At the end of the first day of middle school, many students will carry home at least 5 or 6 Welcome Back to School letters to their parents. Mulitiply this for every child in the family....and a parent might be faced with reading 15 or 20 letters. Yikes that is a lot of reading. Nevermind all the forms that will be sent home to be signed.
I will probably not be giving long lists of rules or topics of study. I'm always sure to tell parents how to find my email address, when I post grade updates, how they can schedule time to meet with me, when their student can get extra help and my plan time. So that leaves space for these three topics in my Back to School Parent letter.
- #1 Parents want to know that you have their child's best interests on your radar.
- #2 Beyond the whole, "every child is special (and of course they are) and that we want them to learn and be all they can be", what attitudes and expectations do you have for their child?
- #3 What can parents do to help their child succeed in this class?
Having your child's best interests at heart is much easier said than explained. What does that mean?
- You expect their student to do their best work all the time. It doesn't mean everyone has to be perfect. I've been teaching long enough to match a child's ability with their work product.
- Everyone probably will not be doing the same thing. Because students are different and they have different needs, some students will have different assignments. That's scary for parents because they worry their child will feel different or be "left behind".
- A big part of my job is knowing just how far, when and how much push their child in doing better, finding their strength and building resiliency.
Basically please trust me to do my job well. I know it's a priviledge to work with students, and especially your child, and I honor that obligation.
Personally I think all that propaganda that "everyone is special" is bunk because it's so fake. The kids know that it isn't real. So if I believe that it is true, what do I do to create a classroom environment that genuinely helps students find their strengths and weaknesses.
I want parents to understand that I will get to know their child well. I care about each student enough that I will get to know their handwriting, the kinds of mistakes they make, the places where they can shine and where they'll need a boost. I will be there to give them a helping hand when they need it as well as the "eye" when they are trying to slide by without doing their best. I want them to know that sometimes my class will be hard, but I will never leave their student unsupported even if their child feels a little lost. (we call those moments planned struggle....where I intentionally give them time to work on a problem without rushing in and "saving" them)
You know in all the years I was raising my own three children, I don't think a single teacher ever told me what I should/could to help my child find success in that teacher's classroom.
- Parents to help their students by not telling them the answer. They should hold back and ask leading questions that push their child to think for themselves. I ask parents not to let their student get too frustrated....and if it happens to stop, send me an email and bring their child in the next morning before school to attend the free tutoring we have before school everyday.
- Parents should help students plan and carryout a schedule for doing their homework every night AND going to bed early so they get enough sleep. Believe it or not, parents sort of leave many middle schoolers to define their own bedtime. I get blog posts being made at 10 or 11pm. What kind of tomorrow will that student have?
- Parents trust their student to do their homework and they send them to their room to do it.....and their room has a TV, a computer linked to the internet and their cellphone. I know middle schoolers are multi-taskers, but how many people really believe a 14 year old can resist all these temptations and give enough attention to their studies?
What do you think about these three points? Are they something you feel should be communicated to parents? I think by year's end, most students would say they enjoyed my class, that it was hard, that they were treated fairly and that they learned more than they ever dreamed they could learn. I'm definitely not the most popular teacher. But I think it's not about my popularity. It's about helping students find a safe, supported place to learn.