I had some pretty amazing teachers while I was growing up. They loved what they did, and sowed their own love of learning in the hearts of their students. But it was my first ever teacher who gave me a glimpse of the dedication of a true educator.
My mom taught ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) at the middle and high school levels for 24 years. While her job description was mainly to teach her students how to read and write in English, it included so much more. As any teacher knows, being an educator is a lifestyle job. It’s not one you can clock in and out of; but one that comes home with you in the papers that you grade, and the emotional bonds that forever change you.
Last year was my son’s first experience at school, and I was amazed by everything his teacher did. On top of teaching her preschool class (which is a feat in and of iteself!), she was also responsible for communicating with parents, managing students’ behavior, planning a variety of class activities/parties/shows, updating the class Instagram account, and being available whenever parents dropped in. And I’m 100% positive there’s a ton that I’m missing.
We live in a society that highly values education, but fails to compensate educators in congruence with those ideals. Until we can fix that, our support for who they are and what they do can go a long way. As many of us prepare to send our children back to school, here are some ways we can proactively prepare to care for the teachers that will help to shape them:
Keep It Real
There’s a reason why parents look forward to the start of the school year. We all know that our kids aren’t perfect angels. [Spoiler Alert: we’re not, either!] If something comes up in the classroom, listen to what their teacher is telling you, even if you disagree. It is difficult for them to bring these issues up to parents in the first place, and most of them really do care and want what’s best for your child. They’re generally not out to get us. When conflicts do arise, they may be better resolved if we’ve already set a tone of mutual respect.
Trust Teachers’ Expertise
The majority of public school teachers have completed post-graduate work, because they are licensed practitioners. They are trained professionals in their field and understand differing educational needs.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
When our children face personal challenges, they often bring those challenges into the classroom. If your child is wrestling with something, you can advocate for them by letting their teacher know what’s going on. This allows a teacher to be on your family’s team as they come alongside your student at school.
Value and Respect Them As People
Teachers are people, too! They have families, responsibilities, interests, and commitments outside of the classroom just like the rest of us. In fact, many have to take second jobs to afford to live in a city like Miami, where the cost of living is so high. One friend shared that though she is happy to schedule meetings that accomodate parents’ schedules, before or after school drop-in or surprise meetings cause her to miss other previously scheduled school responsibilities and/or commitments. Their time is valuable, and deserving of respect.
Our children’s educational successes are shared by their teachers, too! Let’s seek to be involved in our children’s classrooms in helpful ways that encourage them and, ultimately, enable our children to succeed. They deserve it. The occasional Starbucks card never hurts, either… 😉