Published Online: August 20, 2013

A Parent's Letter: What I Want From My Kids' Teachers

Dear teachers,

My youngest of three starts kindergarten tomorrow.

Meanwhile, my older son and daughter are campaigning to influence their little sister's opinion. Will she love school, as her big sister hopes, or dread school, like her brother?

At right is the countdown that my 7-year-old daughter has been keeping for the past 27 days. It is a countdown to her nirvana: the beginning of 2nd grade. But for my 5th grade son, it is a countdown to impending doom: the end of summer’s freedom.

I am writing to you with the hope that my 2nd grade daughter will win this school debate—and that all my kids will love learning, even if they won’t all admit it.

As a parent and a teacher, I ask you to do three things this year. (And just so I don’t seem like I only care about my own children, I want you to know I’ll be sharing the same advice with the 33 student-teachers I will have in class tonight. They, too, have their first day with students tomorrow.)

Start with the last day of school in mind.

On June 4, 2014, how will my kids have become better versions of themselves because of the hours you will have spent together? How will they have grown as students and human beings? Who will they be, test scores aside? What will they tell me about their year with you? What will you tell me about their year with you?

I want to know what you hope for my kids, and I need you to want to know what I hope as well, so we can work together.

(For the record, I hope my kindergartner will sound like her older sister when she explains she didn’t hear the fire alarm because she was under “the reading spell.” Or like my son when he tells me more facts about the mako shark than any one mind should be able to hold.)

Make my kids work hard.

One of the reasons my 2nd grader loves school is that she has to work hard there every day. When it comes to my preferences about my kids’ learning, memorization and handwriting are not at the top of the list. I want my kids to learn how to work: to move from frustration to well-earned understanding, to struggle and persevere.

See Also
Previous piece co-authored by Jon Eckert: “Friends to Teachers at the U.S. Department of Education?”

In order for that to happen, my kids need a safe environment facilitated by expert teachers. They need plenty of opportunities to fail, learn from that failure, and try again.

That expert teacher must also be willing to fail. After all, no one grows as an expert without risking failure or taking on new challenges. (I hope that my daughter’s kindergarten teacher will be encouraged by having witnessed my mistakes when she was my student.)

I love it when I hear my son complaining about his reading teacher with comments like, “She always makes us write about everything. It is reading, and all we do is write.” In my eyes, this is high praise from a 10-year-old boy.

Love my kids.

This may sound trite and cliché, but isn’t this what every parent wants? Love them in spite of their shortcomings, bad handwriting, and their maddening refusal to add supporting details to expository essays. Love them in spite of their crazy parents.

Keep pushing them, and don’t give up. While my son is a self-avowed school hater, I’ve witnessed his end-of-year tears after goodbyes to teachers.

Finally, thanks for all you do.

You have a daunting task, a tremendous responsibility, and an unbelievable opportunity to shape and mold our children—my kids and a lot of other people’s too.

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