As Jack gets ready to enter the world of academia, I can’t help but think about the teachers he will have, and the classrooms he will be in.
I have several friends and family members who are teachers, and I really respect the dedication I see them put in. I also owe a lot to wonderful teachers I’ve had over the course of my 17 years or so that I was in school.
I really want to make sure I support teachers in whatever way I can, so I thought it would be interesting to do an anonymous survey to find out what teachers really want and need from their students’ parents.
It was really interesting to read the responses. I saw so many of the same answers over and over again, and most of all, I got a great sense of love that these teachers have for their students. The responses were so great, I decided to outline them in this post.
So as you prepare to send your children back to school, I hope that this will help you understand the role of their teacher a little bit more.
I’m excited to be partnering with Staples again for this post. As I mentioned in my post about what kids should really know before Kindergarten, they are working with DonorsChoose.org and Born This Way Foundation on the Staples for Students program. The goal is to help encourage everyone to support teachers and to promote positive classroom experiences.
This is something I’m really looking forward to doing. As some of you know, we decided at the last minute to send Jack to our neighborhood school, instead of a charter school he got into, for Kindergarten. The advice I’ve received from friends is that as long as I’m involved, Jack will likely thrive. We may send him to a charter school later on, but for now, I am determined to be as involved as I can.
And teachers want you to be! So many of the responses I got pleaded for parents to be involved in the classroom. It can make such a difference.
“Be a part of the classroom in any way. Understand what your children are learning.”
“Be involved with the school and your child’s education.”
“I would love it if parents offered to come in every once in a while and do a lesson for the kids. Sometimes the kids really need a break from me talking and sometimes I really need a break too! I always thought it would be awesome if a parent came in for 30 minutes or so and taught an art lesson or really any lesson!”
“Volunteering in the classroom and making an effort to teach at home makes an impact on your child’s education. Show them you care, verbalize it, and let them know these difficult years of school will be worth it.”
“Come volunteer in or outside classroom. I always wanted moms, dad and grandparents to come be involved. Helping children to feel good about themselves takes a village. Success is measured more how children feel about themselves than TEST scores.”
“I always say that parents should spend a week in a classroom. There is SO much we do every day that goes unseen.”
They can’t eat all the treats
One of the specific questions I asked was about what kind of gifts they like to receive. I don’t think most teachers expect anyone to give them gifts – but I know that many parents and students want to!
A comment I thought was kind of interesting was:
“I LOVE gift cards! While I appreciate any token of appreciation, oftentimes kids gifts, treats…and I just can’t eat them all. A lot of it goes in the trash. 🙁 “
Obviously, that will vary among teachers (some of the teachers who responded said treats were their favorites), it’s something to perhaps ask them about!
Here are a few different ideas of what your teacher might appreciate.
- Classroom donations – I think that this is a huge one. Just from the teachers I know, and also from reading the responses to my survey, it’s obvious teachers don’t always have access to all the resources they need. Often, they buy things out of their own pocket to help support the classroom. Ask them what they need! You can also encourage your child’s teacher to go on DonorChoose.org and set up a project that parents can donate toward. It’s a great way to support classrooms!
- Gift cards
- Something personalized
- Bringing them lunch or a special drink (from Jamba Juice, Starbucks, etc.).
- Hand written notes (from parents and students)
- Prize box items
- Classroom decor
“Gift cards are amazing! They work great as they keep us awake and help us to purchase things for the classroom. Notes of appreciation from both students and parents are also treasured! I love hearing my students’ memories of me and our time together in the classroom.”
“You can’t go wrong with chocolate! I’m a dessert snob, so I always appreciated the quality chocolate. But honestly I love receiving classroom materials even more: expo markers, pencils, Kleenex, Clorox wipes, and my favorite books! Any materials the class may be short on were so helpful since I had such a low budget at one school and no budget at another! It helps when I don’t have to buy things out of my own pocket.”
“Ask if our class needs anything. Each class is different. One class: A parent donated boxes of Cheerios once, after I explained that the little ones love to munch. When they don’t munch they become irritable, when they become irritable they can’t focus, when they can’t focus they distract others. Other class: We were in need of more coloring books, the more they color the more fine motor skills they’re working on & when coloring is their favorite thing to do, I hate to limit them on how many pages to color because I can only afford to buy a few coloring books every few weeks.”
They love your kids
I saw this sentiment expressed time after time in my survey. I believe that most teachers truly do love their students – even if some have different ways of showing it. Even the most difficult, defiant ones!
I remember when I worked at a daycare, I experienced this a little bit. I really grew to love the children I worked with, and to be honest, my favorite ones were the more “naughty” ones (don’t ask me why…haha).
