Saturday, May 2, 2009

To Parents and Future Parents – What You Should Know About Your Child's Teacher

Helpful Tips for Parents with school-aged children written by a mother and teacher

Next to a child's parents, the single most important person in a young child's life is his/her teacher. As parents, many of us rely on the schools and educators to “do their jobs.” Teachers are held to a higher moral standard because they are paid to be role models and they represent moral codes. Thus, we respect their authority and put our trust in them so much that we leave our children in their care for 8 hours a day, five days a week and hope that they do their jobs. But how can you tell if your child's teacher is doing his/her job?

We all know that the salary of a teacher compared to the working hours he/she spends in and out of the classroom hardly makes the job worth it. In this case, we see apathetic teachers who are burned out and bitter because he/she did not want to be in the classroom in the first place. Despite master's and graduate degrees and advanced certifications, no amount of professional development would make them better teachers if they lack passion and purpose for what they do.

It is very important that we as parents step up and be our children's advocates. Becoming a proactive parent in a school community doesn't just mean attending PTA meetings and participating in fundraisers. Proactive parents realize that they are the primary educators of their children and they work in partnership with their children's teachers. Good teachers realize this and are open to the parents' participation in and out of the classroom.

Here are some qualities you should look for in your child's teacher:

  1. PASSION FOR TEACHING – This should be a no-brainer, yet if you carefully observe any school, you will find the passion as a rare form as it steadily declines in the schools. Passionate educators consider teaching as a vocation and not just a job. They are open to learn new things and try new strategies instead of using the same worksheets over and over again throughout the years. Passion for teaching can manifest in so many different levels, but more importantly, that passion will transfer into your children in hopes that they will become passionate lifelong learners. You'll recognize that passion when you feel the excitement from your children.

  2. CONNECTION WITH THEIR STUDENTS – Teaching is definitely not a popularity contest, but listen to your children when they talk about their teachers. They are observant and expressive, and they can pick up on whether a teacher “likes” them or not. I've seen teachers who clearly knew their stuff and taught everything they needed to teach. Their students learned everything they needed to learn in the curriculum, yet there was a big missing piece to the puzzle. The kids didn't feel loved! If the teacher's classroom management style is fear and intimidation, then these teachers are NOT who I want teaching in my children's classrooms. I, like all of the other loving parents out there, want the teachers to make my children feel special while firmly disciplining them. This is a fine balance that many teachers have to master.

  3. COLLABORATION WITH PARENTS AND OTHER COMMUNITY MEMBERS - Some great teachers like to do their own thing, but in order to expand their purpose, they need to work in partnership with the community. Parents are the #1 supporters for their cause, so great teachers will want parents to be as involved with their children's education as they possibly can. Great teachers will actively seek out skilled parents to volunteer as guest speakers on career day, volunteers for art classes, coordinators for field trips, etc. to enhance their students' learning experiences. Teachers should be open to these resources and realize that well-intentioned parents are willing to help teachers out in any way they can.

I could list many more qualities of a great teacher, but I know that kids will know it when they feel it. That's the passion I'm talking about....

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