5 things teachers want parents to know
October 10th, 2012
04:18 AM ET

5 things teachers want parents to know

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) - During the average school day, teachers are with children as many waking hours as parents are. But many educators believe there’s a short in the communication lines between themselves and parents. When asked what they’d want parents to know about education, not all of the teachers we spoke to wished to be named - but they did share many common concerns from the classroom.

1. We're on the same team

First and foremost, teachers want students to thrive in the classroom, and they could use your help.

Jennifer Bell, a 7th grade social studies teacher in Tennessee, suggests that parents do all they can to ensure that students are doing their homework, exercising, eating well and sleeping. Whether students come to class tired or ready to learn can hinge on parents’ involvement. “We need their support,” she says. “We can’t do this on our own.”

In the words of an elementary school teacher from Georgia, “We are professionals. Teaching children is our area of expertise. Your child benefits more when you support me.”

And while educators expect students to make mistakes, Mississippi teacher Beth Wilbanks Smith asks parents to help them learn from those mistakes. “They will grow to be productive citizens if we all work as a unified force,” she writes.

2. Curriculum isn’t always up to us

One aspect of education that teachers say many parents don’t realize is that there’s not much wiggle room in classroom curriculum.

Forty-five states have adopted The Common Core State Standards. As a result, Bell says that teachers aren’t always responsible for the pace or the material. What they are responsible for: teaching the material itself and the test scores that result.

Parents may not agree with the education guidelines set by state or federal government, and many teachers don’t either. A Georgia educator told us, “Legislators and politicians are not educators; they make decisions regarding education without the knowledge of how it will impact student learning.”

So teachers ask that parents show understanding when addressing issues that educators do not have the power to change.

3. Share the responsibility

Something educators don’t want is for parents to have a combative approach to problems that arise at school.

A pair of Georgia elementary school teachers said that a student tells his side of the story through his own point of view. In order to get the whole story and avoid any misunderstandings, it’s important to objectively approach the educator.

A junior high school teacher from Missouri echoes this. “The national rhetoric lately in politics, movies, etc. has really put teachers on the defensive, and I think parents today are more likely to try and place blame on a teacher instead of ask their student to take more responsibility.”

This educator suggests allowing the student to both fail and take the responsibility to correct the error. “As a parent, I know this isn’t easy, but always trying to jump in and save your student won’t help them in the future.”

4. A track record doesn't guarantee a track star

“Something that has come up in conversations often lately among teachers: Past results don’t always result in future success,” writes a Missouri educator.

Teachers sometimes hear parents say that their student has always done well in a given subject, so there’s no reason why he or she should have trouble with it going forward.

But that’s not always the case, and it’s not necessarily the teacher’s fault. “This year’s concepts are very different,” the educator says, and the student “might be struggling with a more advanced concept.”

5. We know where you’re coming from

A recently retired Georgia teacher told us that 80-85% of her colleagues had children of their own. She says this gives educators compassion and insight into how a child learns. “Parents see a child. Teachers see both the child and the student. They have the ability to see multiple perspectives.”

When discussing success in the classroom, Smith also mentioned compassion as an ingredient, along with structure, order and inspiration. The recipe “makes for a dynamic environment,” she said. “I am not ‘a friend’ to my students, but I am their mentor, their confidant, and their stability while they are in my care.”

And while virtually all teachers would like to give more individualized attention to students, educators are limited by time, curriculum and class sizes. These are challenges that teachers feel some parents don’t understand.

As stated by a woman with decades of experience as both a teacher and a parent, “Your child is unique, just like everyone else’s.”

soundoff (957 Responses)
  1. Kati Bennett

    As someone who has taught high school for many years, I agree with much of this article. One note, however: the Common Core State Standards are just beginning to be implemented in most states, so we have yet to see how dramatically they will affect our teaching. For most states, the new standards actually allow for more flexibility and professional judgement in terms of content on the part of the teacher as opposed to rigorous pacing over vast amounts of comment.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  2. Teach

    You do not fire your dentist because you didnt brush and then got a cavity. So why punish a teacher when a student doesn't do his homework then gets bad test scores. Teachers are not responsible for the resulting test scores, thats what this article seems to imply to me, the parents are. Can we fire parents if thats the case, or dock their pay? No you can't, so why hurt teachers? Especially when they have 175 every day. I like the artical, thank you to the author.

    October 16, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Teacher30+

      Fire parents for not sending us a better student to work with......PRICELESS. Yes i am a parent too!!!

