I see you, Moms and Dads. You’re sitting at your child’s new desk in my classroom, filling out the huge stack of forms I had waiting for you. We’ve exchanged pleasantries, and you’ve looked around at my freshly decorated walls.
Everything seems okay, but I know you have questions. What kind of homework will we get? Will this teacher like my kid? Does this chick have a clue what she’s even doing?
With families crowding the room, it’s tough to get those questions answered on a typical Back-To-School Night. We don’t really know each other anyway, so telling you how I really feel might be awkward. So how ‘bout I tell everyone here on the old Internet the five things I’d really like to say when you and your child cross the threshold into a new year with me.
I’m a Parent, Too
I get those same butterflies at the beginning of every year, although it’s way better than it was when I sent them all to Kindergarten. I still get nervous before parent conferences, even though I work with these people. So I totally get how you might be feeling. So let me give you the real run-down here, from a Teacher-Mom’s perspective.
I’m a far from perfect parent—as of this writing, my kitchen counter is covered in scraps from various projects my daughter is making and my son’s head is buried in a screen. I expect a little bit of a summer slide. Let’s not stress scores or anything like that right now.
I don’t expect perfection from your kids, because I don’t require it from my own. In fact, my son found a rotten snake skin in the yard while I was rushing around trying to leave on the first day of Kindergarten last September. While my back was turned he wrapped it around his neck like a stole in an attempt to smuggle it in to school. I may or may not have Febrezed him. One or both of us may have melted down. It’s life. If your child smuggles in items to my class from the natural world, I would prefer it not involve snakes. If you are raising a herpetologist like I apparently am, then I have a couple of colleagues down the hall who will really get into their reptile stuff.
I forget to turn in school forms, too and I work here. Sometimes I forget to sign reading logs, even though we read. I expect that you might forget from time to time, too. Our lives are busy. This is why homework in my class mainly involves reading for half hour or so and studying some vocabulary words. The rest of my homework includes enjoying your kids and having dinner together whenever possible.
There’s a Place for Everyone
All that parenting stuff said, my classroom has rules and some semblance of order. My principal describes it as “Productive Chaos” some days, and other days she refers to it as “Creative Chaos.” It’s a place where a kid can explore a wide variety of interests, get excited about new topics, and find his or her voice. It’s rarely silent here, because we’re all collaborating and talking about what we’re learning. There are quiet spaces with headphones if your child is one who needs silence to focus. There are exercise balls and wobble stools to sit on if your kid is like mine and needs to move.
There’s NOT a Place for Everything
You will never see this room this neat until next year’s Open House. I think in piles and stacks. If I put things away, I’ll never see them again. In fact, I don’t have a desk per se, because I can’t be trusted with drawers. We may have to move things when we sit down to conference, but I hope you understand that those stacks represent all the things these kids have accomplished.
Your Child Is So Much More Than a Score
Every child is different, and each one learns at his or her own pace. Teachers are under the gun to produce high test scores and turn learning into a race rather than the journey it was designed to be.
Not in this room!
Of course, I’m going to teach my curriculum and give your children what they need to succeed on the test.
In reality, some kids aren’t quite ready yet. Others are far more advanced. My job is to meet your children where they are and help them grow.
That’s where the “Productive Chaos” that is my room comes in. On any given day, some groups of students are working on a project, others are discussing a book, and still more are working with me or with a collaborating teacher to fill in some learning gaps.
We’re all about Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset here. Didn’t master a concept YET? We have all year, Kids.
This is the toughest thing about the first days of school, isn’t it? You parents are handing me the Best of Yourselves for sevenish hours each day. Through the luck of the class list draw, you’re stuck with me. I get that, and it’s an honor to work with your child. So here’s what I want you to do.
Trust me to keep your child safe. I have a plan, believe me.
Trust me when I tell you to focus on growth, not grades. If your child’s grades slip, it may be because I’m pushing him/her to the next level. Straight A’s looks great in the Facebook post, but if your child doesn’t grow, what’s the point?
Trust me when we start the process of seeking help for your child. Of all the meetings we have, this is the most intimidating. Here is my promise: I will use every bit of data we collect to determine the absolute best course of instruction for your child. At the year’s end, I will then share all I’ve learned with next year’s teacher so your child’s transition is more seamless. We’ve got this. Together.
Trust me to do my best every day to care for your children and meet their individual needs. Would the best any parent has to offer deserve any less? Of course not!
This is going to be a great school year. Trust me.