Wednesday, August 23, 2023

What teachers wish they could tell you...

School's back. . If you are a parent of a junior high or high school student, here are a few things your kid's teachers wish they could tell you (but can't... or at least won't):

1. If your child receives a zero on an assignment, that's because your child earned a zero on an assignment.

~I know it's hard for us to admit as parents, but our kids aren't all brilliant at absolutely everything. And it surely doesn't come as a surprise to you that kids aren't known for always being responsible and on top of things. Sometimes, a kid will fail an assignment because they just honestly didn't understand the material. Often, a kid will fail simply because they didn't do an assignment... which leads me to

2. Your precious little pumpkin doesn't always tell the truth.

~I know, I know--your child knows better than to lie to you. But I also know something else that parents seem to lose sight of: your child doesn't want to get in trouble with you. I've heard it put this way, "If you agree not to believe everything your child says happens at school, the teacher will promise not to believe everything your child says at home." I've known a lot of teachers in my life. I can confidently say that none of the teachers I've known got into teaching because they hate kids and want to make their lives miserable. I can also confidently say that 99.999% of the time, they don't throw away a kid's assignment out of spite just so they can give them a zero. As a mom of a kid who has earned a few of those zeros, I know that sometimes a backpack becomes a black hole where assignments disappear. So when you ask little Johnny why he has a zero on an assignment, maybe you shouldn't automatically believe him when he says, "I don't know why I don't have a grade! I did the assignment and turned it in--the teacher just hates me and gave me a zero."

3. High school teachers aren't taking care of big kids, they are educating young adults.

~There's a point when kids are supposed to start transitioning from childhood to adulthood. I know it's hard for us to admit that as parents, because we want to protect our kids for as long as possible. And for the most part, that's what elementary school is for. Junior high and high school, on the other hand, has a different purpose. Once our kids reach their teen years, they should be learning to take responsibility for themselves. High school teachers know that, and high school teachers want to help you teach your teenagers responsibility. When they don't overlook tardies, it's because they know future employers won't overlook employees showing up late for work. When they stand by homework late policies, it's because they know adults have to honor deadlines or face major consequences.

4. They care about your kids.

~That teacher who refuses to budge on deadlines? Who holds the students to high standards? They truly care about your kids. In fact, they probably lose sleep over your kids. They worry when your kid stops trying in class. They do everything in their power to encourage and persuade, but they have to stand by convictions. They know that it takes high standards to get high performance; kids are smart and they know what the adults in their lives expect of them. Which leads to the next point...

5. They wish you would expect more from and for your kids.

~Too many parents approach school work with the idea that it's "too hard" for their kids. Never mind the fact that today's academics pale in comparison to what was expected of children in the past. If you tell your kids that something is too hard for them, most kids will believe you. Teachers work their butts off to make sure they are creating assignments that will challenge their students, homework and tests that will push kids out of their comfort zones so that they can grow. They know if something is too hard for a student--and they know how to push students just hard enough. Be assured that if a teacher is telling you that your kid is capable of something difficult, they truly believe in your child's ability. But who do you think your kid is more likely to believe, the teacher telling them they can do the hard thing, or you telling them they can't? 

6. They need you to back them up.

~In the past, parents supported teachers. It was rare for a parent to automatically believe a kid who came home complaining about being "mistreated" by a teacher. Parents knew that adults are more trustworthy than teenagers, and more often than not, parents supported teachers. When they heard a teacher say that their kid wasn't doing homework, the parents instated consequences at home in order to reinforce academic expectations. That doesn't seem to be the case anymore. Instead, when a teacher tells a parent that their child isn't doing homework, the teacher gets accused of not liking the student. When a kid comes home saying the teacher is being mean, a lot of parents automatically go on the attack. They skip over talking to the teacher and jump straight to the principal... or in some cases, even the superintendent. Give the teacher the benefit of the doubt--talk to them. I can just about promise that they will do everything in their power to give your kid a good education.

7. Many of them are burning out.


That chart is from a CNN article that talks about how many teachers have left the profession in the last 20 years. It mentions a recent survey that shows 1 in 3 teachers are considering quitting within the next 2 years. Job openings in public education already outnumber new hires by more than 100,000. Add to that all the threats that real-life teachers can "easily" be replaced by virtual classrooms or online classes. Then throw in the dismal literacy rates and the growing number of kids who reach high school and can't read. Add to that demands to teach to the test and graduate every student. Throw in demands to trade in the "old ways" (that worked) for "new methods" (that almost always prove detrimental to the education of students). Add students with no work ethic, who have been taught that everything should be handed to them on a silver platter and should require little to no effort on their part (pandemic grades sound familiar?). Throw in unrealistic demands of "equity" in education, which actually means equal outcomes despite differences in ability, effort, and merit. Take away their ability to decide what is best to teach the students they spend all their time with. Add in teacher evaluation systems that will soon be added into the equation for pay in Arkansas, yet rely in large part on how much apathetic students participate in a single lesson when they are being observed. The teacher still willing to be in the classroom with your kid? They are doing it solely because they love your kids and feel called to teach.

I'm not in a high school classroom anymore, and honestly it's because of the things I've listed here. I love teaching. I'm good at it. I can explain complicated topics in a way that makes sense, and I love seeing when somebody "gets it." I'm thankful that I'm getting the opportunity to teach again, now in the college setting where most of the issues with public education haven't quite reached. But my family still teaches, and I have 5 kids in the public school system (something we've very seriously considered changing). I know what teacher's deal with on a daily basis, and I know how little respect they get for what they do. I'm also in a position now where I see the effects of low expectations in junior high and high school as more and more students require remediation just to take basic introductory level courses in college. Parents, without your support, the teachers' hands are tied.

Parents, step up

  Like every generation before us, we bemoan the current state of the younger generation. And like every generation before us, it's our ...

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