With school right around the corner, I wanted to share with you just a handful of the situations I encountered during my time as a classroom teacher. In each of these situations, there was a lesson to be learned by the student’s parents.
Situation: At one school I taught at, the students ate lunch in the classroom. As I was monitoring the room, I noticed a student opening a Twinkie within the first few minutes of lunch. My rule was always to eat the sandwich first, so I went over to see if they had indeed, eaten their sandwich. When I peeked inside his lunchbox, I saw: 3 Twinkies, 4 packages of fruit snacks, a Handi-snack, and a can of Mt. Dew Code Red. (No lie.) I asked the student if his mom had packed his lunch for him. He said, “She was busy this morning so she told me to pack my own lunch.”
My Response: I put the can of soda, 2 Twinkies, and 3 packages of fruit snacks in a paper bag with a note home to Mom, letting her know the situation. I always stood by the trash and snatched up any of the bananas/apples/oranges/unopened milk cartons that had never been touched and were about to go into the trash, and kept them in a bowl for just-so occasions. I let him pick a piece of fruit, and gave him a milk.
What I Was ACTUALLY Thinking: “I am SO glad I was paying attention during lunch today….Dodged an afternoon bullet….”
Lesson from the teacher: Some six year olds may be very capable of packing their own lunch. However, I encourage you to talk about healthy food with your child and instead, give choices such as (PBJ or Ham and Cheese, apple slices or celery sticks, string cheese or yogurt) instead of actually handing the responsibility of packing the lunch to the child.If they DO pack their own lunch, make sure to give their lunchbox a quick check before they head off to school.
Situation: I was at a parent-teacher conference. Our conferences were student-led, and the kids had been practicing sharing their work, goals, etc. with their parents. The mom of the student (a SUPER sweet boy), didn’t give his journal, work, etc. more than a quick glance, and then repeatedly asked me questions about microwaving chicken and playing computer solitaire. (I wish I was kidding.)
My Response: After multiple attempts to steer the conversation back to her son and his work failed (She kept saying things like, “I tell Student X to do his work, but I just am on solitaire all afternoon so I can’t see what he is doing” etc.), I started talking right to the student, letting him know how proud I was of his progress, and sharing with him how I thought he’d selected great goals. I shared how he and I would be working to meet them. I thanked the mom for her time, and ended the conference early.
What I Was ACTUALLY Thinking: This is another situation that just really made me sad. I wanted to yell at the lady, “Hey! Don’t waste this opportunity to make your child feel special/proud! Show him you love him! Don’t you realize what a great kid you have?!”
Lesson: I know more than anyone how crazy life can get, and how we as mothers seriously need down-time, and thoughts/activities free from our kids. However, I ask you to make the most of opportunities when your child is being allowed to shine. Build them up. Encourage. Praise. Congratulate. Whatever is going on in your own life during those moments (the big game, the recital, the conference, the spelling bee, etc.) put those thoughts aside, and give your child all you can. Let them be your sole focus in those moments that could end up defining them.
Situation: The students were filing in for the day, and starting their morning routine. I noticed one my students head to the bathroom very quickly after putting her backpack away. (At this point, she had on jeans and a long-sleeved shirt.) She came out of the bathroom wearing soccer socks pulled all the way up, hot pink booty shorts, a spaghetti strap tank top, and a batman mask. It was January. There was snow on the ground.
My Response: “Honey, while I love how creative you are with your outfit, I need you to put back on the clothes you were wearing when you came in.”
What I Was ACTUALLY Thinking: It took ALL that was within me to not crack up. I still laugh thinking about it. I also touched base with her mom that afternoon in the parking lot, and just let her know that her daughter had snuck alternative clothes to school with her.
Lesson from the teacher: Check your child’s backpack in the morning, especially if they are doing things like taking it upstairs, acting suspicious, not letting it out of their sight, etc.
Situation: Again at lunch, I noticed a student sitting with a sour cream container on her desk. I walked over to her and asked her what she had for lunch (thinking there must be leftovers or some type of fruit/veggie in the container). She so proudly told me she found her own lunch that day. She had indeed come to school with a tub of sour cream (expired sour cream) for her lunch. Fighting back tears (as this child was very low income and was obviously so proud of her lunch), I told her that it would be unsafe for her to eat the sour cream, and gave her my lunch from home.
My Response: I told her that it would be unsafe for her to eat the sour cream, and gave her my lunch from home. This family didn’t have a phone, so I sent paperwork through for reduced/free lunch multiple times, until they eventually signed it.
What I Was ACTUALLY Thinking: This event still haunts me, and I think about this student often. I had to fight back tears that day as I took her “lunch” away from her. She was so proud of having this food from home, and I knew it might have been all there was to take that day.
Lesson: It’s okay to ask for help. If your family could benefit from using the free/reduced lunch program, sign up for it! No one except the secretary that files the paperwork, the teacher, and the employee that helps kids check-in for lunch will ever know. The program is there, so take advantage of it if you need it! More people qualify than you might think! At many schools, children who qualify for free/reduced lunch, also receive a free breakfast daily. Check your local school/district website for more information, or to see if you qualify. (And don’t be ashamed…you do what you have to do for your kids. Bottom line.)
Situation: One of my students had fallen asleep at his desk three days in a row. I called home to speak with the parents, to just let them know what was going on. This is the response I got, “Well, Student X just has really been wanting to stay up until midnight or 1 am to play X-Box with his dad.”
My Response: “I just encourage you to try to get him to bed a bit earlier, as he is very tired in class, and having trouble staying awake throughout the day.”
What I Was ACTUALLY Thinking: “Why is it HIS choice?! Bedtime should be bedtime. End of discussion. Too bad so sad that he wants to stay up and play video games. You are the parent.”
Lesson from the teacher: Sleep is SO important for young kids. Even if it makes you unpopular with your kiddos, I urge you to get them in bed by 8pm each night. Kids between the ages of 3-10 still need 9-12 hours of sleep each night. Sleep helps your child focus, retain information, and control impulsive behaviors.
Situation: It was parent/teacher conference time. I was meeting with the mother of an average student. This child was just meeting/just under grade level expectations. The mom commented to me during our conference (in total seriousness), “My son gets bored with the centers he has to do during literacy time, so I’d like him to be able to bring in some lumber, a hammer, and some nails, and just build things during that time.”
My Response: “I’m pretty sure that would violate our school’s safety policy. Student X will need to go ahead and just complete the activities I’ve selected.”
What I Was ACTUALLY Thinking: “Are you kidding me?! Yes, what an excellent idea. I would LOVE to give a five year old boy a real hammer, and sharp pointy objects. That’s what kindergarten needs more of…weaponry in the hands of the kids.”
Lesson from the teacher: I am a big believer in advocating for your kids, and making sure they are challenged. However, I urge you to think before you speak, and think your requests to the teacher all the way through.