When you’re on the receiving end of a phone call or email about your child’s misbehavior or a less-than-stellar conference or report card, it’s easy to see the person on the other side as the enemy. As a classroom teacher for over a decade, I can tell you that we’re not. That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions to the rule (on both sides), but in general, parents and teachers are on the same team.
We’re both experts in our fields.
You as the parent are your child’s first teacher and their most important person. No one knows your kid better than you, so you’re in an excellent position to provide their teacher(s) with information they very much need to set them up for success. When we ask you to fill out a student profile and tell us about your kid’s strengths and weaknesses, their educational history, and the five words that best describe them, we really want to know. We use that background to accommodate the student’s unique learning needs. And you’re the absolutely best person for this.
That being said, we are also experts. We’ve all gone to university to study pedagogy and best teaching practices, completed practicums and student teaching, and met the requirements of our state to be certified to teach. Many of us have advanced degrees and years of on-the-ground experiences that inform our instructional approach. And as we work with and get to know your child, we’re going to have insights about them as well. Some of them aren’t easy to tell you about, but the goal is always to get your child the help they need.
Sometimes team members disagree, and that’s OK.
Sitting across from each other at a kidney table (sorry about some of you having to sit in tiny chairs) can feel adversarial, especially when the two sides don’t agree on what’s best for the child. But disagreeing doesn’t mean that one side cares about the student and the other doesn’t. We just differ on how best to get them to where they need to be. As a team, we all have to be willing to compromise in the interests of the student. So you might have to be open to trying something out, seeing how it goes, and reassessing. And maybe we as teachers need to be willing to consider new and alternative approaches that parents bring to the literal table. At the end of the day, does it really matter who was right if it works out for the student? (OK, you got me, I do like to be right, but a win for the student is a win for everyone.)
We all want the same outcome: student success.
Your child’s teacher is rooting for them. We’re all in this because we want to see students become effective readers, writers, and communicators; confident mathematicians and scientists; stewards of history and active citizens; and most important, good and kind people. We don’t want them to fail. And when they do, we reflect, analyze, and adjust our instruction. I think you’ll find that most teachers will bend over backwards to get students to the finish line. And we shouldn’t have to. Because I can’t imagine that our goals are all that different from yours as parents. You want independent, respectful, critical thinkers that you can launch into the adult world just as much as we do.
Everyone has a job to do.
Just like in sports, each team member has their role. As teachers, we deliver instruction, provide guidance, and make accommodations for the students in our care. And we have a responsibility to communicate their progress to you. Parent support can look different based on your individual family. You can create a literacy-rich home environment, eat dinner together as a family, limit screen time, provide space and support for homework completion, and respectfully advocate for your child in school. Kids have to put forth the effort too. But guess which kids are doing that? It’s the ones whose teachers and parents are working together, through challenges and difficulties, but always on the same side.