      October 16, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  3. Eric

    One of the most frustrating parts of arguing is unless the goal is to fix the problem 100% both parties nothing is accomplished. The Teacher has a Formula for Grading so you would need that and all of the grades and points to question her at all. It's like I said not a reaction that has any

    It's no Different than if you picked up you sister's pay check and it said 0. Same thing, when it's your child your angry or embarrassed, one ot the two.

    October 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  4. Eric

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    I Sell Baseball Cards Online So I Can Navigate and Search Quickly

    October 16, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  5. Jollie

    I have taught elementary school in the same district for 17years. I love my job and going to work everyday. I wouldn't do anything else. I have dealt with the parent side with my 4 children who have since graduated. I understand that every parent wants what they think is best for their child and we all want to protect our children. I beg parents to be involved, to come into the classroom, to call, email, write letters with any concerns they have with their child's educational experience. I might have 5-6 parents out of 27 that take an active part in their child's education. The other 20+ I never see or hear from until their child is in "trouble" at school and it NEVER has to do with the academics. "Why does my child lose recess because he broke a school rule?", "Why does my child have more than 15 minutes of homework each night?", "Why does my child have to participate in PE-they hate PE", "Why doesn't my child have any friends?", etc......The list goes on and on. I try my best to deal with these issues, but the whole time I'm wishing they would be concerned about their child's academics. And parents, don't blame me for policies that our government puts in place that I have to follow. I don't like some of the policies either, but I have no choice. I value each and every student and I do my very best to make them a better person along with teaching them the best I can so they can pass the tests that are government dictates. Most of them have never been in the classroom to see that it is a community of very diverse learners that have a lot of other issues going on that can affect their education. But yet, you EXPECT every child to do well. Let's see – I have a student whose mom had to go to jail last night, another student's sister had an accident and is in the hospital in serious condition, two of my students have parents going through a divorce, etc. I KNOW for a fact that I have a hard day teaching when I have a personal crisis, or each time my son and daughter-in-law deploy to Iraq/
    Afghanistan. I wouldn't be able to sit and take a test and pass it either. I think we ALL need to have a little more compassion and understanding for all those professions who are a part of our community giving it their all, to help each child succeed and become a productive part of society.

    October 12, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  6. To Georgia Mom

    If teaching is so easy, why doesn't everyone do it?

    This is part of the problem, your first response was rude, and who wants to take any parent or adult seriously with that response. Your last post was much more logical, and completely understandable. At the same time, here would be a few hits for you in regards to your over the top advice.

    Here's a bit of advice for teachers who want parents' help:
    1. Teach my kid something. Don't have him bring a book from home and spend your entire class period reading it.
    Really? So students who have difficulty getting through the text, we should just not work with them during class, or even better send them home so they are on their own? I am pretty sure reading is an essential skill in life, so perhaps you need to see if this is happening every single day of school for the entire school year. I find it hard to believe they aren’t learning anything.
    2. Don't show Disney movies in class and call that education.
    I completely agree, but again I would question if this is happening every day. Do students ever need a break? Do you ever need a break from your job? Well, instead of next time viewing a movie, we will have them read. Oh wait, you don’t like that either. Do us a favor; don’t ever complain again when we give your child “too much work then.”
    3. Don't give out candy to the kids every day when the school handbook clearly says candy is forbidden.
    I would love to know what school district you belong to because 1st they are reading too much, then watching movies, while eating candy all day. Sounds like an awesome time. OK, so no more candy, don’t send your child to school with a Coffee, Red Bull, Monster Drink, Coke, and then we will quit offering students something they enjoy. Do you ever need a piece of candy or gum during the day?
    4. If I request a conference with you, make time for it. Don't tell me that you don't have time to meet with me.
    Great idea, I forgot your child is the only student I have. The other 179 students and 358 parents never ask for a conference either. Sure, I will make time for it, normally on the days you are only available, probably right after school, not during the day when I an off period.
    5. Communicate with parents directly. That includes responding to our emails.
    I don’t know how I have time to respond to your emails while forcing my students to read and watch a movie at the same time, the entire day, while passing out candy and making time for conferences. If you lead any of your emails the way you do with these pieces of advice, I would probably not respond either. I have a feeling your emails have never began with…..Hello Mr. Smith, I hope your day is running smooth, I understand you are busy, but when you have time, I have a question……..or when you have time could we please schedule a meeting at your convenience……I would really appreciate it. Thanks again.
    Teachers need to (1) show some interest in actually teaching and (2) ask for parent involvement by communicating directly with parents. In my Atlanta-area school system, that would make all the difference.
    I think you should become a teacher and show us how it is all supposed to be done. My bet is, you wouldn’t last 1 day, let along 1 week.

    October 12, 2012 at 10:52 am |
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    October 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
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