I’ve heard so many bad things about her!”
I got this a lot with my kid’s teacher last year.
When I tried to press the parents for information about her, I got the words “mean” and “strict” over and over with little specifics.
But this wasn’t my first rodeo. Having gone through well over 10 teachers over the past few years and this being my third child, I knew enough not to be worried.
With this child in particular, I have spent most parent/teacher conferences discussing his behavior issues. I could barely get him to do reading and writing assignments. During these tough years, the teachers he had were patient and kind but diligent in trying to address the problem … stil, the problems persisted.
Then we got the “strict” teacher. Despite not being worried, I was curious to discover what was causing so much gossip among parents about her.
I sent my boy to school and paid attention each day when he got home.
How was your day? “Great”
How’s your teacher? “Cool”
Was anyone mean to you today? “No”
Did you get in trouble? “No”
And on and on this went, the same questions with the same answers throughout the year.
Then came homework assignments. He really struggled with these. She’d send a check-off sheet home for his reading and a few math sheets every week.
I’ve seen these before. We do our best and the teachers usually seemed pleased with whatever effort we gave. This time, the difference was that she circled the reading days we missed every time and wrote a note for the need to improve. I’d never seen a teacher be this diligent about homework at home.
I thought: “Could this be what is causing all of this commotion? Making sure my kid reads?”
When parent/teacher conferences came around, she was delightful but also firm in pressing the need to keep up his reading at home. It was different but I appreciated the push and encouragement she gave us.
At the end of the year, I mentioned to her the trouble he gave to previous teachers. With a knowing glimmer in her eye she said, “I can see how that could happen.” And then continued with something to the effect of, “It’s tough to balance boundaries with love. But once he knew what was expected of him and that I wouldn’t budge, he really shined.”
That seemed like an excellent year to me. The validating moment at the start of the new school year was seeing him run up and give her a big hug before running off to his new classroom.
Now my friend’s son has the same teacher and she’s terrified because of what she’s heard.
I don’t know which parents are spreading these rumors, but I wish they would simply stop. Sure, bad teachers exist. But they’re rare. The only teachers that I’ve been less than impressed with are the ones not given the resources to do a good job.
Teachers are people, people paid much less than the value they bring to our communities. Learning to get along with different types of people is part of the educational package of going to school, though parents could learn a thing or two in this area as well.
Teachers are also professionals. They earned a degree in education and are continually learning best practices from shared knowledge and researchers all over the country.
They deserve our respect.
My teachers have taught me more about how to be a good mom than most parenting books. During the school year, they see my kids more than I see them! So not only do they get to know my kid, but they can take that knowledge and apply it in the context of their educational degree.
My kids’ teachers have also helped me discover talents in myself that I didn’t know I had. They taught me to trust my instincts. They taught me to love my kid when I was too depleted to do so. They showed me things in my kids that I didn’t know existed. They’ve carried them through hard times when I couldn’t.
My teachers are my village.
I hope this Colorado community of parents have their teacher’s backs. Let’s not spread unnecessary gossip about teachers and, instead, find what makes them great. While we’re at it, let’s jump in and help them to do the amazing job that they already know how to do.
Stacey Carruth is a mother of four in Arapahoe County.