Before I started working at Kveller, I was a high school English teacher. It was probably great preparation, considering I’m not a mother myself. In many ways, I was a mother to every kid in my class–and while of course it was only temporarily while your lovely child graced my classroom, I really did love each and every one of them in their own unique ways.
During my time as a teacher, I learned a lot–mostly about people. I learned how to entice kids to read and write. But, I also learned about what doesn’t work, sometimes by trial and error, sometimes by simply observing what parents did with their own kids.
Now that school is back in session, I couldn’t help but think about the smell of new textbooks and the nervous anticipation of a new grade looming ahead. So I compiled a list of five helpful tips for parents to keep in mind for the new school year:
1. Sending your kid to school sick sounds like a great idea. Except it’s not. You aren’t doing your teen any favors, because let’s be real: They won’t be paying attention (and who can blame them?). And, they’re going to make everyone else sick, including, ahem, the teacher. Getting the flu is usually not at the top of anyone’s bucket list.
2. Have realistic expectations and goals. I can’t stress enough how many times parents would schedule meetings with me about why their daughter was getting an 85 average and not a 90. Be happy that your kid is safe and happy and healthy (and motivated! Because an 85 is actually pretty good). Are you setting goals for your teen, or is your teen setting goals for themselves?
This is the prime time for young adults to actually be just that: young adults. Which means, you have to let them earn to their potential. While I would never advocate lazy habits, it’s never a good idea to pressure someone into getting straight A’s, either. Act like you’re actually prepping them to be independent in college–because otherwise, they won’t be.
3. We spend a lot of time with your kids, and we know what we are doing. Sure, I may have a smiling apple on my classroom door, but don’t be fooled into thinking that means I’m a pushover or don’t know what I’m doing. Unlike James Franco, teachers usually have a specific set of skills that they’ve mastered after years of higher education, typically earning master’s degrees. Teachers want the best for your kid–it’s why we’re teachers.
We spend roughly 30-40 hours a week with your kids, between basketball practice, SAT prep, and class, so we know your kid inside and out. We see how they are with their friends at lunch, how they respond to Romeo’s death in “Romeo and Juliet,” and we definitely know about their latest crush. So, let yourself breathe–we got their back (and yours).
4. Your kid isn’t perfect. And that’s totally OK, because no one is. While certain behavior is obviously not to be tolerated (ie: cheating and bullying), teenagers are at that special age where they want to try new things, and sometimes, that doesn’t always work out so well. Like neon green hair. But that’s what school is about–learning. A teacher’s goal is not to ostracize a student for making a mistake, like getting a bad test score, but allowing them to learn the best they can by embracing their flaws and strengths. Usually, I found that laughing with my students (but not at them) was one of the easiest ways to not sweat the small stuff.
5. Teachers know to believe only about half of what your kids tell us about you, so do the same for us. Teenagers are fantastic storytellers–they know how to be dramatic and complain and tell us just how terrible their moms are for not letting them go to that One Direction concert. The same goes for our classroom. Not every moment is full of glitter and sparkles and sunshine, especially when you’re discussing the major themes in “1984” to 30 15-year-olds and how their social media accounts are monitored. Also, remember, puberty sucks.
Like you, sometimes we’re not always on our A-games. Sometimes, we didn’t drink enough coffee in the morning, and suddenly, there’s a very energetic 13-year-old using their cell phone in class, and we may snap a little harder than we intended. We promise not to judge you, if you promise not to judge us for that one time we accidentally took off an extra two points from your kid’s vocab quiz.