That first day of school is nearly upon us, and along with the crisp new backpacks and freshly-sharpened pencils, a little mental preparation is in order.
Your child’s teacher is ready and raring to work with you this year to help your youngster grow, and there are a few things she wants to share with you. And no, this will not be on the test.
I don’t want anyone to panic, but the Common Core is kind of a big deal. Kids are being asked not just to learn content, but to master it. They have to know the basic concepts inside and out, and be able to think about thinking and all kinds of higher-order cognitive skills that go way beyond flash cards. It can be frustrating for kids to meet these higher expectations and think critically, especially when restorative breaks for recess and exercise are being cut back to accommodate for all the extra stuff they have to squeeze into a day. Yikes.
If you want to help the teachers out (not to mention your child), you can get some information on the Common Core from its official website, and ask your teacher what you can do at home to support the mastery of these major concepts. Establishing a homework routine can help — set aside some time during the evening and a designated area (desk, table, etc.) where your student can practice those skills.
If you’re interested in keeping students at your child’s school moving and exercising, read the research on why doing so is beneficial. And then share your knowledge with the teachers you know.
Just between us, teachers get frustrated by the Common Core, too. We all want to make sure we are assessing everyone fairly and accurately and that we’re teaching concepts thoroughly while also differentiating both for gifted students and struggling students. Meanwhile, teachers are also juggling behavior management, communicating with parents, taking classes to stay up-to-date on new learning theories, and attending IEP meetings, staff meetings, and any other kind of meeting you can think of. Then, we finish of our days with several hours of grading at home. And all of that assumes a teacher doesn’t have her own children to check in on.
Please be patient with us. We want to do our very best to help your child, I promise. We wouldn’t be teaching if we didn’t care. But sometimes that means we can’t answer your email right away.
Every student has her own set of strengths and weaknesses. And that’s just what they are — strengths and weaknesses. In the classroom, we celebrate the strengths and we work on the weaknesses, just like everybody else. If your student is having a tough time, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she has a disability. Maybe it means that she learns in a different way, and we need to find the way that works. On the other hand, if your child is already diagnosed with ADHD, remember that she can still make improvements to work on her focus and organization — teachers are there to help skills progress and evolve.
Acknowledge your child’s strengths and accept her weaknesses (and love her for them!). Encourage your child to continue growing and to accept responsibility for her growth. If you suspect your youngster has a disability, you should ask the teacher what she thinks about a special education evaluation. If your child is in the bottom 15 percent of the class in a key subject, that’s a clue that she could use some help.
We have had years of training and experience hoping that we would someday get to inspire children like yours. We spend our free time researching amazing projects to try, and we spend our own money on supplies. We show up long before the first day of school to get the classroom ready for all of the learning adventures that will unfold over the next nine months. Naturally, we take a bit of pride in what we do, so suggestions — or straight-up criticism — can be really hard for us to hear. Ultimately, we are responsible for what goes on in the classroom, so we have the right to turn down requests — sometimes because it may exclude a kid, disrupt the flow of the class, or just because we are already working way beyond our contract hours.
The classroom is a different setting than your home, and your child may be challenged in ways you probably hadn’t considered. As teachers, we are trained to stretch and test your child and watch her grow; it’s an amazing process to watch. With a little extra independence, your student’s personality and special skills really shine.
You never know what your child will turn into — be open to whatever strengths and interests arise as she grows. She may surprise you!
_Want to learn more about the great minds teaching your kids? Check out a high school teacher’s perspective: 9 Things Your High School Teacher Wishes You Knew._