Parents, Before We Blame Teachers, Let’s Take a Look at Ourselves

Parents, Before We Blame Teachers, Let’s Look at Ourselves

Like peanut butter and jelly, chocolate and peanut butter, peanut butter and…basically anything, parents and teachers make a good team. It’s no secret that a solid partnership between home and school begets positive results for learners. Support from both school staff and caregivers means increased academic achievement, more consistent attendance, and better behavior. It’s true: parents and teachers, we’re just better together. Can I get that on a t-shirt?

Then why oh why are more and more parents coming at teachers’ proverbial necks these days? Maybe because it’s easier to point the finger than be personally accountable. Perhaps because finding a scapegoat is much less work than that of self-reflection and exacting change. Whatever the reason, this fall guy approach is not an effective means of handling academic conflict. Hey parents, I think it’s time for a change and here’s how we can make it happen.

1. Listen before attacking

Instead of firing off that angry and disrespectful email, how about we schedule a call or meeting to discuss our concerns with the teacher? There are two sides to every story, the truth residing somewhere in the middle. If we’re only listening to our kid’s version, we’re certainly not equipped with enough information to form an opinion, let alone threaten a teacher’s job or insult their intelligence. So whatever the conflict—grades, he-said-she-said confusion, academic dishonesty—let’s do a better job of listening before speaking. Or emailing.

2. If our kid is acting like an A-hole, we need to own it

What if instead of making excuses for our child’s behavior, we enacted some consequences for it? Yeah, it sucks taking away their devices (it’s like punishing ourselves, amirite?!), but if we don’t nip their bad ‘tudes in the bud now, it’ll only get worse. Hear me out: instead of grounding our kids, we could spend more time with them. Life is crazy busy right now, not to mention a little scary with the whole pandemic thing and all. Maybe our kids are extra mouthy because they’re extra stressed. Whatever approach we choose, it’s our responsibility to address the unacceptable behavior and have a zero-tolerance policy for it in the classroom.

3. Let’s back off and let our kids do the hard things

Remember how we felt when we realized our little one had been tying his shoes at daycare, but refusing to do it at home? There were certain expectations at daycare, created to ensure children master certain skills, and our sweet baby understood it was his responsibility to meet those expectations. The same is true at school. Barring any sort of legitimate learning disability, there’s no reason our kids shouldn’t be expected to follow rules and be held to high academic standards. Sure, it’s hard and sometimes inconvenient, but what are we saying every time we fight to bend an eligibility rule? When we advocate to lower the bar and make the test easier? Or when we swoop in and do their science project for them?! We’re essentially telling our children we don’t believe they can do it. It may not feel like it at the time—it probably feels like we’re helping, lessening their stress. Listen, I know no one likes to see their kid struggle, which is why we lash out at the teachers, our perceived source of said struggle. But the truth is, our constant intercession is only hurting our children. Our kids can do hard things, unless we don’t give them the freedom to fail sometimes. Let them tie their own shoes.

4. They’re learning more by watching us than listening to us

There have been many ‘a day over the past year that I’ve not been my…ahem…best self. Like many other working parents, I’m barely holding my head above water. But at the end of the day, my children are my responsibility, and it’s my job to teach them good manners, a solid work ethic, and conflict resolution skills that won’t get them arrested. I sometimes forget they’re learning more by watching me than listening to me. In that regard, I’m not always successful (though I’ve yet to be arrested, so SCORE!), but when I do slip up, I understand the importance of acknowledging my mistake. We’ve all been there, inclined to bad-mouth teachers, criticize how they manage their classrooms, or even go off on a social media rampage. In the event we do succumb to those big feelings, our kids need to see us apologize and do better next time. If we don’t model humility and accountability for our children, who will?

5. Ask for help

Anyone who says parenting is easy is the lying-est liar to ever lie. But instead of taking out our frustrations on teachers, let’s ask them for help. Neither parents nor teachers are alone in the journey to educate our children. It’s important to form an allyship with everyone associated with our kids’ education; there’s no shame in requesting the support of guidance counselors, trusting the expertise of teachers, opening lines of communication with administrators, or demanding our village of friends and family help with that damn math homework OMG I am tapped out. Having a support system in place doesn’t make parents weak; it makes us smart. And it helps us to act more human, which I hear teachers appreciate.

The late, great Maya Angelou believed we can “…tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.” I’d like to add “works with our kids’ teachers” to the list. Mostly because it’s important that all stakeholders—especially parents—invest in a partnership with educators, but also because I’d hate to be judged by the way I handle tangled lights.

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Before We Blame Teachers,  Let’s look at ourselves

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Stephanie Jankowski

Stephanie Jankowski is an English teacher by trade, smack talker by nature, and author of Schooled: A Love Letter to the Exhausting, Infuriating, Occasionally Excruciating Yet Somehow Completely Wonderful Profession of Teaching. When not teaching or writing, Stephanie is trying like hell to raise three decent human beings.

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