“That a teacher thinks about (and worries about) your kids 24/7.”
“That all teachers care about all students and are doing the best they can.”
“I love their child like my own and I do whatever it takes for their education.”
“We love their children as if they are our own. We spend our own money and time on their children to make sure they have the best of everything.”
“How much I care about their students. How I would never hurt them, everything I do is to make them better prepared for life.”
“I think most people know, but teachers love kids! There are hard moments but that’s life. Teachers are the only people that will go home & still think about someone else’s child. Their wellbeing is the most important to us. I have kids & still stress dream about students as though they’re my kids.”
Communication is everything
I think this is something everyone should just remember in general – no one is a mind reader. Your child’s teacher has other students and may not always catch everything. If you are concerned about something – contact them. If you are going out of town, let them know. If you want to be in the classroom more – speak up! They want to hear from you.
“Parents and teachers are a team. We need to trust each other, communicate, and help each other. Parents working with students on their homework makes a huge difference.”
“Speak to your children’s teachers like the professionals they are. I am always happy to talk to a parent and address concerns, but VERY often parents’ first communication is rude and abrupt. We deserve to be spoken to respectfully. Also, don’t wait until the end of a grading period to care about your kid’s grade.”
“Be open to listening.”
“Have good communication, help with homework, and advocate for their child. And love them!”
“Keep in contact with me and let me do my job. I would never intentionally “pick” on a child. If so then all the parents seem to think I pick on their child only. I push all students to be better. It’s not a bad thing. I love them. They don’t need defending.”
Teach Your Child at Home
I feel very strongly about the importance of teaching our children in our homes. While Jack only went to preschool for one year (and that was only for one day a week), we’ve always done our best to read with him, cook with him, teach him his colors and numbers, etc. I believe that some of the greatest lessons come from a mother’s lap.
Make sure your child knows that learning doesn’t end just because they left school. I mean, you don’t have to have your child do hours of worksheets as soon as they get home (heaven knows I won’t!), but encouraging a mindset that they are always learning is important.
“Read with your child, be supportive to both the teacher and student! We just want the best for your baby, just like you!”
“That children need educational support at home too. It seems like parents just rely on the teacher to educate. I wish I could help every child until they fully understood but with 20+ kids…it’s difficult.”
“Children are learning 24/7, even when they’re on the play yard, or finger painting, or counting while hopscotching. Preschool is not daycare because we play.”
Raise Your Children to be Resilient
We live in a society where many children are shielded from failure. I admit, it’s hard to watch your child struggle, fail, and be defeated. However, it is SO important for kids to understand that hard work is important, you won’t always be good at everything, and sometimes, despite your best efforts, you won’t get everything you want.
Our children need to know how to fail. They need to know that it’s okay to be sad when things don’t go your way. But they need to know how to get back up and try again – and to know that the world (or teacher) is not out to get them.
“That sometimes it’s best to let their kid fail–you can’t always save them. How will they become independent if you are always there to bail them out?”
“Support the teacher and encourage students to take responsibility.”
“We aren’t out to get your kids. When we say difficult things, it’s said out of care and concern.”
Teach them manners and how to be respectful
I already expressed in my earlier post about how important it is to teach our children certain values before starting kindergarten…and I believe that teachers recognize that importance, too. So much begins at home!
“Reinforce the good behaviors in your child. Teach them kindness, respect, honesty, problem solving, etc. by modeling that behavior. Your children look to you for how to conduct themselves and will follow your lead. They are watching even if you may not realize it.”
“Be supportive and consistent with rules at home.”
“I’ve only worked in title 1 schools (low socioeconomic, poverty areas) and the number one most difficult thing is teaching kids with difficult behaviors, like straight-out defiant behavior that makes actual teaching nearly impossible because you have to teach concepts like kindness, respect, problem solving, etc. before you can actually get to the curriculum.”
Be supportive of the teachers and their decisions. Obviously, don’t be a blind follower – there will probably be teachers you disagree with to the very core. However, in general, try and be supportive of your child’s teacher and their decisions.
“[It] depends on the grade level: with younger kids you need more hands in the classroom, with older kids it’s just nice to have parents who support school rules at home (i.e. if cell phones aren’t allowed at school make sure your child doesn’t leave the house with one, if homework is due daily make sure they have it done, etc.)”
“Be positive about school and the subjects at school.”
“Common Core isn’t as bad as you’ve read on Facebook. The “new” ways to do math are actually research-based, brilliant, and can really help your child down the line. Really. Your attitude toward these things will make a huge difference in your child’s education, so don’t mock or complain about their homework.”
They are people, too
I think most kids go through a stage where they think their teacher lives at the school – I know I did!
