But probably won’t tell you
1. Your kid is special. So is everyone else’s
I’m glad that you see your child as unique and wondrous. Every kid deserves to have someone feel that way about them. I too see your child’s potential and the qualities she brings to my class.
I’m just asking that you keep in mind that all the other parents and guardians feel the same way about the kids they drop off here in the morning. Even the parents of the kid who you think is the problem.
Being a teacher means valuing all the children who cross my threshold. True, some are easier than others. But they all have a place here. If your child is having a problem with another student, I will do all I can to support them in working it out.
It doesn’t help your kid to judge or condemn someone else’s.
2. I am grading your kid’s work. Not your kid, and not you
Yes, I will get in touch with you to let you know if your child is in trouble, academically or behaviorally. I know it’s no fun to get that kind of phone call; I have kids of my own and I have been on the receiving end.
So when I have to give you bad news, getting defensive or deflecting responsibility from your kid onto the school, other kids, or me helps no one. I simply want you to know what’s up (or rather, down) while there’s the opportunity for your kid to turn things around. Can we please use this time to find ways we can partner in supporting your child to do better?
Believe me, I’ll also contact you when your kid makes progress or shows improvement, and I look forward to making that call.
3. Please stop believing everything your kid tells you
No, I’m not calling your kid a liar. I’m calling your kid a kid. Especially as your kid reaches the tween years, it’s common for them to have shifting allegiances and a deep need to rearrange reality to suit their narrative.
Middle-schoolers, in particular, are aces at presenting partial truths or alarming factoids out of context. They’ve reached an age where they have a keen appreciation for the power of information, but often don’t wield that power wisely.
Your tween may be trying to escape responsibility for something they shouldn’t have done or that they wish they’d done differently. Or they may simply be passing on outrageous tidbits from school to see your reaction.
Do some fact-checking before you react. Believe in your kid, always. But don’t buy every wild line they feed you.
4. My job is to prepare your kid for the world, not the world for your kid
I wish the world your kid will have to contend with could be as safe, fair, and healthy an environment as she — and all kids — deserves. Meanwhile, I do my best to make my classroom all those things. But I have a couple dozen kids in each of the five core classes I teach every day, and every one of those kids is a unique constellation of strengths and weaknesses, aptitudes and challenges.
It’s true that the typical school day is highly structured and somewhat regimented. Maybe your family’s style at home is free-form and laid back. That’s fine, but just as you have to adopt the culture and rules of a larger organization when you go to work, your kid needs to do the same thing at school.
Getting to classes on time, turning in assignments, and keeping her stuff organized may seem like rigid expectations for your free-spirited young one, but those are vital skills and excellent preparation for the world she’s going to have to contend with when she grows up.
Because the world, as much as we might wish otherwise, is not going to adapt to our kids.
5. Your kid needs to fail
Not ultimately, of course, and not over and over. But if your child cruises along with nothing but the highest marks, I get worried. Not because I want to see your kid suffer, but because I want him to be resilient.
I’ve seen too many kids fall apart— and I mean, be truly devastated —the first time they blow a test or get less than an A. I’ve also seen too many parents who freak out right along with their kid, or who try to intervene and get a grade or a score changed. These are the kids who are way too identified with their performance, and when the going gets tough they’re at risk of giving up rather than pushing through.
Just like when your kid was learning to walk, he needs to fall once in a while, or he won’t learn how to get back up on his own. Don’t deny her the strength and self-mastery she can gain by coping with a certain amount of failure.
6. Your kid needs manners
Not because I’m a starchy schoolmarm who expects your kid to sit up straight and hold still all day long, speaking only when spoken too. But if your child doesn’t understand the basics of civil social behavior, she’s going to have a harder time than she should.
Maybe the whole concept of manners strikes you as old-fashioned. It’s a casual world we live in, where CEO’s lead conferences while wearing jeans and T-shirts. That’s fine, but demonstrating respect for oneself and others and knowing how to behave in a variety of situations are skills that are at least as vital now as they were back in Emily Post’s day.
And this is not just about pleasing adults. I’ve worked with thousands of students over the course of my career, and I will tell you this: I have never met a happy kid who was not also respectful and polite.
Do your kid a favor; don’t let them talk to you or anyone else like that.
7. Your kid needs you
You don’t have to be the perfect parent, as if such a thing were even possible. You don’t have to coach every team your kid joins or head every committee for the parent-teacher organization. You don’t have to be the mom who volunteers every week in the classroom.
Maybe you work crazy hours or have several children or other family obligations like aging parents. You could have all three going on; plenty of people do. Just carve out what time you can with your kid. Listen to her. Even if most of your time together is spent in the car, use that time to be together. Criticize no more than absolutely necessary; approve of whatever you honestly can.
As much as I am dedicated to your child’s growth and success, I only have her for ten months. You’re playing the long game.
Remember, your kid is special.