Rookie Mom: How to Partner with Teachers

And he's off.

                             First days.

If you live in South Africa, this week your Facebook feed has been filled with pictures of kids on their first day of school. If you’re like me, you’ve been sending messages back and forth about kids who are fine, mothers who are not, hints of tears and declarations of wine.

When I imagine having twenty-eight little 3-4 year olds in classroom for the first time, I feel an overwhelming desire to lie down and curl up into the fetal position.  Once I spent thirty minutes at Will’s play school and afterwards I added “pre-school teacher” to my long list of Jobs I Never Want. (Other careers include chef, occupational therapist, accountant, person who keeps things organised and neat.)

Teachers are freaking awesome. I know there may be tired, jaded, cynical teachers who don’t care, or who forgot why they got into it, or who keep hip flasks of whiskey in their top drawer. But I think most teachers are freaking awesome.

I wondered about what advice teachers would give to rookie parents like me about the long road of schooling ahead, and so I asked on Facebook. There were 27 comments. TWENTY-SEVEN! Just from teachers. You guys, teachers want to partner with us parents. They want our kids to rock out at life, and growing, and learning. They basically want the same thing as we do – happy, loved, growing kids. How cool is that?

Here is some of what they had to say…

As most teachers go ALL in, they do have a plan and direction for where they wanna go. Trust that they know what they are doing, they are trained, have experience, and are so dedicated that they spend their own money to get extra resources! If you don’t understand or if the teacher has not communicated the goals, ASK! That way you can team up, and follow up SO much better at home (homework especially), which will be a tremendous strength in your child’s learning! – Monika

Teachers are human too, so we appreciate friendly, supportive parents who we can communicate with easily. – Jolene

Trust and support your child’s teacher! If you communicate openly and honestly you’ll do well! – Colin

Communication is the biggest thing! Also realizing that the “partnership” is actually three strand.. Parents, children, teachers. If there are clear lines of communication between all three, a blissful educational experience is a guarantee! X Also.. Making expectations clear from the start, from all sides! – Abi

I think respecting a teacher and giving her opinion credit is a huge thing. There are a lot of parents who assume they know more about teaching or about their child’s development. This is what we have dedicated our lives to, and we do know what we are talking about! We often see a parent not listen to a teacher early on, and then only 4 years and 4 teachers later eventually listen… after so much time has been lost!! – Kirstie

Trust that we know what we doing. Well at least most of the time… Also remember we make mistakes too. If theres something going in at home that the kids upset about let us know. I got a note about the death of a beloved pet snake! – Melissa

There were many more like this. Catching a general theme?

Communication. Trust.

We can do that, can’t we? It seems like it will go a long way.

There were some other real gems, too.

Communication is very important. Also, avoid the temptation to become a “snowplow parent” (one who snowplows all their kids problems away so they never have to learn to deal with healthy adversity). I see this a lot in high school and when things don’t go their way, they blame the teacher instead of trying to work with their kids to develop strategies to overcome obstacles and achieve success. – Christie

I always tell my parents I promise to not believe everything I hear about you as long as you promise to not believe everything you hear about me! The parents I’ve absolutely loved while teaching have been the ones I have felt have been on my side, given me grace and had faith in my ability ( even when they didn’t know I had any! ) The moms who were not apart of the car park gossip were generally the ones I knew were trustworthy. Appreciation is always so encouraging as a teacher. Before voicing a issue with other parents go straight to the teacher and try sort it out – this means so much! – Kimber

Gotta agree with communication and sending your kid to school with the basics covered so they can hit the ground running in the morning. BUT, on a personal note, from you to the teacher, it’s always nice when a parent acknowledges something I’m trying to do, that might go unnoticed. A quick note in the child’s agenda, or an email, a note of thanks goes a loooong way to feeling like we, as a teacher, are understood by the parent. Also…I take everything my students tell me about their parents (ie. “I didn’t get my homework done because my parents were yelling at each other all night”) with a grain of salt and ask that they do the same when the child comes home saying, “Ms. McClure wouldn’t help me with my math questions at all.” We can get it all sorted out through communication in the end. – Heather

Some good stuff there.

Appreciation. Avoiding car park gossip. And (I LOVE THIS!) take some things with a pinch of salt.

And finally, I saved the best for last. I really think this will go a long, long way to helping teachers to do all we hope they do with excellence and honour.

It pretty much comes down to the present at the end of the year for me. So maybe tell them what it’s going to be in advance? – Phil

I agree with Phil its entirely possible to buy a teacher’s love. Gifts and thoughtful gestures throughout the year (especially at concerts, open days, report time etc) be that parent, I won’t judge you – Tammy

A few months ago I was at a friend’s birthday dinner and I sat next to his mom, who has been a teacher for many years. I asked her what her advice would be to a new mom like me? And she basically summarised this blog for in two beautiful pieces of advice.

If you need to speak to a teacher, make an appointment. Don’t try to have important conversations just as all the kids are arriving, or when all the parents are coming through the door. Give her a chance to hear you without distractions, and you’ll have a much better outcome to the conversation.

And, don’t be a part of car park gossip. It just creates division and suspicion. – Corinne

I’m just a rookie mom. I haven’t had any tough experiences yet, and I know there are plenty of you out there who have travelled down this road and have a story to tell. But regardless of who the teachers are, and what our kids are going through, I think we can do these things. Communication. Trust. Appreciation. No gossip.

Let’s work together to make 2015 a great year for our teachers and our children! In the word’s of another teacher friend,

“We’re on the same team!”

Little Luke heading off into a big world

Little Luke heading off into a big world

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