Education played a major role in my life. Growing up in a city like New York offered many wonderful educational opportunities. I am grateful for participation in the Gifted & Talented and Grade Acceleration programs created by the Department of Education to nurture students’ seeking to elevate their intellect. My parents’ hard work was essential in the shaping of my education but it would not have come full circle without one key element: good teachers.
It is difficult to argue that educators are the foundation of our nation. They help mold the leaders of tomorrow. The expectations at home were always to respect, listen, and consider the people that were at the head of the classroom. Present day, raising my own child, the same rule stands. My daughter is just as aware of the important role her teachers are playing in her education.
Prior to the effects the pandemic had on our children’s education, it was heartbreaking at times to hear the stories of mistreatment teachers were facing in public and private schools. The disrespect came in various forms, from undermining authority to rude, disrespectful behavior from not just students, sometimes, parents too.
This new age of homeschooling and online learning is teaching others the value of educators. It is an immensely difficult job but they continue to teach our children despite the challenges, so why do we treat them so poorly? It was a tough topic to address, but I could not have written this article without a teacher’s voice. The responses received are appreciated, as they provide insight into the experience of being an educator.
In what state and grade do you teach? During the span of time you’ve been an educator, what have you found to be the most challenging aspect of your job? Have your expectations fallen short, as far as what you thought it would be like to be a teacher?
I teach in Montclair, NJ, Grades 9 and 10. In my 16 years as an educator and exclusively in private schools, the most consistently challenging aspect of my job has been in my dealings with parents. The schools I’ve worked for have their faults but mostly have been progressive and forward-thinking in their approach to education. There is a mixed bag of frustration that stems from colleagues who do not care enough, and overactive or overbearing parents who make things more challenging than it should be.
There are also a vast amount of amazing contributors that fuel a positive environment for students and teachers. This is doubly sad as the U.S. in particular, is in the midst of a mental health crisis in young people, where suicide and suicide ideation rates are on the rise. In the world of private education, the pressure on these young people to achieve completely extrinsic goals (such as top tier college acceptance, social media popularity, etc.) is incredibly high.
Parents who can’t see they are adding to that with how they act in relation to their child’s school are really tough to deal with. Students need our support, too, as they try and figure out who they are in life. One of my favorite thought leaders in education, Bill Damon, says “the greatest challenge facing students today is not stress or anxiety, it’s meaninglessness.”
Have you ever felt you have been treated poorly by a student? How did you handle it?
Absolutely, every year! But ultimately, I deal with teens, and so in the vast majority of instances it is up to me, the adult and teacher, to see every moment as a teachable one. Engagement with the student, discussion about what they did, how their disrespect towards me (or another) affected everyone. Ultimately, the goal was to demonstrate that I care about the student’s well being.
I have only experienced a handful of actions committed by students that caused complete disengagement. Sadly, the primary reason for this decision was because of parents’ reinforcement of their child’s bad behavior, attitude, or action.
During all the years of a student’s education, it is crucial to have parents and teachers collaborate. Working together is crucial to help shape students become successful contributors to society. In your experience, have parents provided the proper support, in order for you to do the best job, possible as an educator?
There can be challenges working with some parents, at times. However, in my educational world, experience with private schools, yes, on average, parents provide the proper support needed to successfully do my job. For the most part, institutions I have worked for have been supportive in defining a line and letting parents know when they have crossed it.
Still, there have been instances (more so with colleagues than myself) in which the school has failed in that regard. I don’t blame parents too much for occasionally being an obstacle. There is no school or guide for parenting.
We are in a very difficult time as parents and teachers. COVID has somewhat hijacked our children’s education experience. Parents have been given a taste of what it’s like to teach. What advice can you give parents while they are at home teaching their kids?
I don’t envy parents at this time, but there are tons of resources available to them in this environment that can help. There are both online teaching tools and books on education. Some of these educate you on how young people learn. In fact, it would be great for parents to read materials that provide some perspective and empathy. Possibly, books from thought leaders like Zaretta Hammond, Lauren Posoroff, Heather Malin, Bill Damon, Eddie Moore Jr., and Mary Helen Immordino-Yang are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of accessible materials to start.
However, the best advice I can offer a parent is to familiarize themselves with the resources out there; they are easily consumable. Before starting any project, we read instructions to learn more about the skills required. Parents should consider everything available to help them best support their students.
What can parents and children do to help teachers feel more appreciated? Is there some way we can contribute, maybe, helping make your job less strenuous or difficult?
Educate yourselves on what your child is going through and their needs to succeed in and out of the classroom. Focus on what’s happening now, and not too far in the future. Sometimes, just asking what you can do to support your child’s learning is a great start, acknowledging the expertise in the school building.
Believe in the reality that the vast majority of teachers teach because it is purposeful and meaningful, it is fulfilling to be there. Consider, on average, the low wages that teachers are paid. They don’t go into the field for its lucrative pay. Operate first from the understanding they are making the choice to be in the classroom.
Teachers are vital to society, they provide instruction and interpret the lessons that are required to educate our children. In order to help students master the educational system, parents must collaborate to encourage proper learning.
Let’s give educators and kids the resources and tools to help shape the new doctors, scientists, technologists, engineers, and teachers that will lead us into the future. It takes a village, so why not extend the olive branch to continue this work and show students that teachers and parents are on the same side, working together for the purpose of doing better for all?