As a first-year teacher, I soaked up every tidbit of advice my veteran cohorts floated my way. Some of it worked well for me, some of it didn’t fit my teaching style. I especially needed to hear how those master teachers conducted their parent conferences. Thankfully, I sat in on many meetings with a teacher whose room connected to mine. I watched her skillfully communicate a student’s weakness or misbehavior with grace and kindness. Without backing down an inch, she could turn a roaring lion into a purring kitten with just a smile.
With all of the many changes going on today, our teachers wear so many hats that they find it harder and harder to keep them all neatly stacked. Many good ones are leaving the profession. If you are a parent, make it a point to show some love to your child’s teachers this year. They need encouragement and grace every bit as much as you and your child. Besides, appreciated teachers make better teachers.
Perhaps, the most helpful tidbit I received was offered at the teachers’ lunch table. One of my teacher friends explained how she always told the parents at orientation that she wouldn’t believe everything their children said about them, if they wouldn’t believe everything they said about her. That turned out to be pure gold many times!
Even the best kids don’t always tell the entire story. They will either leave out a main ingredient or add some flavor to it if necessary. Once, during a school pep rally, I had a student of mine throw something across the gym. That was clearly against the rules. I knew his dad could be extremely hard to get along with, so I felt led to try a different approach in doling out his discipline. When we got back to the classroom, the boy easily admitted what he had done. So, I asked him, “If you were me, how would you handle this?” He looked down at the floor, thought about it for a good while, and then sheepishly replied, “I guess I should miss break for a week.” In my mind, I was only thinking a day or two at the most, but I went along with his decision.
When the boy got home – you guessed it – he told his dad that I was making him miss break for a week. The dad was furious, and met me at my door the next morning. All I had to say was, “Did he tell you he picked his own punishment? I was only going to have him miss a day, but I guess he thought he needed more than that.” The boy had left that part out. The dad actually apologized (sort of) and left embarrassed.
On another day, I had a mother meet me at the door first thing in the morning to rip me anew for giving too much homework. NOT a good start to the day! That very same afternoon, a dad dropped by after school to complain about me not giving enough homework. NOT a good way to end the day!
I tell you all this to say, “Pray for your children’s or grandchildren’s teachers!” It is not an easy job. Many parents do an exceptional job of expressing their appreciation at the beginning of school, but let’s not forget them – especially in October, February, and May.
By October, the honeymoon period is over. That’s when the kids’ true selves begin to materialize and discipline becomes a bit more challenging. Throughout February, both teachers and students are feeling the grind of making sure objectives are successfully met. Then, in May, it’s time to tie a knot and hang on for dear life. Teachers appreciate notes of encouragement because heaven knows they get plenty of the other kind. (You might want to put reminders in your phone right now to send some love their way during those months.)
Speak only kind words about them in front of your children and around the community or say nothing at all. If a problem does arise, set up a time to meet with them personally. No one enjoys being pounced on unexpectedly. Most things can be worked out when they are talked out. You might get a better understanding of the situation when your aim is to listen more than you speak.
I realize there are a few teachers who could find more happiness and success doing something else. Some of them know their stuff, but don’t know kids. Some have a heart for kids, but can’t manage to teach them. However, can I tell you that the majority of them DO have it all together? They do their jobs exceptionally well. Many of the ones I know pray for the children in their classes daily. All teachers need school parents who will pray for them and be Jesus with some skin on. In doing that, you not only help your child’s teacher become a more effective teacher, but you will be modeling for your children the respect teachers (and ALL people) deserve.
“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (Philippians 2:1-5, NLT)
“Those who live to bless others will have blessings heaped upon them, and the one who pours out his life to pour out blessings will be saturated with favor.” (Proverbs 11:25 TPT)
“Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you to do so even more.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1 NLT)