Why Teaching is Harder Than it Looks
Misconceptions abound regarding the teaching profession. There is no shortage of opinions about K-12 education in the United States. Even worse, holding teachers accountable for a “failing” system is all the rage.
However, there are missing factors in the accountability equation. Educating a child involves an entire community. School boards, politicians, parents, and administrators all share responsibility for the success or failure of children.
Out of all these community members, the most important relationship is between parents and teachers. Each partner bears a significant portion of the obligation in preparing children for their future.
Perhaps, if parents and teachers could live in each other’s shoes for a day, there may be fewer misconceptions. Since that’s not possible, increasing communication between parents and teachers is a step in the right direction.
If people work together in an open way with porous boundaries – that is, if they listen to each other and really talk to each other – then they are bound to trade ideas that are mutual to each other and be influenced by each other. That mutual influence and open system of working creates collaboration.~Richard Thomas
But, these days honest conversations between parents and teachers are sometimes hampered by negative media coverage, political, and monetary agendas. Ultimately, children pay the price for all the misunderstandings because teachers struggle to teach in a ‘gotcha’ environment.
Teaching is unique in that everyone’s been a student. As children, we watched teachers effortlessly open textbooks, lecture a little, and assign work. It seemed simple enough to teach children how to read and multiply fractions.
Understand, though, this is a limited perspective based on your own experiences and history. Just as I don’t presume to think I know about nursing because I’ve been a patient, we cannot assume we know about teaching because we were students.
Also, since we were children, the role of a teacher has changed tremendously. Teachers now balance numerous responsibilities and roles with little support, in a politically charged environment.
Despite the challenges, there are ways parents can support and contribute to the parent and teacher partnership.
1. Understand that education is not all about test scores.
Unfortunately, high-stakes standardized test scores are the primary measure for today’s education successes and failures. Context is key here. A test score is a snapshot of how a student did on a test in a moment in time. Although test scores provide some data, they are limited in their ability to inform teaching and learning.
According to research, there are numerous unintended implications for high-stakes testing. Many of these side effects undermine the educational system, and in turn, negatively impact children. There is a lot more to teaching and learning than test scores.
“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” ~William Bruce Cameron
2. Teachers need you to communicate important information.
Significant life events and transitions may interfere with a child’s learning. Life changes such as the loss of a loved one, pet, or divorce can also cause changes in behavior. Help teachers support your child through challenging times by keeping them informed.
In addition, notify the teacher if your child is struggling with learning or homework. Teachers can’t help if they’re unaware of your child’s needs.
3. Treat teachers as professionals.
Honor teachers’ time by always making and keeping appointments just as you would a doctor or lawyer. Also, bring your concerns to the attention of the teacher first. Only go to the principal after all efforts with the teacher have been exhausted.
4. Recognize teachers’ hard work.
Teachers work many hours during evenings and weekends in order to get the job done. They also spend thousands of dollars of their own money on their classrooms. A few words of encouragement and appreciation go a long way towards boosting a teacher’s spirit.
If we are to fix the challenges of education in the 21st century, we must first start by improving partnerships between parents and teachers. In fairness to both sides, I’ve also written about what parents wish teachers knew.
Communication is the foundation of any partnership. Support teachers in meeting the needs of your child by keeping perspective on testing, communicating needs, treating teachers as professionals, and recognizing teacher’s hard work.
These strategies may not fix all the issues, but it’s a start in the right direction.
What else would teachers like parents to know? Please share in the comment section below.