I need a disclaimer at the start of this blog post — no, unfortunately I did not receive a fancy holiday that might influence my opinion — my disclaimer is that I am the daughter of a teacher.
So I am biased. I saw my mother leave for work at 7.30am, come home at 4.30pm and then work again after dinner. If I called up at lunchtime I was lucky to find her in the staff room some of the time, most likely she would be on duty or tuning 75 guitars (true story), or having a meeting about class camp.
School holidays would have two parts — week one: ‘recovery week’, and week two: ‘preparation week’ where I would follow my mother to the classroom to put up new images, posters, and ideas for the term ahead, and we stop and chat to the other teachers doing the same.
I always remember complaining about a — paid for — Christmas lunch when my mother reminded me that she had always paid for her Christmas lunch herself, and I am also reminded of her giving up her Saturdays for fundraisers for the school; or, as she put it, “What other job would you have to work in the weekends, for free, to raise money for the basics of your job?” But she did it for ‘her kids’. My brother and I worked out that when she was talking about ‘her kids’ she was meaning the eleven and twelve-year-olds she would have in her class each year.
So I am biased. I also am in awe of the extra work that most teachers do on top of the classroom work. They often coach sports teams, jump jam teams, chess and debating teams, athletics, organise and direct the school production, and are expected to turn up or help with fundraisers, and be away from their family for sports, cultural and school camp trips.
I am a fan of the ‘stool’ approach to a child’s education — that the child, the parent/s and the teacher all contribute and feed into the child’s education. Here is my perspective on how we, as parents, can work with our child’s teacher and with our child to support our child’s learning.
1. Say thank you
It’s kind of obvious, but we sometimes forget to express our appreciation verbally to our children’s teacher; and yet if there’s an issue we are quick to address it. If there is an activity your child is enjoying at school, let the teacher know; or, if the teacher is taking them swimming or on a class trip — thank them. It might be their job, but boy, what a job! We always give an end of year gift (I have made fudge before or bought a box of chocolates) both when I was a child and now to our children’s teacher. If a gift is not financially feasible, perhaps a card or just ‘thank you’.
2. Turn up – meet the teacher
You might think: why should I go to meet the teacher? My child is doing well; I don’t need to. I think it’s important to take every opportunity to meet with your child’s teacher when it’s offered. At parent-teacher interviews I always find new ways to support my child, and it also means that I am strengthening the relationship with their teacher, so that if any issue occurs, it’s easier to discuss. We were offered the opportunity to bring our children with us to the recent meetings. This worked really well, as it felt like we were all a team working together; it was wonderful to see the pride when my son’s teacher praised him (and I wouldn’t have remembered the specifics of it to tell my son as accurately). It was also helpful to work together to discuss areas my son needed to work on, and a plan that involved him as a contributor.
3. Decent night’s sleep on Sunday
My mother could always tell the children who had had late nights on a Sunday — or a big weekend without an early bed time on Sunday to help get back on track; she said they would spend Monday unfocused, being a distraction to others, and then only ready to engage on Tuesday.
4. Prepare your child
A teacher often has over 25+ children to look after, so they don’t have time to tie 25 shoe laces, or put on 25 jerseys, or help 25 children get dressed after swimming. Make sure your child has the skills to help himself or herself. When my oldest son started school we went to the swimming pool three times, and I got him to practice getting dry and dressed by himself so we both knew he could do it when swimming started a couple of weeks after that.
I would love to hear from teachers with any further suggestions of how parents can support them to support their child at school.
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