I wake with a start and a racing heart. It's mid August, but the week after Labour Day is fast approaching. Time to face the manic 18-hour days, the students, the spitballs, the attitudes, the principal, the parents, the prep, and the marking till midnight!
No doubt about it—I'm in the afterglow of my yearly TEACHER NIGHTMARE. I still hold my teaching certificate but have chosen a different career path. I know what you're thinking, “Smart move since you apparently have some unresolved issues with the teaching thing.” Maybe. But I like to think of them as sympathy nightmares for my comrades who remain in the trenches.
Why must our media propagate the stereotype of the boring, clueless teacher? Actually, teachers are some of the most vibrant, intelligent and entertaining people I know. But how long will they last in the classroom jungle? The average is five years. Five years before burnout, disillusionment, throwing in the towel, and moving on to a job that doesn't chew you up and spit you out.
Why is this? Are they too idealistic? No classroom management skills? Lacking in the work/life balance area? Maybe. My observation is that it's often the ones who really want to help and make a positive difference that contribute the most to the five year statistic. So, how can we help keep the good ones—or at least bump up their average?
What does a teacher need from parents to succeed? Here's what they're saying:
“Do they know I'm a real person?”
IDEA: How about a nice, normal chat? Here's a great conversation starter: “Where did you grow up?” This will show basic interest in the fact that they are human beings. TALK to your teacher.
“Please spend a little time in my shoes.”
IDEA: Ask yourself, “What would a day or week in the life of Ms. or Mr. Teacher be like?” Be sure to consider the wide variety of student needs: specific learning styles, varied personalities, peanut allergies, gifted, challenged, home situations, hormones(!), navigating peer relationships…to name a few. Once you're aware of the load your child's teacher carries, it will help you identify with him or her and highlight areas where you could show more grace.
“Pray for me. And my students!!”
IDEA: Ask the Lord to send a few more angels to your child's teacher and classroom. Pray the promise of Proverbs 2:6: “For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (ISV). Look and listen for signs of this happening, share it with others (especially the teacher), and then thankfully celebrate!
“Step into my classroom.”
IDEA: Volunteer for one class sometime this year. (Don't tell your child when!) If even a fraction of parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles did this, schools would be very different. There'd be principals whistling, teachers with perma-grin, and students feeling more secure and behaving better.
“It'd mean so much to feel supported.”
IDEA: Write one kind and encouraging note to a teacher this year. On paper. A hard copy can be re-read, displayed, kept for years in a file entitled “Notes of Encouragement.” (Yes, I still have mine.) Wednesdays tend to be tough, so maybe shoot for then.
Parents and significant people in students' lives largely contribute to setting the atmosphere for the school year. It's so important for students and teachers to see that parents care, are involved, and know what's going on. Parents, you are influencers! Use these suggestions or come up with your own. How will the teachers take all this? Well, you might need to help them up off the floor where they've fainted dead away from shock. But when they recover, they will thank you for equipping them with what they need to succeed.