Teachers Are Like a Box of Chocolates…
It’s true. You never know what you’re going to get. Each year, as you wait for class lists to be posted, you sit back, and hope you are given a “good” one. Will my child connect with him/her? Will they emphasize math/reading/writing/(insert whatever subject matter is most important to you)? Will he/she be kind? Firm?
While a select few school districts allow you to request teachers, the vast majority take the decision out of your hands. This is hard….trust me. As a parent, I want control over my child’s education. As a teacher, I understand why the choice stays within the school’s control. While many teachers put A LOT of thought into where their students are placed, there are a few who place students at random. Sometimes you will LOVE the teacher your child is given. You may even get who you were hoping for. Other times, you won’t be so crazy about your child’s placement. Having been on BOTH sides of this situation (the teacher and the parent), I wanted to give you a few things to expect/think about.
1. Cookie Cutters Don’t Belong at School
Like Forrest Gump so brilliantly pointed out, life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get…It’s the same with teachers. Teachers within a district, a school, a grade level…can and WILL be different. Don’t go into the school year expecting uniformity or cookie cutter classes. (And in my opinion, you shouldn’t want this!) Some schools expect teachers to teach the exact same lessons, do the exact same crafts, papers, read the same books, etc. on the same days. (My daughter’s kindergarten was this way.) For me, I believe the best education happens when teachers are student-centered and teaching the curriculum in a way that works with their individual class. For example, one year I had a class that was really strong in patterning, so we were able to cover that unit quickly, and then spend more time on problem solving. Another class had a strong interest in our pilgrim unit, so we extended that, and integrated pilgrim studies into all aspects of our curriculum for several more weeks. I moved with my students, and didn’t worry about what the class next door was doing. We did our long-term planning/goals together, and bounced ideas off of one another, but didn’t replicate each others’ planners! Long story short, don’t expect your child to do something simply because the “other” class is doing it, or because a child who had this teacher years before did it. Good teachers change and adapt their curriculum and lessons based on current students. Sameness does not mean better.
2. Disappointment Happens
You won’t always love your child’s teacher. You may get lucky, but it’s more than likely that at some point in their education, one of your kids will get a teacher that you just aren’t thrilled with. Here are two things to remember….
1. Kids are FLEXIBLE, ADAPTABLE, and one less than stellar year won’t kill them.
2. Don’t let your child hear you say anything negative about their teacher! This won’t help anyone. Kids believe their parents. If you say something rude about their teacher, they will believe it (and possibly repeat it.) If you’re going to vent about the teacher, wait until your child is asleep.
3. You Don’t Have to GUSH to Care
This is a tough one for lots of moms….(especially if you move from a gushy teacher to a non-gushy one!) We want the teacher to GUSH over our child. We want them to recognize and verbalize just how special our child is. We want the compliments….the sweet comments…the love. I was a gushy teacher. I made sure to let each parent know how much I loved their child and why. One of the only “criticisms” I ever received from my principals was that I “cared too much” about my students. Not all teachers are like that. (And that’s okay.) Some teachers are just “all business.” They are there to teach your child, and not to develop a relationship with them. If you get a teacher like that, just rest in the fact that they will do their job. Your child will be taught. They will learn. Some people simply aren’t nurturing by nature. This doesn’t mean they don’t CARE. You don’t have to overly emotional, sentimental, or demonstrative to care. (If you need further comfort, think about many husbands….A lot of men don’t demonstrate their affection and care in overtly sappy or sentimental ways…This doesn’t mean they don’t love you or care about you. Instead, they show love through practical things. Non-gushy teachers may simply have that same personality. The care is shown differently.)
4. Develop a Relationship
No matter who your child is placed with, it never hurts to develop a POSITIVE relationship with your child’s teacher. Volunteer. Ask to take projects home if you can’t help in the classroom. Write notes of encouragement. Send thank you notes. Let the teacher know a child enjoyed a particular lesson or book. If you approach the teacher with kindness (even in your concerns), it will go a long way. The teacher will of course treat all children fairly, but a child with a “difficult” parent can be more difficult to teach as the teacher may feel anxiety, fear, or as if they are “walking on eggshells” with the child. Be polite. Smile. If you seem them out and about, say hello. Ask about THEM (as a person, not just as a teacher.) It helps. (Trust me.)
5. Keep Calm and Carry On
I can’t say it much better than that. (Buy yourself one of those posters if you need to.) Stay calm. Stay positive. Your child will adapt. They WILL learn. They will make new friends. They will grow. Every teacher has a list of pros and cons. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We all have certain subjects we pay more attention to than others. (Can you guess what mine was?!) Whether you love them, dislike them (don’t use the word hate around your kid!), or are unsure…just remember that this is just ONE of dozens of teachers your child will have throughout their education. They will survive, and so will you.