Teachers have some of the most demanding and important jobs in our society. These dedicated men and women work hard to help all their students towards the best and brightest future they can possibly achieve. However, we certainly can’t do it alone, and there are a few things I think each teacher would like to be able to tell parents to help in the effort.
1. Please make sure that your students attend school every day. Don’t keep them home because the Saints won the Super Bowl or their favorite cousin is visiting from some place like Iowa. Don’t let them stay home because they watched their favorite TV show that ends late on Tuesdays or because they were out until two in the morning seeing the premier of some movie where all the teenagers choose not to bite each other because of love. And please don’t take them out of town on school days to Disney World because the lines aren’t as long since everyone else is in school. And especially don’t take them out of school for an entire week to go on a cruise to the Bahamas so that they can keep their summer tans in the cruel of winter or to celebrate their sixteenth birthday. Parents excuse themselves for these absences by saying things like, “Life is too short” and such, but truthfully, folks, your kids need to be in school, and that’s that. When you let them miss for any reason other than illness or the death of a loved one, you are sending the wrong message.
2. Make your students get a good night’s sleep on school nights. And when they go to bed, make sure that their cell phones are somewhere other than their rooms. Students do not need cell phones in their rooms any more than they need all 600 of their closest friends in their bedroom while they are trying to sleep. If kids have cell phones in their rooms at night, there will be texting and talking all through the night. Students (even those in high school) don’t get that thing about uninterrupted sleep, and therefore most kids get about as much real sleep as an on-call doctor in the emergency room on New Year’s Eve. Another idea for parents to consider on this topic: students do not need televisions or computers in their rooms. They really don’t. Really. Students of any age who watch television or work on the computer need to be monitored. It’s hard for parents to do that when they are asleep in their own rooms, thinking that their kids are asleep as well. Parents, fight for your students to get their full night of sleep. If you don’t, chances are that your student won’t—and a lack of sleep always shows in school the next day.
3. Talk to your students specifically about school. Find out the names of all their teachers and all their classes. Get a copy of their daily schedules so that you know where they are each hour of the day. Ask them every day about what they did that day in school, and don’t just ask a general, “How was school?” Ask, “How was Algebra II? Did Ms. [Insert Teacher’s Name Here] go over the homework you did last night?” Find out the names of the people in your student’s world. Go to your student’s school often, and attend extra-curricular events there. The more you make your child’s school part of your life, the more your child will. This is bigger than just pretending to care what goes on at your child’s school—remember that your child actually spends more time with the folks at school than he does with you. Don’t you want to know about that?
4. Encourage your student to learn. When I was young (many, many years ago), going to the doctor was always horrible because my folks said that if I didn’t behave at the doctor’s office, the doctor would give me an extra shot. That was 1960’s parenting at its finest. Although that technique sounds pretty lame these days, many parents still purposefully or perhaps inadvertently give their children a negative image of school and therefore education in general. Parents joke with their students about the days left of summer before “It’s back to the grind.” They remind students, “No more vacation! School’s about to begin!” Very early in the minds of many students, school becomes synonymous with a painful visit to the dentist. It is a bad interruption to a wonderful vacation. Parents should emphasize to their students that school is a good thing, a place where their futures begin and a place where they can and will learn amazing skills that they will use all of their lives. Parents should plan for school in the same happy and anticipatory way they would for vacation. They should let their children know that education opens doors, and school gives them the keys to those doors. A few positive words can go a long way toward changing a negative image that children may have about learning.
5. The final thing that teachers would like to tell parents: We really do care about your children. We are selling a product (education) that we know will greatly improve and enhance your child’s life. Our life’s work is based on our belief that the best thing society can give a child is a chance to be educated. We really aren’t teachers because the vacations are great—most of us work extra jobs in the summer, and we spend just about every break grading papers and planning for the weeks to come. We aren’t griping when we tell you those things; we know that they are part of the job. We work hard, and when your student passes a test or finally grasps a difficult concept, nobody is happier for him than we are. Really. When a student fails our class or doesn’t do well in our course, we feel the failure as well. We wonder what we could have done differently or how we might have explained things better. We want your student to succeed. However, we don’t just want to give your students grades so that a perfect GPA stays unscarred. We don’t want to make our courses too easy, because the world is pretty hard. We want your students to leave us prepared for whatever they face in the future. Therefore, we want to hear from you. We want to work with you to help your child succeed. Our goal is the same as yours: we want your child to succeed in his education and become a lifelong learner. Call us. Come to school and see us. We want to meet you and talk with you about one of your favorite subjects: your child!