Even as adults, I think we can sometimes forget that teachers are only human – they have families, interests, and lives outside of teaching, and they have feelings, too.
“That we have a family too. We are giving all 8 hours and more a day for your child. We still have to go home and love on our family too. So when your upset or frustrated, come to us, we want you to, but please keep in mind we are human too.”
“We work more than just 9 months a year! And most of it, we don’t get paid for.”
“I didn’t choose teaching for the summers off or the “easy money.” I wouldn’t be able to make it financially on my own without my husband because the pay is so little, but I love my job.”
“We sacrifice so much of our own personal lives and family to support you and your children. Be kind to us. We are humans too.”
It’s rewarding and fun but occasionally frustrating and heartbreaking
As a parent, I’ve seen the pure joy that comes from watching my kids learn a new skill. I mean, I can’t even describe how exciting it was for me to see Jack learn to read a bike.
For teachers, they get to experience that on a regular basis. It can be hard to watch children struggle, but it’s so exciting for them when children overcome obstacles and understand things.
“It is one of the most rewarding jobs and heartbreaking jobs. You get to see children try and really succeed, but then you see students whose home lives just make you want to bring them home with you. Your heart and mind never turn off when at home. You are always thinking about those kiddos.”
“I spent a lot of time I didn’t get paid for preparing lessons. I really cared about you and your learning and it hurt my heart to see you give up.”
“It is not easy. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. It’s like parenting 30 students all day, then my own when I get home. Show some appreciation for the stress and emotions we go through.”
Let kids be kids
Many of the teachers who responded expressed this sentiment – stop over scheduling and over-stimulating. Encourage your kids to be outside, play with other kids, and just be a child. If they have too much going on outside the classroom, it can really affect them in the classroom.
“Be positive about their child’s efforts, make sure kids have plenty of play time, spend time with your child that they want to do! Simple things like games, bike rides, walks, and always invite their friends over.”
“Let kids be kids, read as much as possible, and realize teachers have lives too.”
“Don’t over structure your child’s time by going too many places. Turn off TV and computers. Turn on talking and listening.”
They can’t control everything
I think it’s easy to blame the teachers when something goes wrong or when you don’t agree with the curriculum, the amount of homework a kid gets, etc. However, there are many things beyond the control of the teachers – yet they are often the ones being blamed for things!
“Sometimes teachers have to do certain things because they are mandated, it isn’t always our choice. Teachers are highly trained professionals, we do know best practices, but sometimes people making the decisions are less informed and require us to do stupid things.”
“We cannot control 3/4 of what goes on in our classes due to district policies and the class makeup. We always fix what we can control.”
It’s a hard job
I can only imagine how difficult teaching can be at times, despite the rewarding aspects. Most teachers are not paid well, their days don’t end at the bell, and they really do constantly think about their students.
“I have had a lot of jobs and teaching is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. It’s kind of insane what teachers are asked to do all day long. They should be paid a whole lot more or given a class of 8 kids instead of 30. But until that happens give teachers a break! We aren’t perfect and it really hurts our feelings when parents complain about us.”
“It is so much harder than you realize. The demands of curriculum, standards, technology and administration are much, much higher than they were 10 years ago, never mind comparing them to when you were a kid. Just respect and trust that all teachers are trying to do their best with the limited resources they have all while making learning fun for the kids.”
“We’re not in it for the money. We love your kids and want the best for them, just like you do!”
“We sacrifice so much of our own personal lives and family to support you and your children. Be kind to us. We are humans too.”
“I work so many hours outside of the regular school day. In order to grade a single essay assignment, it takes me nearly 30 hours. Oftentimes I have to give up time with my own kids in order to help teach and mold yours. I’m not looking for a medal or anything, but I don’t think most people realize how much time we give their kids simply because we care about them and want to see them grow.”
“We never stop working. Ever. Yes, we get a summer break too, but we’re often still at school setting up for the new year, taking professional development classes, or improving our classroom.”
Where would be without great teachers? They truly do play a huge part in the upbringing of our children, and it’s important to recognize the part they play.
Are there bad apples? Of course. But in my experience, I do believe most teachers have their student’s best interest in mind. Kindness in the classroom starts with how we teach our children to treat one another – and that behavior often comes from how they see us teaching others, as well – including their teachers!
Once again, I’m excited to be partnering with Staples for Students to help provide support to both students and teachers. I’m even more excited about the campaign’s sweepstakes – one lucky winner will win a $50k scholarship and a trip for two to see Lady Gaga in Las Vegas. To enter, head to StaplesforStudents.com.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this insight that I have gathered. It really did open my eyes to a side of teaching I didn’t really think much about – and it made me even more grateful for the role of a great teacher!