I have worked it out; if we are to stay at the same school from the first year for the eldest through to last year for the youngest, we are going to be at our local primary/elementary school for 15 years. And I am pretty sure there is a teacher or two at the school who have, in desperate optimism, tallied the same numbers.
It’s not the kids’ fault; in fact, almost all the teachers have claimed to absolutely adore our kids. Even have a couple looking forward to when the youngest will start school (clearly they don’t know her very well).
This means, by a process of elimination, I am the problem.
I like to ask questions. I like to know what is going on in the classroom (but I do not step INTO the classroom). I consider my role as supportive; I fill any gaps the teacher might have missed in class or follow through with additional interests at home. Just like most geeky parents I know.
But not all teachers like questions. In fact, some teachers are really put off by them. And this leads to “concerns” with the School Administration. Apparently, the teachers at our school do not like being asked for details about the curriculum, topics in class, learning styles, suggestions for additional study, etc.
So! I now enter every new parent-teacher interview with a respectful nod to the chaperoning school administrator, and my opening question: “Am I still on the Black List?”
And yes. Yes, I am.
To help YOU avoid the Parent Black List, I have narrowed down my parent-teacher faux pas to the following three (3) questions you should NOT ask your kid’s new teacher:
- Have you spoken to their last teacher?
Oh, I get it. Most parents get it. But there is no worse way to start off a new year (or semester) than by asking if they have spoken to their predecessor.
There will come a time when the new teacher should compare notes with the previous teachers—mostly to identify any patterns in behaviour or performance. Your first time talking with a new teacher is Not. That. Time. Even if the last teacher told you how special your child was to them; even if the last teacher discovered a brand new technique to help your kids overcome their fear of fractions; even if the last teacher refused to consider your kid for Gifted Testing (despite your kid testing really, REALLY high). Talking with a new teacher for the first time is not the right time.
Because I can almost guarantee, if you ask this question, the only thing the new teacher will ask their predecessor is “How did you deal with that parent?”
- Anything that starts with “Have You Considered… ?”
This one is really hard for me. As a GeekMom, I spend a lot of time trying to keep up with my kids and whatever interest has caught their eye this day. Last week I was learning to code with Python; this week I am learning how to gain the best viewing of the Perseids (FYI: Sydney is 34 degrees too far South to see anything decent). Next week we are testing out the eldest child’s Solar Oven to make s’mores.
And as fascinating as this might be to me (and a handful of readers), most teachers don’t care. They already have their lesson plan. They have the curriculum. And they have the boss telling them to do all of that in even less time because the students need to have an extra assembly today.
I have now changed my approach to “The kids have told me about some really cool things they are learning in class. We have followed up with them at home. Would you be interested in them sharing this with their classmates?”
- Can we follow-up on this every week? (or Can you email me regularly?)
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Of course, every parent wants to have an update on a regular basis! And we’re looking at between 25-30 kids in each class. So let’s estimate a rough 6 minutes for sending a quick email update to parents… And sweet mother of textbooks, the teacher has lost 3 hours of their week.
If there is a huge problem, abso-freakin’-lutely talk to the teacher. A bullying problem or an emerging behavioural issue. No matter what anyone tells you, do not let them brush you off. Set very clear deadlines for action/follow-ups and then follow up.
But don’t ask for a weekly update on the general activities and behaviours. And do not ask for weekly updates of lesson plans (I swear this was not me).You are going to have to work at your relationship with your kid and trust them to tell you what is going on at school. And this is not easy.
Let’s face it: the relationship between teacher and parent is akin to a custodial battle. In theory (and in most cases) everyone wants what is best for the child. But no one wants to be told how to do that. There are boundaries, within the classroom and the school year. Allow some time for everyone to find their footing. Give the new teacher a couple of weeks and you may hear about how the teacher prefers Scratch for slide presentations rather than PowerPoint. Or how on a rainy day, the teacher read Charlotte’s Web to the class instead of putting on the DVD.
We have 15 years to get to know our school and I am willing to compromise with the teachers for the sake of the children. I’m not going to stop asking questions, but a little rewording might help build a more positive relationship. Despite my black-listing, I think the current teachers want the same thing.
Do you want to know the one thing you should ask your new teacher?
“We have had good and bad in the past, but we always like to start fresh. What do you want to bring to the classroom?”
And bonus points if you add at the end: “That sounds great. How can I help?”