- I have been an elementary school teacher for 18 years and I see parents repeat the same mistakes.
- Things like not respecting teachers’ time or worrying about quiet children come up regularly.
- I also want parents to stop giving teachers random gift cards.
In my 18 years as an elementary school teacher, I see parents make the same three mistakes over and over again. These inadvertent errors boil down to not treating teachers as human beings and not seeing what they perceive to be negative traits in children, like being introverted, as real strengths.
This is what i want parents to know about teaching and their children in the hope that both teachers and children will be treated with more respect and care.
There are better gifts than generic gift cards
I have experienced the generosity of parents, from free classroom book donations to Target gift cards. Holidays like Teacher Appreciation Week or End of the Year Thank Yous are great opportunities to show gratitude to your child’s teacher. Teachers appreciate any kind gesture, but one of the most memorable gifts I’ve ever received was a spa gift card.
It wasn’t for the amount, but it was one of the few gifts to this day that was just for me. It is in the nature of a teacher to give of himself to his students. So when they gave me this spa gift card with a note saying, “We want you to enjoy this for yourself,” I didn’t expect to break down in tears, but I did. At that moment, I felt seen as a human being.
Parents of school-age children are probably starting to think about how they can gift their teachers differently this year. I encourage you to view the teachers in your life as human beings with interests and hobbies outside of their jobs and to look for a meaningful personal gift that is just for them and unrelated to being a teacher.
Make a real appointment to talk with your child’s teacher
In a service-oriented profession, the separation of work and free time is not very clear. I have to admit that for a long time I had a hard time creating boundaries as a teacher. In my early years, I would answer parents’ emails on the weekends, and when a parent would “catch” me on my way to my car at the end of the school day to talk about his child’s progress in school, I would let them .
It was up to me to create and communicate clear boundaries, and parents need to be educated on how to treat the job of teachers as a profession.
Urgent emails on weekends are not welcome. Being a teacher is one of the many roles we play in our individual lives. Trying to set up an impromptu parent-teacher conference by stopping to say hello minutes before the class is about to enter, or waiting for the teacher to walk to their car is simply inappropriate.
The thought of walking into our doctor’s office whenever we wanted without an appointment does not cross our minds. However, with teachers, parents often feel that they have the right to cross all lines of professionalism.
Let’s stop calling kids ‘quiet’ like it’s a bad thing
One of the most common themes on the minds of concerned parents is that their child is “too quiet.” More often than not, what I have found in these conversations is what we can find in the hearts of all parents: a deep fear that their child will not be loved for who they are.
I want to let parents know that it is not a negative quality for your child to be quiet. In fact, we need to stop saying phrases like “you’re so quiet.” Introverts are often creative, good problem solvers, and make devoted friends and strong leaders. Extroverts are often praised, but some of their traits can be detrimental to them, such as not listening to others and sometimes being self-centered.
I think schools are designed for extroverts. In fact, most institutions probably are. This means that if you are an introvert, you are already at a disadvantage, because you are forced to be who you are not. I think about how “participation” is evaluated in schools. Participation is also the note taker, the one-on-one conversationalist, and the active listener. This was me as a child and true of many of our children.
Children who are introverts have strengths that are rarely exposed and developed in a school setting, and this is not the child’s fault. When their gifts aren’t recognized, praised, and encouraged, it can be hard for them to believe they belong.