Among the most frustrating things public school teachers deal with are the many misconceptions people have about our profession. To everybody’s detriment, education has become hopelessly politicized and, as a result, teachers have become, to some extent, pawns in a political chess game. Consequently, there exists a level of mistrust if not outright ill will between some education outsiders and public school teachers. I want to stand in the breach and address that by sharing some of the things teachers wish the general public understood about us.
We Love Your Kids
Let’s start with the most important one. We love your kids. There are a lot of other things we could do with our time if that were not true. If your child ever comes home and says, “Mr. or Mrs. So and So hates me,” it’s just not so. Mr. or Mrs. So and So more than likely cares very much for your child. There are kids with whom teachers have conflicts. There are kids with whom teachers have to work very hard to find a way to connect. Yes, there are kids that can make a teacher pull their hair out sometimes. But isn’t that the case with your child and you sometimes? For 180 days a year, your child’s teachers spend as much, if not more, time with them as you do. Teachers spend an awful lot of our time and energy attempting to get to know your child well enough that we understand their unique challenges and needs. We attempt to learn what frustrates them and motivates them. Building positive relationships with so many students each year is a very difficult proposition, but it’s as important as the content we teach. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love your kids.
We Worry About Your Kids
Did you know that teachers often lose sleep worrying about your kids? It’s true. We want your child to have success in the classroom so much that it often makes us toss and turn through the night, trying to come up with a new strategy or lesson idea that will hook your child on our content. I’ve been known to wrestle so much with these late night worry sessions that I sometimes get out of bed and go into work three or four hours early to work on some new idea I have, sometimes based on a very specific approach that I thought might reach one or two students in particular. I trust your kids keep you up nights with worry sometimes, too. Perhaps it will give you some comfort to know that your child’s teacher is worrying right along with you.
We Often Share Your Same Frustrations
Teachers often learn a lot about the frustrations that exist out in the communities when it comes public education. We hear you when you vent to us in our parent-teacher conferences. Because of our professional responsibilities, we can’t really join you in your venting, but rest assured, we hear you and, often, we empathize and share many of your frustrations. When you lament the amount of pressure put on students as they are endlessly bombarded with high stakes standardized tests, we hear you and we feel you. When you express concerns that your student lacks motivation to make good grades because they know they won’t be held back for failing their classes, we hear you and we feel you. When you become emotional because you are at your wit’s end with a child who has suddenly become a discipline problem and shows you disrespect at home, we hear you, we feel you, and we can easily relate. It is said that it takes a village to raise a child and we are all a part of that village together. What affects one of us affects all of us.
Your Child Lies to You Sometimes
Every year, teachers have to talk angry parents down off the ledge because of something their child came home and told them. Often times it the tried and true classic, “I don’t have any homework.” Sometimes that’s true, but there are easy ways to check to make sure. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but as your child becomes a teenager, they often become less trustworthy. Once they figure out that a quick lie can get them out of a task they don’t want to do, it can become a regular routine. Every school district I know of now has some sort of online system where parents can keep up daily with exactly what went on in their child’s classes that day, including any work that was assigned. Yet, it’s downright shocking how few parents tend to take advantage of this. Then, when a grade report comes out and parents find out their child is failing due to a lot of missing assignments, they come after the teachers wanting to know why they weren’t aware of this. Your child’s teachers would like to know the same thing, why weren’t you aware of it? Teachers go to a lot of trouble to keep our daily class information updated and that only works if parents log in and check on it. Meet us halfway. Don’t give your child an excuse to lie, keep them honest by using the resources you have at your disposal.
We Spend A Lot of Personal Time and Money on Your Kids
We’ve all heard it: “You teachers have it made, you’re done by 3:30 every day, weekends off, fall break, winter break, spring break, you only have to work 185 days a year.” Only people who don’t know many teachers would ever say that. Yes, those things are, in a technical sense, true. Those are the days and hours for which we collect a salary. But teachers do so much of their work outside of contract time. There are hours of lesson planning and grading throughout each week , including weekends, during the school year, not to mention the loss of sleep to which I referred earlier as we toss and turn trying to come up with new ideas and approaches. In addition to the “off the clock” time is the amount of money teachers spend out of their own pockets each year for various things to improve the classroom experience of your students. Teachers often buy their own supplies, room decorations, and various education-related online subscriptions. We are also deluged by student requests to donate to fundraisers. All of that adds up to teachers spending hundreds, if not a thousand or more dollars out of pocket each year on our students. I don’t report this begrudgingly, but I do think it needs to be put out there.
We Would Take a Bullet for Your Child
In a world where active shooter drills are now a monthly norm in our schools, your child’s safety is priority one. You should know that your child’s teachers stand ready to take a bullet in the line of duty to protect your child to our last breath. I hate that I even had to type that sentence, but it’s true. I wouldn’t hesitate to step into harm’s way if it meant saving the life of a student. I wouldn’t think twice because that decision has already been made. It’s an extremely sad fact that so many teachers have already had to do just that. I’ve never read one account of a teacher running away and leaving his or her students behind when a clear and present danger existed. We will be there when your child needs us the most. That you can count on.
We Are All In This Together
Your child’s education should never be an us against them proposition. We are all in this together. We all love the children. We all want a bright future for them. Let’s never lose sight of that.
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