First Person

What a Teacher Wishes for His Own Children This School Year

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Dear teachers of my children,

My own kids—both middle schoolers—recently began a new school year. I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationships that will begin as your worlds collide. As I kick off my 21st year as a teacher, my heart will be in two places: in room 123, welcoming my own students, and beating alongside my children as they meet you.

I ask of you what I expect of myself as a teacher: Be kind, see the good, and build them up.

I hope that when the classroom door closes, you can take a deep breath and focus on the relationships you will forge—both the teacher-student relationship and the relationship between students and subject matter. This is why we teach, right? To nurture a community of learners who value meaningful relationships.

I realize that, at times, our values will be in line with one another’s, and sometimes they may be at odds. After all, you will likely be required to teach over 100 unique individuals. Some parents and students will sing your praises, while others will inevitably be frustrated with your assignments and some of your decisions.

You’ll need to adhere to curriculum, district policies, individualized education programs, mandated testing, and strict time constraints, all while hoping to find autonomy and agency in a job that—in order to be sustainable—requires it.

As a teacher, I know that juggling all of this can sometimes blind me to what’s most important. Occasionally, I’ll find myself so overwhelmed and frustrated by policy that I temporarily lose sight of why I became a teacher. As a parent, I’ll do my best to demonstrate empathy as you navigate these same waters with my children.

I hope my children are kind to you and to their peers. I’m guessing most days they will be; however, I’m sure there will be times when they roll their eyes, say something they shouldn’t, and test the boundaries.

When they do, I hope you have the patience I sometimes lack—the patience to have a loving, honest conversation about what irked them and how they might handle it differently in the future. I hope these occurrences are few and far between and that for every eye roll you receive 20 smiles and many words of appreciation.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about these relationships that you will build in the classroom. Of course, the strong teacher-student relationship serves as a foundation for learning. When my children trust you and know you are there to support them, they are more likely to work hard, take risks, and enjoy the process.

And once that relationship is established, you pave the way for other relationships: with reading, writing, math, social studies, science, art, music, technology, and world language. In our test-driven world of education, these are the neglected relationships.

As teachers, we know that developing trust and connection with our students is only part of the process. If the students with whom I’ve connected are disengaged with what we're learning, it hurts. Here are people who trust me, who care about what I have to say, yet I cannot help them find the beauty in language. In this case, my work is not complete.

So, as you get to know my son and daughter—as you begin to witness their beautiful energy, the gaps in their confidence, their divergent interests, and their maddening stubbornness—I hope you will walk beside them, listen closely, and as one of my students said, “Say words that help, not hurt.”

After you’ve developed trust, and after you check in with them about their soccer games, their theater performances, and their weekend adventures, please keep pushing toward inspiration. My daughter needs a second chance with math, my son with reading. If you keep patiently opening doors, I know they will eventually walk through.

Guide them to use these passions—the areas in which they thrive—to engage in meaningful learning experiences. When that healthy student-teacher relationship leads to an awakening of a newfound curiosity, an urgency to know more, a drive to tell a story, well, that’s teacher bliss.

Thanks for everything,

A parent and teacher

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