I am not sure what it means to take off my ‘teaching hat’ and put on my ‘parenting hat'; it’s kind of all the same to me. I also think we bring all of our hats to help us in different situations. That said, this is a post with my ‘parent hat’ in mind. As classes are settling in and school is in full swing, I have some hopes for my own kids’ experiences (and my engagement with these experiences) for the coming school year.
I am so pleased so many teachers have websites. I love how the teachers display their kids’ work, giving weekly previews and sharing ideas on how we, as parents, can support their current learning at home. My day job severely limits my ability to see school in action for my kids and the website is a wonderful way for me to stay connected. I also appreciate the ability to subscribe to the websites and receive emails with new content. While I know we should be checking back regularly, the updates are a great prod for me to take a look. I know it may seem like “one more thing to do” but the sites have been an amazing tool of engagement and connecting me with my kids’ learning.
I really would prefer you didn’t. I won’t use this space to get into the big debate about the value of homework (that said here is an article from Alfie Kohn that will get you thinking), but I know our kids, like so many other kids, are very engaged in learning outside of school. So, particularly at their age (young elementary), homework is really unnecessary. I do love home reading, particularly when it is focused on reading and sharing and not about simply reading a certain number of books. My oldest son has the ability to turn reading into a contest, to find the easiest books to read as possible, so he can ‘win’.
Create Some Space
The most enjoyable times my older daughter has had in school have been when she has had some free space and choice of what she can learn, and how she can display that learning. Please give them some work that pushes their boundaries, pushes their thinking, and that does not necessarily have an “answer”. They love this type of work, it is what they talk about at the dinner table.
Be Careful with Busy Work
When there is a Hollywood movie being shown, one of my kids wants to stay home. She also doesn’t understand why, when she understands a math concept, she should use the rest of the time to colour. To be clear, these type of things have happened exceptionally rarely, but they discourage my kids from school.
Again, prefer you didn’t, even with our oldest child in Grade 5. I have been in education my entire life, but if she comes home and tells me she got a “B” on something, I have no idea what that means and then the conversation ends there. Please give feedback, and feedback that my kids can use to improve their work next time, feedback that my wife and I can use to support what is going on in their learning and in the classroom.
What Really Matters
Just take good care of them, help them adjust socially. And, be memorable like all of my elementary teachers were. I can point to at least one way each of my elementary teachers made a difference in my life — from my love of Bruce Springsteen to my interest in storytelling. All of our kids mention when their teachers ask about their lives outside of school, whether it is about family, sports or other interests. These little things are really the big things for our kids about school.
To be very clear, our kids go to an outstanding neighbourhood school and they have a great sense of place and belonging. And, to date, we have had 10 teacher experiences — all very positive. Here’s to counting on another great year ahead.