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What Teachers Wish Parents Knew

Solid advice from a veteran teacher

As a therapist I have often heard over the years from parents about their frustrations and complaints about their child's teachers and school. What is missed from these conversations are the teachers' perspective of the child and parents.

What follows is exactly that - a teacher's perspective of education and the role of parents. The teacher here is actually my son, Chris Taibbi, who is a long-time elementary and high school teacher, as well as a teaching consultant, and the author of several books on teaching methods.

Some food for thought.

We as teachers cannot MAKE your kid do the homework or study for tests. Many parents seem to think that if only WE could get him/her to do that, there'd be no problems and state it to us as if it's OUR job to do this. One problem: we don't follow them home.

It helps absolutely NONE when you say: "Well, he comes by it honestly!" Just letting us know that you were like that when you were young doesn't really help solve or even address the problem at hand-and it even smells a little bit like you're willing to help make excuses for your child.

Any (decent) teacher works at least 3 hours more than the school day itself on regular weekdays. And most teachers I know spend about 4-5 hours on Sundays getting ready for the week ahead. Point being: we don't have the cushy schedule you might envision.

You SHOULD come to parent-teacher conferences, even if your child is doing fine. It shows the kid that you are interested in what goes on at school and sets up the idea that the teacher and parent are on the same side.

Your child should also come to all parent-teacher conferences. Typically, if there are concerns, the questions that you want answered lie with the child. Let's ALL sit down and talk it out-what the kid thinks and what the teacher observes.

A zero, yes just a SINGLE zero, has the power to utterly KILL an average. For example, let's say your child has a 96 average in a class after 10 assignments (that's an A in most school districts). Then he gets a zero. His average will drop to an 87-which is a B in some places, a C in others. And this is just assuming that zero is just an ordinary assignment-much less something bigger like a paper, quiz or test!

Being absent from school is a problem. Missing a day or so, fine. Missing a week or more-hard. It is likely to impact your child in a variety of ways, including: making up a fair amount of work; making it up in a timely manner so that your child can comprehend what is going on in the lessons they've encountered upon return. If your child must be out due to an extended illness, fine. We all understand this. If you have the chance to get away to a foreign country, fine. Global and cultural education warrants that. Want to go hunting for a week? Want to hit the beach? Well,... please consider doing it over some already scheduled holiday time.

Email is your friend. Teachers love it because we can answer your questions without having to worry about leaving the room to check messages in the office. An email sitting there in the inbox is a great reminder that you want to speak to us. Furthermore, any questions you have will most likely need to be researched a bit (grades on a particular test or assignment, etc.) so we can do that BEFORE getting back to you. Most email addresses are available at the school's website.

Remember you are just one of ________ number of parents. Look at what you are doing and multiply that by the others. Does that seem reasonable? If you ask for 10 minutes of my time every day (and some do!), you might be overstepping your bounds just a bit. We need to figure out some other system by which you can feel your concerns are being addressed without a mini-conference every morning as the students are coming into the room.

Extra credit is just that: EXTRA credit. It should not be counted on as something that can save your child's grade average, especially if that low average is due to poor work ethic. Extra credit is kind of a pain in the neck for a teacher: (1) it takes EXTRA time for the teacher to come up with the assignment (assuming it is at least a somewhat decent, relevant piece of work); (2) it takes time, perhaps, to explain it to your child; (3) it takes time, when completed, to grade it. PLUS, all it really does in the end is artificially boost a child's average-thus neither you nor the child have a real sense, once report card rolls around, of what your progress in the class REALLY is.

If extra credit is to be offered, it should be offered as that-EXTRA work. This means that your child should FIRST have to make up any zeroes or redo any assignments he/she just blew off.

You and your child have the right to timely feedback on assignments. If your child wrote a paper or took a test and a week or more has gone by, you have every right to ask and expect to find out how the child did and WHY he performed that way. Educational research shows that one key aspect of success in learning is timely feedback. It makes sense: you learn to correct errors before you get too far into the next step of the process while still committing those errors.

Your kid doesn't HAVE to take all the highest level classes in school. Your child is likely to feel stressed out if you insist that he take all the AP classes. Figure out what he really likes and go for the higher level on those. I am so sad when I see students taking all the honors classes and feeling miserable because they have no time for the things they'd really like to do-like starting a rock band or developing the next cool computer game that SONY would probably like to buy for 10 million bucks. Choose the high level classes that are essential, but go one step lower for others-- let your child have at least SOME time for pursuing things your child is passionate about.

That's what makes life worth it.