a VCR or DVD or Netflix. I waited the entire week until Saturday to watch my cartoons. There’s a certain satisfaction one gets out of being rewarded for showing patience. It was expected of you as a child to wait patiently if your parents were speaking to other adults. It was expected of you as a child to wait patiently in a line at the grocery store or waiting to be called next at the dentist or doctor. Parents were role models of sitting patiently and quietly while not showing impatience or anger of having to wait.
It seems today those days are gone. Where do children learn this patience? Is it from parents who immediately take out a phone and go on social media the minute they have to wait? Is it from parents who demand to be seen ahead of others? Is it from parents who try to cut lines?
Teach your child to sit comfortably in a chair, with hands folded and wait. My own children like it when complete strangers compliment them on how politely they are waiting, while other children are NOT. I do not take out my phone to amuse myself while I have to wait. I might read a magazine or just people watch or engage my children in conversation. I want my children to understand that the others who are waiting have just as important issues or problems as we do, but we need to wait for our turn.
Patience is needed in a classroom. There’s only one teacher, but 20 or more students. Some students need help and that’s my job to help. But how can I help one child, if the other child who needs help can’t be patient but instead distracts those around him/her because they don’t know how to wait patiently. I tell my students if you’re waiting for me, is there something you can do quietly while you wait? Read a book? Practice your math facts? Finish unfinished work from before?
Don’t miss PART 2, in which I focus on the use of technology and some more important roles parents must take in today’s modern education setting.