I saw an Instagram post recently that said, “What would you do if you went to your student’s open house and the teacher's room was not set up?" Hmmm… good question! It brought me back to my classroom days when I discovered that many parents think the days before school starts are just for the teachers to get set up - which is far from the truth!
This IG post reminded me of the lack of communication and understanding that often happens between parents and teachers in our school system today. So in this post, I’ll let you in on some things that teachers would LOVE for parents to know, but they don’t always get an opportunity to share.
Teachers don’t have an abundance of time to get the class ready to go
Back to the Instagram post…
The reality is that the administration (and a few other staff members) work over the summer to plan for the upcoming school year. Part of this planning is how they will implement newly researched and published teaching techniques into the school. These staff members have all summer to plan and brainstorm how this will work within the school and how they will roll this out to teachers in the THREE teacher workdays before school starts. Yes that’s right - three days!
This means that in those few days when you think teachers are decorating their classrooms and excitedly awaiting students, they are actually in meetings to learn about new instructional methods they will be expected to implement in just a few days. Then on their hour lunch break from the meetings, they are running back to their rooms to try and get it ready before the next session starts.
Keeping up with new teaching practices is necessary, but the truth is there are just not enough hours in the day or days given (at least what they are being paid for!) to fully prepare. I will be the first to say I can't entirely agree with everything that happens in the traditional school system and your child's teacher may not agree either. But many decisions like this are made at the district or higher level and your student’s teacher is just trying to keep their head above water when school starts!
Parent volunteers are great - in the right circumstances
Just like it's hard for moms to ask for help, it's tough for teachers to ask for help. They also are subliminally told they should get it all done no matter what, and their love for their students should motivate them past the lack of sleep, funds, and outside help.
And if they do volunteer, it can sometimes hurt more than it can help. Being in the classroom during instruction can make your child really distracted which can throw off the flow of the class. Having a parent in during instruction can also make the teacher feel a little self-conscious. When I was in the classroom, I always got nervous with parent volunteers, not for the reasons you may think. When I was with my students, I would read in silly voices and occasionally act out the story, which I would never do with another adult present. So I always liked when parents would help me with copies or another task outside of the room itself- at least to start out. After I got comfortable and didn't feel like they would judge my silly antics that kept the kids engaged, I let them be in the room.
Here are some suggestions to really help out when you volunteer:
Give some notice - If the teacher knows you’re coming in a few days ahead of time, they can reserve some tasks that make sense for a parent to help with. This way they don’t have to turn down help or scramble and stress to find something for you to do. Also, rather than asking if they want you to come help, say “I’m free on Friday from 10-2 PM, what can I do?” This will help relieve some of the guilt they may be feeling about it.
Be willing to volunteer in other classrooms - Again, give some advance notice of your availability, but if your student’s teacher doesn’t need help that week, let them know you are open to helping in another classroom on the grade level.
Be okay with not being in the classroom during instruction - There are things that can be done during lunch, recess, etc. and it's all still really helpful without being distracting to your child.
Don’t stop volunteering when your kids get to the upper grades! - Some of these teachers have 100+ students so help is still needed.
Parents need to be hands-on when it comes to grading and tests
The grade book can feel very daunting to parents and students. Different categories of the grade book are weighted. This means that tests are going to influence the grade more than homework, for example. Your school or school district has decided what percentage to assign tests, quizzes, and homework and this is very hard for students to understand - even in the upper grades. The frustration comes in when one lousy test grade brings down a student's grade, and no amount of homework or good quiz grades can redeem the one bad test. Here’s what you can do to prevent this from happening:
Familiarize yourself with the online grade book (ask the teacher if you need to!) and share it with your student as well. This will help them better understand priorities. For example a teacher who puts in very few grades, one test or quiz can affect the overall grade because there are fewer grades for redemption. Although the flipside is a teacher who puts in every grade for every assignment turned in dilutes their grade book, a perfect test will not bring up the students' score as desired. It really is a balancing act to keep a grade book at a good balance, and no one is perfect.
Mark your calendar for a few weeks before the marking period ends (semesters, trimesters, etc.). These last few weeks are when most largely weighted tests and quizzes. This is because teachers want to teach all the material of that marking period before administering the test. The downside is their grade will be significantly impacted by these last few tests at the end of the marking period. So to some parents, it feels like the teacher didn't do anything until the very end, which isn't the intent. The teacher intends to maximize that marking period and teach as much as possible before giving the test on the material covered in that marking period.
Make sure they know when those big tests are and may require studying and reviewing the material at home. You don’t want the test to be forgotten until the night before or the morning of!
Your student may need to learn outside of school.
We’d all like to think that the school system is all dialed in and that your child will get everything they need to succeed with the resources and time allotted. But the truth is that each year more and more gets added to the material that needs to be taught, and kids are more stressed than ever with everything going on in the world. The combination of those expectations and the anxiety many of our kids are experiencing can often lead to struggles in school that need your attention.
As much as teachers would love to give each student tons of personalized attention to make sure they know the material, it just isn’t possible. Teachers need your support in helping your child reach their goals. Those thirty minutes of reading each night and math flashcards are vital to their success.
And if your student is struggling and you’re not able to fill in those gaps, you may need to take additional steps. They may need an academic coach who can help them with the soft and hard skills necessary to catch up and be successful. Or, if things are especially challenging, an IEP might be in order (check out this post for more information on that). But it’s really important to know that your child’s teacher may not be able to fill you in on the extent of your child’s struggles. Either because of school district rules, or because they just can’t keep as up to speed on every student as they’d like. So you as the parent need to become an advocate for your child and help get them the support they need.
The bottom line...
Being as informed as you can when it comes to your child’s education is crucial and in this post, we’ve covered many things you may have not known. But now that you do, taking action on them can go a long way toward your child’s success at school.
We understand it can be stressful and time-consuming for parents to essentially be a second teacher for their child, and that’s where we can step in to help! Learn more about what academic coaches do, and reach out for a free assessment to determine if academic coaching would make a difference in your child’s life.