Tuesday, October 12, 2010

~Tuesday Tips~

Caleb with Mrs. Richardson
School is in full swing. Fall is here with its fresh sweep of color. The air is crisp. Pumpkins are available at the local super market and various farm stands across the nation. Report cards and Parent/Teacher Conferences are just around the corner.
Spending my childhood in my mother's elementary classrooms, assisting grading papers, hanging bulletin boards, organizing shelves of books and closets filled with construction paper and school supplies, I understand the hours it takes to be a teacher. Parents sometimes don't realize that teaching isn't a mere 8-3 (or 7-2, if you're in the South) job. It requires many additional hours outside the classroom taking classes, participating in workshops, grading papers while watching television at night, preparing new lessons and much, much more. I remember many nights when my mother was busy at work, at home, while I self-entertained, wishing she could spend more time with me.
As Parent/Teacher Conferences approach, I'd like to give a few tips on how to make this school year a success for your children and their teachers.
Keep the lines of communication open with your child's teacher. Whether it's a concern about their grade on a test, a question about homework policies or a frustration over a behavior report, contact the teacher directly. Most will hand out their email address, cell number or some other way to contact them. Never be afraid to ask. All teachers know "there's no such thing as a stupid question."

Give the teacher the benefit of the doubt, always. Johnny comes home complaining about something his teacher said, did or made him do. He feels he's been treated unfairly. (I'm talking about every day things here, not abuse.) A mother's natural tendency is to automatically jump into defense mode favoring her child over the teacher. Don't do this! Rather than reacting to your child's emotional state, help him/her to learn how to handle the emotions of disappointment, frustration and anger. Use it as an opportunity to teach a life lesson. If you want to know more about the situation, contact the teacher before you judge their disciplinary action toward your child. Kids don't always tell the whole story. Adults have better judgment. 

Volunteer to help out. Ever wonder what's going on behind that closed classroom door? Now's the time to find out! Volunteering to assist in your child's classroom is a great way to get to know the teacher, his/her instructional style, their personality and what your child is learning about. It's also a great way to show your child how much you care about him/her and their education. Teachers can never have too many helping hands. The school systems cannot afford to place an aide in each classroom and there are typically 18-22 children in each one. Your presence allows them to get more accomplished throughout the day and puts smiles on kids faces you'd never dreamed you'd touch. 

Don't yell at the teacher or go to conference with an attitude. Susie isn't failing because the teacher is failing to do his/her job. Susie is failing because of several varying reasons, depending on who Susie is:
a) She's not doing her homework or her classwork. This is a sign of two things. One, Suzie is lazy and puts forth no effort. Two, no one is making Susie put forth an effort. Your child's teacher cannot stand over every student every day, making them do their work. It's impossible. It's up to us as parents to teach our children self-discipline and hard work. If we aren't willing to do that, it's our fault, not the teacher's.
b) Susie has a learning disability. There are several solutions to these issues. Check with your school to find out how to effectively help Susie overcome these disabilities.
c) Susie has a hang-up with taking tests. I know someone who is very smart but seizes up when it comes test time. Bad grades on a test do not always reflect a person's intellect. If Susie is having issues with taking tests, find out if there is another way the teacher can go about giving them. Maybe Susie does better with an oral exam than a written one. Ask for help.
d) Susie has difficulty comprehending something. If your child struggles with this, it will affect every area of their learning. Comprehension is simply understanding, connecting the dots, between what is being presented. It's the who, what, when, where, how, why, etc. of the material. Helping your child understand things at home is one way that you can start them on their way to overcoming this issue. Read a book at night. Ask questions about what you've just read to them. What do they think will happen next? Have them think cause and effect: What will happen to this egg when I put it into the hot frying pan? Ask them math questions while you grocery shop. How much change will I get for this $4.00 box of cereal if I give the clerk a $10 bill? 
Discuss these issues with your child's educator in a calm and agreeable manner. Work with him/her in order to get the best education for your child, not against him/her. If you think you could really do a better job, quit yours and homeschool your child.I can hear the teachers cheering and the parents cursing me while saying they'll never read my blog again.

Bio: Alycia Morales is the daughter of an elementary educator who is nearing retirement (go Mom!), mother of four, step-mother of one, classroom volunteer. She has been volunteering in classrooms since she could draw welcome back class pictures on the blackboard with white chalk (SmartBoards were not in existence then). She spent three years teaching elementary education in a private Christian academy. She home schooled her own children for a year. Alycia understands what it takes to work with children and is a cheerleader for teachers everywhere, including moms who choose to teach their own children.

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