What happens in the classroom
As a parent, we may assume that we know what goes on in a classroom since we used to be a student and we’ve met our share of teachers (good or not so good!). This experience, combined with our relentless desire for our child to have a pleasant and rewarding academic experience can sometimes create a lot of misunderstandings of the work teachers actually do. « When we hear parents complain sometimes, I’d like to invite them to spend just a day with us to help them understand the full scope of our job. We don’t just teach them that 2 +2 = 4. School is like an extension of the home. Teachers are asked to juggle all these kids who are completely different and to make something relevant and profitable out of t hem. It’s not always easy! »
Indeed, it’s easy to blame teachers for not responding quickly to a note or criticize them for their excessive school lists, but for most of us, we don’t actually have a clue what goes on in the classroom, how many different types of personalities the teacher has to manage simultaneously or even why they made certain demands that seem outlandish to us. « A year, out of 22 students in my class, 11 were failing in reading (some of them also in writing and math). In that class, I had to apply 12 different teaching plans for various difficulties. I had three children medicated for ADHD, one unmediated hyperactive student, one with a behavioral disorder, two with dyslexia and one with dysphasia. In addition to having to manage this daily, I had to justify the results my students were getting to the direction because schools’ results are compared to a national average, and we are asked to be competitive. When a class does badly, the pressure rises. And that’s not just a headline for a newspaper, that’s a glaring reality of today’s classrooms and it should be raising more concerns than it does now. Unfortunately, I don’t feel any commitment from the ones in charge to change the situation. For example, we’re closing special-education classes under the pretext that the demand is declining. But that’s not true! It’s because they are diluted in regular classes. It feels really discouraging sometimes. »
Teachers understand that what they ask of parents can sometimes appear excessive, but they would like to sensitize parents a bit more about their reality in class so they can be more aware of the context before accusing them of exaggerating. Their reason is simple; they have chosen this profession with passion, and even though they sometimes have to give their own school supplies to your kids (yes, even with that long school list!), they are happy to be doing what is best for their students.
What happens at home
The teachers we spoke with are sometimes a bit worried about some of the things they see or the behaviors they can observe in some students. They talk about students who fall asleep several times a day during lessons indicating a clear lack of sleep, students who wear clothes and shoes that are too small, kids who have no warm coats, hats or mittens and they’re just sad to realize that some families don’t appear to make an effort to make sure their children have everything they need.
In addition, they also have to deal with students who carry prejudices they’ve learned from the parents, which is quite tricky. « We see children bullying other kids because they are overweight. I’ve had a little girl in 5th grade that came crying to me because her boyfriend, another student of mine, had threatened to beat her if she broke up with him. How can we not react? ».
We all know how important it is for our kids to have balanced meals and snacks so that they can be concentrated and have the energy to learn during the school day. However, teachers sometimes notice that what kids bring to eat does not correspond at all to what is considered a balanced meal, and they can see the results on their behavior in the classroom. « There are children, and they’re not from a disadvantaged family, far from it, they come to school with an incomplete lunch, no vegetables, and no snacks, nothing to drink. There is still much work to be done to raise awareness among parents about the importance of having a healthy and balanced lunch and snacks to help their children maximize their potential in school. ».
When your child is sick
Just like the daycare educators, teachers urge parents to keep their sick child at home instead of sending him at school. If your child is ill, it will be hard for him to concentrate on his lessons, he is putting his classmates at risk of being contaminated and his teacher won’t have the time to give him the attention he needs, as she will be busy with the rest of the class. « We know parents have to work, today’s reality is often unfair and the parents have to carry a lot on their shoulders. But if your child is really sick, taking him to school is useless: not only does it disrupt our day in the classroom, but the child would have been better off taking a day off to rest and get better than to spend the whole day fighting fatigue and trying to follow the rules. ».
If there is one thing teachers would like to tell you, it’s to take more time to get involved in your child’s school progress and not to expect the school to do everything for you. Some students arrive in class regularly without their homework done and agendas that are never signed by the parents. Others seem to be lacking basic knowledge that should have been taught by their parents before they even started school. « The more I had to deal with students, who were failing reading, the more I realized that the reasons why they didn’t understand the reading material was because they had no basic understanding of general culture or very limited life experiences. I’ve had to explain o a 7-year-old student what a star was because she did not know they could be seen shining in the sky at night. She had never paid attention to it and no one had ever taught her. I also had to teach a child how to blow his nose because he was just wiping it with his sleeve. We observe that in general, children are losing their attention to detail, their natural curiosity, and they seem to be living fewer varied experiences within their family or with their friends. It can make teaching difficult. ».
Communication is key
For all they wish they could tell parents, the teachers we spoke to wish for nothing more than to be able to communicate with the parents, so they can work together towards a common goal. Unfortunately, the current relationship between parents and teachers is at its worse. « In our school, parents can contact teachers by email to discuss their child, get help or to ask questions. What should be an additional tool for positive communication has backfired into one more way for parents to accuse us of not doing our job right. Many parents are abusing the privilege and write for anything and everything or even to tell us how to do our job when they themselves do nothing to ensure their child is progressing properly. ».
Teachers know how important it is to work with the parents to ensure proper overall development of the children they are devoted to day after day. And just like they don’t expect parents to be perfect; they know that not all teachers were created equal and that there is work to be done on both sides. But they all agree on one point: the important thing is not us, the adults. It’s the children who rely on us to teach them how to become tomorrow’s adults.