You are pretty fabulous. You deal with some super crappy kids – as well as some incredible ones – without ever letting on how tired or frustrated you might be. It amazes me how much my daughter is absorbing, and I know that it’s thanks to your passion and dedication. I know teaching is a tough profession filled with long hours outside of the classroom and not enough respect or recognition for all that you do. Nobody appreciates your hard work more than our family.
If you’ve been teaching for awhile, or even if you haven’t, I’m sure you’ve noticed that times have changed for our children. They are no longer roaming the streets with neighborhood kids, trusted to be home by dark. Their parents often show affection not by encouraging and trusting them to become their own people, but by hovering meticulously and living vicariously through them. I believe that the world is not a more dangerous place today than it was when you and I were growing up. Parenting styles, on the other hand, have drastically shifted. The “helicopter” label has become mainstream, with parents completing projects for their kids and even accompanying them to job interviews.
For as long as I can remember, my daughter has come home with assignments that need to be signed daily by a parent or guardian. My phone steadily beeps with emails outlining work she completes in class, as well as lists of which projects and tests are due and when. Sometimes it feels like I am the one in middle school, and that I’m as accountable for her work as she is.
With that said, I’d like to make a few suggestions. I am not coming from a place of educational expertise, nor did I attend school to shape the minds of America’s youth. But I am a parent – a parent that is desperately clinging onto the days when children were trusted to be independent and make their own decisions – and I want this to be prominent in the way that they’re learning.
Dear Middle School Teachers,
We have a rule in my house: all homework must be completed the night before it’s due. There are no last minute worksheets or permission slip signatures the morning of a school day. Some might think this is cruel, especially because I once refused to sign my daughter’s homework the second time she forgot to ask. She cried. My mom guilt crept in and smothered me like a heavy blanket, but I held steadfast. It’s not because I don’t love her – believe me, I do. I want to show my love, though, by pushing her to be more responsible and realize that she can’t rely on me to bail her out of any mistakes. I want her to know that there are consequences for her actions. Today it’s just a worksheet, but what about tomorrow?
Teachers, I’d appreciate if when this happens, you could also hold her accountable. Gone are the days of accountability with children. Many kids don’t care if they fail anymore, because they know that their lowest grade will be dropped, or they’ll receive extra credit points simply by getting a parent’s signature on their next homework assignment. I love that there are so many opportunities for them to succeed, but what about teaching them that their failures, too, will bring them success? Can we somehow highlight these important lessons while holding them liable for their mistakes?
Teachers, I consider myself to be an extremely involved and invested parent when it comes to my daughter and her education. We sacrifice a lot to make sure that she has access to the best public education we can give her. When I was growing up, I didn’t have homework involving parental participation past 1st or 2nd grade. There were no mandatory signatures required on my worksheets or weekly emails encouraging my mother to comb through my assignment book to make sure that I was on task.
I love that you want to inform and involve us – but I don’t want my involvement to go beyond that of a bystander. If my daughter needs help with a math problem, I’m here for her – but I refuse to do the work for her. I don’t want to monitor her progress for completing her assignments each week, either. If she’s not doing what she needs to do, I hope that you will hold her accountable and give her consequences. I promise that I will stand by your side and reinforce those same values at home – but it will not be while I’m standing over her shoulder.
Teachers, my daughter is very capable. She is strong and competent, as are her peers. I know what you are capable of, too, because you are the reason for my own academic success. I am proud to have you on my child’s side.
Teachers, I don’t doubt that parental involvement is important. In fact, it is proven to be a leading factor of success in our children. There’s a difference, though, between being “involved” and “overbearing.” Please show today’s parents just how capable their children are, even in the elementary years. Show them that when they stand beside their children instead of in front of them, both parties can truly flourish.
I know it isn’t easy being an educator. Thank you for all that you do, especially for holding strong in a world of increasing workloads, decreasing budgets, and difficult families. Please know how loved and appreciated you are.
This Grateful, Hands-Off Mama