Monday, June 17, 2013

Response to The "worst end of the school year" mom (s) from a Teacher whose been on both sides of the classroom door!

Before I get a barrage of hate mail from moms, please know that I now have two children in high school, so I totally "get" the rant of the "Worst end of school year mom ever," (link enclosed). But since, like Jen Hatmaker, I am a former 4th-grade school Teacher, I have to respond from a Teacher's perspective and have equal rant time about our end of the year experience.

Dear "Supportive" Parent,
I started preparing for your child to enter our classroom over my summer vacation, July to be exact. I know most of you think I have the summers off, along with weekends and weeknights, but I don't. I am readying my classroom, creating innovative bulletin boards, implementing a proactive disciplinary plan, reviewing IEPs for children with special needs while also looking at the dynamic of the entire classroom of students, and of course, checking out the testing standards my class must surpass. Additionally,  I am busy planning lessons, thinking of ways to educate, stimulate, elevate and even levitate your child's mind, along with the grand finale, end-of-the year play or performance all you parents want to add to your videotape collection of school memories.

I'm sure you're aware of all the models of learning we teachers are responsible for assessing, trying to determine the optimum ways your child learns and incorporating them into our already overwhelmingly crammed curriculum. On a personal note, both my boys took an assessment at their school which, among many things, specified they learn better while snacking. Both of them tried to use this "important" piece of information to bring food into their rooms during homework time. So, in my humble opinion, some of these learning style guides are useful while some are useless, and to that end, will use a piece of advice a former Assistant Superintendent gave me when discussing all the "new innovations of teaching that roll into our profession: "Experienced Teachers have learned what to do with each and every new wave of teaching that comes their way; they duck."

Ducking is something I was never good at when I was teaching full-time, because whenever I saw a parent--in the hallway, at the store, in the dentist's office--she'd almost always want to talk about her child--and this is especially true at the end of the school year, when planning placement for the upcoming year. I was barraged by parent phone calls, emails, unscheduled and scheduled visits. I understand the concern and have been guilty of doing this to teachers as a point! However, there are moms (a few dads) who, like the energizer batteries, drain Teachers' time on a daily basis. 

  • ·        I once had a mom bring her child late to class, call me into the hallway--during the middle of my lesson--and ask me to punish her child for oversleeping.

  • ·        My worst case scenario was a mom who waited every day for me at dismissal "just to chat." It wasn't until the last few weeks of that school year that my Principal recognized the toll this was taking on me and stopped her at the door so I could get my work done. This is the same mom who showed-up unexpectedly at the movie theatre when our class went on a school trip. After the movie was over, as we exited the theatre, she was standing in the lobby waving to us.

  • ·        And...even more insane, was the time this mom convinced my Principal we could celebrate her son's birthday in my class. You may think this isn't a big deal as we, and many elementary classes do celebrate birthdays.  In this case, however, she had a full menu of snacks and goodie bags for distribution in addition to the cake she sent in. So while I was putting all the goodie bags in the student backpacks, the dismissal bell rang, but we couldn't hear it in our classroom with all the commotion. Our classroom door was closed so we never saw the other classes walking past our to their buses: I got my students in line and walked into an empty school parking lot: all the buses already  departed. The students were thrilled to be "stranded" and I, an overwhelmed Teacher, was mortified as the Central School Office summoned all the buses back to the my school. Needless to say, I was lovingly joked with many a time by my colleagues the remainder of the school year and beyond : )

 Do you know I sometimes still see this mom at the grocery store and hide. Once, while I was on line at the cash register at one of the stores in the mall,  I was startled by an all too familiar voice calling my name, "Mrs. Black, Mrs. Black."  There behind me, she loomed. Immediately she took out photos of her sons and started telling me all about their lives.....As I walked away, I giggled, knowing she just can't help herself.

So as the school year comes to an end, and you see me bedraggled proctoring all the tests I have prepared your children for, hoping they soar in their performance--knowing full well that any pitfalls in this area will be blamed on my shortcomings--even though you parents "checked-out" : ) of our partnership in April--right Jen? The truth is some parents never checked in: didn't buy their kids the necessary school supplies (those who could afford to); didn't check homework, over-scheduled kids activities, none or limited enforcement of rules at home and more. 

Then, of course, there are the parents who 'check in" but overstay their welcome. These are the parents who want me to change the curriculum because their child wants to study Byzantine Architecture instead of Social Studies, or who claim their child is a prodigy who scores low on standardized tests because he's too smart? (possible) or a parent who'd like to come into the classroom to co-teach with me and share all her life lessons.

Thankfully, my experience has been these cases are more the minority than the majority. Yes,  it's often the few parents/students who require the most support who often put in the least amount of effort and expect the "schools to do their jobs." But then there are those amazing parents who support everything I do, prepare for our meetings, work in partnership all the way and even bring me coffee when I needed it--especially during those final weeks of planning end of the year picnics, school parties, Field Day, school plays and other performances.

Let's not  forget to mention the toll it takes in completing final report cards and cleaning our classrooms. Parents  have a few (in your case, Jen, 5) wayward backpacks.  Think about 29+(I often received a few extra students since I was dubbed the "nurturing Teacher") smelly, overstuffed, ransacked backpacks strewn throughout the  cubbies. At the end of the year, I have to dismantle the entire classroom and pack everything up--only to start planning for the entire year a few weeks.
What lessons can I now share to put Teachers & Moms on the same page since I've been on both sides of the classroom door?  

1.     Teachers and Moms both have the child's interests at heart! Yes, there are a few "bad," lazy and/or nasty Teachers. I've experienced one or two with my own children. But, by far, I've worked with amazing, creative and talented Teachers.
2.     By the same standard, there are a few "crazy" moms out there who need more "extra" help than their kids, the ones who had trouble in high school, so they're trying to redo those years again. While I was a Teacher, I couldn't understand some of what seemed petty, minutia to me about the PTA, Class Moms & just plain ridiculousness....until I had my own kids and met up with a few wackos. But that's a whole different  story, for another time.
3.     Teaching to standardized tests, all the time, takes the joy out of learning and of teaching, so let's not focus so much on scores. Music, art, sports and socialization all play a part in developing the total child.
4.     Once I became a Mom, I had a new level of understanding and appreciation of many of the moms I met as a Teacher. Although I "thought" I knew what moms went through because I love kids and had lots of experience with my nieces and nephews, I was clueless to the enormity of the love a mom has for her children and the sacred, visceral bond they share. I had so much to learn and shared some of this journey in my book, MommyBest: 13 Inspirational Lessons Derek & Dylan's Mom (&maybe yours) Never Learned in School (of course, I had to share some lessons given my Teaching background and my passion for Writing). 
          As I share in my book, there is nothing more nobler than dedicating oneself to nurturing a child...and that's what Teachers & Mothers have in common and why it's imperative they work in tandem!

Teachers & Moms also get lots of appreciation and awesome art work!


 Here's one of many file cabinets I have emptied, sorted and refilled in July!