“May I come in, Mrs. Goolsby?” asked the Afghan teenage student standing outside my office doorway.
When I was the principal of ISK (International School of Kabul) 2005-2011, Afghan students did not enter my office without first asking permission. In the early years of the school, students stood up when I came into their classrooms. That was impressive. I felt I had stepped back into a lost culture of respect for educators.
Not Enough Support
One of the top reasons teachers around the world leave the education workforce is due to lack of support from all sides: students, parents, administrators, and lawmakers. Low pay, testing demands, heavy workloads, and personal family needs complete the list of teacher burnout.
The main contribution parents can make rests in their commitment to:
- create a positive partnership with their children’s teachers AND
- require their students to respect the adults trying to educate them day after day
As a lifelong educator myself, I rarely meet teachers who enter this career for the pay, prestige, or summertime vacation (when not taking courses or working on next year preparations). They want to engage young minds in the wonder of learning and assist their growth into productive, balanced citizens of society. Taking subjects they genuinely love, instructors try to transfer that passion to the next generation, develop character, and teach communication skills and positive social interactions in the process.
No small task.
Without proper support, the task is virtually impossible. Without the freedom to set standards and give grades that actually reflect effort and quality, or require assignments to master the curriculum; teachers are never able to tap into a student’s true potential.
A Trained Professional
“Of course, you are the expert. We are here to ask for your help.”
This was another delightful, surprising comment from my ISK principal days. When students had academic or behavioral problems and parents were requested to meet with me and teachers, they often began with such a statement. What peace such words offered to a stressful situation.
Teachers are human, not perfect, but they have invested in university level coursework, passed state license boards, and acquired other trainings to become a professional educator. Parents are wise to begin the relationship with their child’s teacher in the same way they would a doctor or lawyer or business owner, with courtesy and openness to the expertise offered.
Too often today, Western parents believe they possess the authority and qualifications to tell a teacher or school leader how to do their job. Parents may have studied education courses themselves or maybe not, even so, this critical posture communicates disrespect and distrust for the teacher (and rarely works for the good of the student). Children know when their parents support their teachers and when they don’t. They respond accordingly to every classroom directive, every assignment with either submission or disagreement. How can real learning ever take place?
Build an Expert Team
When I was a new mother, I had a wonderful pediatrician who moved to the U.S. from East Germany years earlier. I appreciated him because he treated me with great respect, listening to all my observations and concerns about my baby with sincere attention.
He told me, “You are the expert on your child. I am the expert on medical treatments. Together we make a good team for your baby. Together we will find the path of healing.”
- Parents are the expert on knowing their children from Day One. When allowed the chance to share their insights with teachers, parents can offer a mighty boost of information to help teachers figure out each student quickly and efficiently
- Teachers are the expert of their classroom and academic material. When allowed the chance to share their goals for learning and behavioral management, teachers can offer parents leadership into new growth and accomplishments for their children.
Mistakes will be made by parents, teachers, and students. But with mutual respect and desire for a positive outcome through working together, communicating and supporting one another, children will benefit.
Suggestions for Parents by Teachers
I asked my Facebook teacher friends for some ways to build a solid parent-teacher partnership at the beginning of the year:
- Pray with your student for his/her teacher before school starts and continue all year
- Attend Back-to-School events and introduce yourself and student with warmth to the teachers
- Send a welcome note (and cookie?) the first day
- Ask how to help…read to students? grade papers? assist with classroom projects?
- Get to know your teacher, be open to his/her personality and unique methods
- Try not to brag about your child, allow the teacher to come to know him/her on own terms
- Share insights about your child’s challenges and your willingness to support learning at home
- Let your child develop his/her own relationship with teacher and try not to interfere unless absolutely necessary
- Have grace and forgiveness for errors by the teacher (and yourself!)
The Golden Rule sums it up: Treat others as you want to be treated.
Parents, respect your child’s teachers and enjoy a powerful school year partnership.