A new school year is upon us as you’ve no doubt noticed by the swarms of back-to-school pictures assaulting your newsfeed. That’s not to judge – I totally did it, too. But once those creative chalkboard signs get erased and kids begin “forgetting” homework assignments, the real work begins. And, when it does, their teachers will quickly take notice of those parents. You know exactly who I’m talking about. And if you unexpectedly gulped at that sentence and felt a bit flush, chances are—it’s you.
As someone who has stood at the front of a classroom and been at the mercy of other people’s children before, I’m telling you, teachers are my people. These days, the only instructing I may be doing is (unsuccessfully) teaching my toddler not eat his own boogers but I still feel for them. I still identify as one. And because they are, generally, way too nice to say this to your face, I’ll go ahead and do it for them: the kids may drive us crazy from time to time but it’s the parents that drive us to drink. So if you want to make it through the school year without anyone secretly creating a voodoo doll with your name on it, you would do well to commit the following to memory:
1.) Manage expectations
We cannot create your child into the kind of model student you are hoping to brag to your friends about simply of our own volition. Results require patience, hard work, and dedication–characteristics most kids (and adults) have yet to master. We’re flattered you think we have super powers but, no, we did not receive our degree at Hogwarts and your “C” student will not morph into Valedictorian overnight.
2.) Drop the excuses
She was late. She didn’t study. She forgot her homework. Honestly, barring some genuinely catastrophic event, we’re not really interested in hearing the backstory. Your kid needs to learn that actions (or lack thereof) have consequences. Coming in to plead on your child’s behalf is, frankly, embarrassing. But congratulations on shielding her feelings. I’m sure you’ll love her living in your basement for the next 30 years.
3.) Stop micromanaging
If what I’m about to say hurts your feelings, you are definitely part of the problem: your kid should not be your hobby.
Look, taking an active role in your child’s education is both admirable and necessary. Please try to stay updated on assignments and your kid’s general performance. Please do not hover over him with the irrational fear that a single false step will erase the entirely fabricated future you have dutifully planned out on his behalf. Sorry to burst your bubble but Harvard doesn’t even know he exists yet. Yes, academics are important but so is independence. At some point, he will probably turn something in late or fail to achieve a perfect test score. But you know what? He will still wake up the next morning and life will go on. Now, please, get on with your own life and let your kid figure out how to manage his responsibilities while you keep a watchful distance.
**Bonus points to the parent who attempts to micromanage us, as well. You will have successfully added yourself to the official shit list and there’s no turning back because that sucker is written in pen.
4.) Don’t bark orders
I’m sorry, do I work for you? I mean, yeah, I get that I’m paid with your tax dollars but I mean, directly, are you in my chain of command? Oh, ok then. Start bossing us around and we will immediately begin gathering straw for the voodoo doll (you didn’t think I was kidding about that, did you?).
This is pretty simple, guys. Just be nice. Do not demand that we call you on our lunch break (joke’s on you – it doesn’t exist) or tell us to have two weeks worth of assignments ready by the end of the day. In fact, do not tell us to do anything at all. Our work schedules are extremely regimented – as in we have to plan our bathroom breaks around 3 minute passing periods – and beyond full. We often work well into the night, family and other responsibilities be damned; so we will work your request into our schedule whenever we can. But, please, do us the courtesy of treating us like the adults that we are or else we will (discreetly) flip two large middle fingers toward your annoying emails.
5.) Don’t be a bully
Bullies are insecure, inarticulate, little jerks who derive self-worth from demeaning others. And we know all too well that the proverbial school yard has extended deep into the adult world. While this takes place in many forms, it has become increasingly popular on social media because, obviously, the world is waiting with baited breath to hear how awful your child’s teacher is for (insert inane, baseless drivel here).
The thing is, it often makes its way back to us and then we have to pretend we don’t want to paper cut you to death at our next conference. Don’t to it, ok? It’s just bad form.
6.) Don’t expect extras
Oh, you’re hoping I’ll write you a weekly update every Friday just for kicks? No thanks. Teaching is like doing sprints back and forth all day long. You’re exhausted, out of breath, and feel like your feet are going to fall off. There is no time for anything but survival. So when you make a “tiny request” that eats up more than 15 seconds of my time, consider whether or not you want to risk waking the beast. Because by the time that last bell rings, she’s hangry and haggard. Probably not worth it.
7.) We aren’t the enemy
It can be difficult to find out that your child isn’t always the perfect angel you thought you raised. But, as teachers, we don’t expect perfection; we expect growth. Even the sweetest, most hard-working, polite kiddo will eventually make a mistake that requires some minor punishment. Do not jump down our throats when this happens. Do not assume we singled your kid out or made a mistake. And definitely do not go over our heads and insist on meeting with the principal before speaking with us. Respect our authority and your example will speak volumes to your child.
8.) Send coffee, wine, help…
Ok, yes, we would not-so-secretly love all of these things but, really, all we want is your respect and appreciation. We work hard for your little minis in the hopes that they will turn into decent adults who we can be proud of. All we ask is that you don’t ruin all that hard work by providing them with a piss poor example.
Cheers to a new year, folks! You can do this. We have faith in you… and a voodoo doll with your name on it, just in case.
**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.