I’ve eaten at hundreds of restaurants in my life, but I’ve never worked at one. My wife was a waitress in college, so when we go out to eat and I complain about something, she’s usually able to offer me a logical explanation. The table next to ours received their food first because they ordered soup and sandwiches and we ordered pizza. That family was seated ahead of ours because a table for four opened up, but there isn’t yet room for our party of six. The restaurant may appear sparsely populated, but our food could be taking a long time because there’s a backlog of take-out orders.
Until you do a job, you can’t appreciate all that goes into it. It’s this fact of life that accounts for many of the misconceptions parents have about teaching. So here are 10 things parents might not know.
We Have Less Control Over Things Than You Think We Do
The state adopts standards that we have to teach. The Board of Education approves programs that we’re required to use. The district’s administrators are under pressure to improve test scores, and that filters down to us. We may be “there for the kids,” but we’re also employees of our districts. So while we may want to teach your child other things and in other ways, we usually have less autonomy than you suspect. When you complain about our math program, you put us in a difficult position. We might very well agree with you, but saying so would be unprofessional.
We Do It All Ourselves
We don’t have office assistants. Any communication that comes home from us was typed by us. Because we have many urgent things to do, we likely typed that newsletter in ten minutes and read it over once before hitting print. If we make the same grammatical or spelling mistake three times, then you can safely assume we missed a lesson somewhere along the way. But the other typos are a result of never having enough time to do all aspects of our jobs at the level we’d like to.
We Forget Stuff
There are a LOT of things that happen during the day. We may read an email from you right before the office interrupts with an announcement and a girl picks a scab and comes running for a Band-Aid. The contents of your email can quickly become forgotten amid the hustle and bustle of our days. We don’t recall everything that happens. If we send an email home explaining that Tommy had a rough day, don’t be surprised if we’re unable to recall the six things Tommy specifically did that led to the email. All we know is he annoyed us all day.
We’re Really Busy
We don’t have office jobs. We have a computer, but there’s a very good chance we won’t sit in front of it at all the entire day. If you email at 10 a.m. asking us to tell Timmy to ride the bus home after school and you don’t get a response back, you should call the office. We either didn’t check our email or we read it and forgot (see Forgetting Details above).
We’re More Annoyed Than You About Buying School Supplies
We don’t like asking you to provide notebooks, pencils, folders, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, and all the other things on those beginning-of-the-year supply lists. But our schools aren’t buying them for us, and we already spend plenty of our own money on things we shouldn’t have to. If you don’t want to buy the stuff on the list, that’s fine. But don’t complain to us about it.
We Don’t Really Want Your Kids’ Toys and Electronics
We know it’s unrealistic to expect you to double-check your kids’ backpacks every morning and that most toys arrive in our classrooms without your knowledge. But please understand that when we take your sons’ toys we’re doing it because they’re distracting and if we allow one there will ten more tomorrow. So please, if your child takes a toy to school and it’s taken away from him, don’t bail him out by coming to school and asking for the toy back. Let him learn his lesson, at least for a week.
We Might Not Want Your Help
Schools are always talking about how they want more parent involvement, and some generously offer to help in classrooms. Sometimes, it’s greatly appreciated. But other times, it’s more work for us. We’re used to doing everything ourselves. We’re not very good at delegating. And if we know you’re coming every Wednesday at 2:00 p.m., we have to find something for you to do. We’ve also had parents who caused more problems than they solved. They joked around and distracted students, made too much noise when they were in the room, and modeled bad behavior for students. We don’t want to correct an adult’s behavior in front of the class, but we also don’t want our classes disrupted. Sometimes, we don’t want to take the risk, so we don’t ask for help at all.
If We Meet With You Before or After School, We’re Working for Free (and We Probably Resent It)
If we need to talk to our doctors, we must do so on their time. If we call a business after it’s closed, we have to wait until tomorrow to get service. Even professionals like realtors or financial advisors who will meet with us after hours are doing so with the expectation of a pay-off in the future. During a meeting before school, we’re likely thinking about the all things we need to do in our classrooms. After school, we’re tired and want to go home.
We’ll be professional during these meetings, but we’re not happy about them.
There’s Not Much I Can Do To Punish Your Kid
Some of you want us to handle all things school-related, but there’s little we can do when your child regularly misbehaves. Ours principals may think we’re ineffective if we send your kid to the office too often. Taking away recess is counterproductive and punishes us just as much as your child.
Other, more creative consequences may be met with criticism from you, despite your pledge to stay out of school matters. If your child isn’t doing her job at school, you’re in the best position to punish your kid because you can take away the things she really likes. You’ll send a stronger message by taking away her iPad, making her go to bed thirty minutes early, or not allowing her to attend a sleepover on Saturday than we will by giving her a lunch detention. If we’re telling you about your kid’s poor behavior, it’s because we want you to do something.
If we tell you that your kid was disrespectful to his classmates, we’re really telling you your kid is often a jerk. If we describe your child as “difficult to motivate,” we’re calling him lazy. If we say Jill had a difficult day, we mean she was a major pain in the ass. Whatever we tell you, assume it was twice as bad as it sounds.
Other Articles You Might Enjoy:
The Simplest Way to Impress Parents
Why American Teachers Should Work Less
The Benefits of Doing Nothing
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