I always knew teachers were pretty great. I had some of my own favorite teachers along my own education journey, like my third grade teacher who came to my piano recital … on a Saturday. But once you have kids, the appreciation for teachers hits a new level (especially for the many of us who took over the teaching duties during the pandemic).
Sometimes, it can be tricky to navigate this new parent-teacher relationship. We want to advocate for our children, without being pushy. We want to protect our kids, without denying them the lessons that can come with failure. We want to know they’re supported, without needing constant communication or showing up at every class party or school assembly. But, above all, we want our children to learn new things, build friendships, and like going to school.
When our children walk away from us and through those daycare or school doors, we realize we’re putting our hearts in someone else’s care. Teachers are such an integral part of their lives, and we can help support them by cultivating a good parent-teacher relationship.
I polled a few teachers I know in varying school districts to ask what they’d appreciate from parents but wouldn’t always ask for. Here’s a short wish-list teachers would value.
1. Give your child independence at home
Allow them to zip up their own jacket, put on their boots, and pack their backpack. One teacher told me, “As a parent, I know at some point you need to get out of the house, but please imagine 30 kindergartners that can’t zip their coats.” Also, velcro shoes are everyone’s friend.
2. Feed your little one breakfast
We’ve heard “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” forever. Breakfast helps your child concentrate and helps teachers do their job since the students won’t be complaining of hunger as soon as they arrive. One teacher I spoke with, whose students partake in the reduced lunch program, said even feeding them something small in the morning can help students get through to midday (she also keeps some snacks on hand to prevent hanger–a lesson to all of us).
3. Read to your kid every night
The benefits of reading to young children is well-documented. Personally, bedtime stories are usually my favorite part of the day. Snuggling in to read even just one book can help kids build a love of learning and calm their bodies down for the next item on this teacher wish-list.
4. Keep your child on a consistent bedtime
Child therapist Erin Eising, LMSW, says, “Routines create security and safety for children.” Plus, everyone needs sleep to function well. My own daughter’s pediatrician recommended putting her to bed a half-hour earlier when she was having trouble with meltdowns after school.
5. Donate extra tissues, disinfecting wipes, and hand sanitizer
In addition to COVID safety protocols, everyone can do their part to help keep germs contained as much as possible, especially during the peak cold and flu season. Also should go without saying, keep your kid home if they’re sick.
6. Provide only the school supplies your child needs
You may have read the school social worker’s post that went viral one holiday season begging parents not to tell children their fancy iPads or cell phone gifts are from Santa. A similar case can be made for fancy school supplies. In first grade at my daughter’s school, all of the school supplies are stored in communal bins that all children can use throughout the year. But not all schools or grade levels have this policy. Comparisons are inevitable, but school supplies shouldn’t be a source of stress for kiddos.
7. Follow the pick-up and drop-off protocol
My community Facebook page is full of complaints about this—to the point that it borders on public shaming. However, we can all do our best to follow the rules on this one for teachers, fellow parents, and student safety.
8. Read the emails, newsletters, and field trip slips
We all have email overload, including teachers. One teacher asked that “Parents please read all information including emails, newsletters, and field trip slips BEFORE sending me an email asking about dates, times, supplies, etc.” We all want our teachers to spend their time on educating our children, not answering our questions—especially those they already answered for parents in emails or the take-home folder.
9. Understand teachers are people too
Teachers have their own families and after-hours activities. Remember emails may not be answered on a Saturday night, but this does not mean your teacher doesn’t care. Many of them are also parents or caregivers, navigating the uncertainty of the pandemic right alongside you.
10. Assume the teacher’s best intentions
Please trust your teacher is doing their best with each scenario. One teacher stressed, “If you disagree with how your teacher has handled something, reach out. Do not gossip to other parents or go straight to the principal with your concern. A lot of times, things can be easily cleared up by just reaching out.”