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 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.

Hayley and Colin

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


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  1. A wonderful message. I don’t want my children, or those I entrust their care to, to assume they’ll get help every step of the way. It’s important to me that my children are supported AND independent. That they feel confident in the decisions they make and know how to come back from their failures.

    1. Thank you, Katie! I couldn’t agree more. It drives me crazy that I’m *STILL* being asked to hold her hand through her schooling when she’s almost a teen!

  2. I’m a middle school teacher. It is a district requirement and part of our yearly evaluation to contact parents. We must document this contact or we can be knocked down during our final conference with our appraiser (administrator). I applaud your comments and I wish more parents were like you. They either can’t or refuse to see the damage they’re inflicting upon their children by their constant hovering. When their kids fail in college and can’t find a job they’ll reap what they planted by having a 25 year old living with them.

    1. Gregg, very interesting to know! I figured it was a requirement of some sort for teachers. Makes total sense. I am actually an OB RN, and part of my performance was based on patient satisfaction. I could be saving a patient’s life in one room, but if another patient rang their call bell and I didn’t respond in a very timely manner, it was marked against me – even if said patient was simply requesting a ginger ale. It’s ultimately what made me leave medicine. Just like teaching, it isn’t what it used to be. Thank you so much for your insight and kind words.

  3. Hey Jess- I saw this and I gotta admit it saddened me. As someone who has worked for almost a decade in schools AND THEN a couple of years in the ed policy world in DC, I’ve gotten to see and live a lot of sides to this issue and where it stems from. I can assure you, it’s not the teachers. In fact, teachers are leaving in droves due to these kinds of policies that are mandated by schools and districts. You can imagine how much that is for high school students. What makes me sad about this letter is that it’s easy to demonized teachers without supporting. Teachers are obvious target, because they are sending you the notices. But sister, they have so much on their plates that they also need to do. These mandates often come from above because in theory (aka using data), it makes sense. What we do know (from the data) is that the more parents are involved, the higher likelihood they’re kids will graduate college and get a job. There are lots of parents that aren’t as involved as you guys! However, given the massive amounts of paperwork, prep, planning, scaffolding, meeting students needs, and then parent demand, school demand, and district demand is A LOT to juggle.

    Here’s what would be helpful. Call the principal. Find out why this happens. Is it a school mandate or a district. If it’s District, then go to a school board meeting (and if that’s not possible with the young ones) find out who the person is and give them a call.

    The organize other parents that think like you. Work with teachers. Ask them about why.

    Teachers are swamped with advocating. for your kids. And they are often demonized by districts about not doing enough, so your voice asking for less communication is WAY POWERFUL. And for as Much as this letter exists, there are many more parents demanding that teachers send home more communication.

    Also, from my work in the ed policy space, there are a zillion decisions being made with zero teacher input. Both policy folks and parents make moves without asking teachers. There’s a lot of power in conversation.

    I’m happy to chat more and share some ways of taking action and creating a more beautiful world for kids. Letters to the ether need powerful action behind them.

    I also read this article about teachers leaving the field and thought you might find it of interest. http://www.moultrienews.com/opinion/teacher-to-parent—why-teachers-leave/article_54d37458-e3d0-11e6-9082-47a71f6af763.html?utm_medium=social

    1. I think you maybe misinterpreted my letter. I am not blaming or demonizing teachers.

      This very issue, in a sense, is why I left nursing. Nursing has become, in many ways, less about “helping people” and more about statistics and numbers. We had monthly performance meetings at my hospital and were penalized for not answering call bells within a very short and specific time frame. Even if I was saving a patient’s life in another room, I would still be marked off if my other patient wanted a ginger ale and his call bell was not answered promptly. I also have a background working with disadvantaged populations in OB, and I was a teen parent – I know firsthand just how important parental involvement is to a child’s success, as well as the hardships such populations face.

      I also will challenge that as much experience as you might have in this space, you are not a parent. Being a parent to an adolescent is an entirely different ball game than it is to be in the space, itself. I have shown my letter to middle school teachers AND parents who have thanked me for writing it! They agree wholeheartedly, but I realize that THEY specifically do not always have the say – but a lot of times, they do. They increase our parental involvement because parents push back and want more – this is a power some of them DO have and a decision some of them DO make. I get why. They feel pressured! Parents are scary. But this letter is expressing my views and opinions as a parent to a middle schooler. It is ridiculous for me to track her workload when she’s almost a teen, and I stand by that.

      I am extremely pro-teacher and pro-education. I am the person that made my tween handwrite individual letters to each of her eight middle school teachers and bus driver and got them each a generous gift, because they deserve it. Nobody loves and appreciates them more than me, and I have to disagree that this letter is meant to project them negatively. I’m sorry if it was interpreted that way, but it is not the intent.

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