As the clock ticks on, here in Australia, that day of ‘Back to School’ or ‘First day at School’ looms. For most, it’s a day of excitement to renew or begin new friendships, buy new, or prepare the old, school uniforms and shoes as well as filling the pencil case and getting the lunchbox and back pack organised.
I am the first to say for my first few years at school I hated going to school. Dread filled me as the holidays drew closer to the end. Each day, instead of being enjoyed ,was a reminder of where I was headed soon. I’m not sure why I had this fear. I had an older sister already at school and she enjoyed it from what I remember. My family promoted education and so I know I would have been encouraged to enjoy the place. In the primary years it got more bearable and I enjoyed learning. Apart from my 2nd grade teacher as far as I know my teachers weren’t evil.
She however lacked compassion. I was in the non-enviable position of having an older sister attend the school and she was one of the extra smart ones. The situation was compounded by having a younger sister two years behind me, who was also of the extra smart group. My 2nd class teacher told me such inspirational things as:-
* My handwriting was like that of a fly walking across the page. I’m guessing it was pretty poorly structured though I must admit I had never watched the path of a fly on a page (we had Mortein in a pump delivery gadget.)
* My younger sister could read and write better than I did. I’m not sure how this was substantiated as my school reports show was at the top of my class. I can only guess my sister excelled the whole grade basically. (Maybe)
Luckily I took these both to heart and now have a beautiful handwriting style and I’m more than happy with my writing and reading ability.
The point this leads me to was, my mum knew I was an anxious child (how one gets to be anxious at 4years and 6 months I don’t know but it happens). I know from my mum telling me when I was older that despite her speaking with the teachers about my school readiness they dismissed her (as was done in that day) and told her I should enrol to keep the numbers right and then not attend as I was anxious. I know my mum and dad could have told the school ways to have helped alleviate my stress but in those days (have they really gone? I think they have in most.) it seemed many teachers felt not valued if they consult with a parent. I would say though, now this is a minority case not majority thankfully.
My post today was written in response to a post I read on Colour My World – Not just another anxious parent. It was a heartfelt post and as a parent truly felt her frustrations.
As a teacher , I would like to pen this response and hope that it will strengthen her conviction (and other parents) to never stop being the voice of children and for parents to never feel their opinions and understandings are of no consequence to educators. All parents are anxious in their own way as are children and all deserve respect and attention. The opinions expressed here are solely those of my own and in no way reflect those of my employer or other members of staff at my school (though as my school is full of fantastic teachers , where I’d be proud to have my children attend were they still school age, I’m sure they see things this way too ) or all those wonderful teachers out there.
As a teacher I am entrusted with the most precious cargo any parent has, that in itself is an honour. To do my best work I need your trust in me that I know my ‘craft’ and I really do have your child’s best interests at heart. Like you, I want your child to reach their true potential and for me personally, the two things I want all the children to leave my classroom with, is a positive sense of self-worth and a love of learning. I can only achieve this if I have two things from you – trust and support. Both these things are two way streets and so in saying that, I know you need my trust and support just as I need yours.
Remember most of the teachers your child will experience will be dedicated and welcoming of your voice, as am I. The most meaningful interviews I have are those at the beginning of the year, when I ask the parents to tell me enough information for me to help make each child’s transition into my class as easy as possible. Sure, I don’t want to hear everything, for sometimes the children will react differently to me than to their support network (I call this me getting to know them) but as a parent you know so much more about your child than I ever will. Also, unless it’s for funding I don’t even want labels. They don’t define the child nor should they. Tell me instead the idiosyncrasies, their favourite activities, likely responses and triggers for joy as well as stress. This applies to EVERY child in my class. Children are not machines nor do they function identically.
Also remember that your child’s teacher is always trying their best to make the environment good for your child just as you are trying to support us. Let us know if something is going on at home or routines have changed, no matter how trivial they may seem at the time. We’ll let you know if things are going askew at school too.
One more thing to be aware of, is that your child’s teacher may slip up sometime in preparing the day for your child. Haven’t you sometimes forgotten which child eats ham sandwiches or accidentally slipped the wrong juice into their lunchbox sometime? We have up to 30 children to care for and we are not perfect. Don’t chastise us for being human. Support your child to understand that in life these things happen with no malice meant.
Choose times wisely to chat with us, just as we will with you. Entering class is a busy time and we can’t give you the attention you deserve. Make appointments and trust we will contact you if we need to and will never conduct that interview while you are trying to prepare the evening family meal.
Above all though, NEVER stop being the voice of your child!! You will always hold the key to our learning in that regard. Good teachers are easier to find than mediocre ones. Don’t give up on one unsatisfactory experience. In my mind there is no such thing as “just another anxious parent”. Support other parents, they may have anxieties, but like your child, they too deserve respect and understanding from others as well as the teachers of their children. “
Thank you for listening,
Your child’s teacher