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Dear Parents, Teachers Are People Too

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As I have written previously, I am the spouse of a teacher and spend a lot of time with teachers. I'd like to start the new school year by reminding you of some truths about teachers.

Teachers are professionals, and no you couldn't just walk into a class and do a teacher's job.

A lot of people tend to forget that you don't simply leave high school and become a teacher. Teachers are professionals who have completed an undergraduate degree program and have earned a teacher's certificate. Getting a teacher's certificate involves between one and two years of job-specific training plus ongoing professional development. This is equivalent to what it takes to become a Chartered Professional Accountant.

You wouldn't walk into your accountant's office and tell them how to do your accounting, so why do so many parents think they have the expertise to walk into a classroom and tell a teacher how to do their job?

If you wouldn't ask another professional to do something don't ask a teacher to do it.

If you dropped into your accountant's office 15 minutes before he/she had a planned meeting you would not expect her/him to drop everything and meet with you. So why do so many parents expect that they can show up just before class and demand a teacher's full attention? Teachers are always willing to take a quick minute before class to exchange notes with parents but if you need 15 minutes of their time, schedule an appointment and be there on schedule.

Your child's teacher will work hard to adapt the classroom to your child's specific needs but a teacher cannot be all things to all children, all the time.

Like a professional's office, if you are going to miss an appointment then phone ahead and tell the teacher so he/she can make other plans. I cannot count the number of times my wife has sat waiting for a parent who simply chose not to attend a planned meeting or who showed up a half-hour late for a 15-minute meeting and then demanded her full attention for another half-hour.

Teachers are people too and have real lives that matter to their families.

My wife has been a teacher for 15 years. When she started teaching she was incredibly keen; she got there early and stayed late; she volunteered to run clubs and put in a lot of extra hours so that she could give her students the best experience possible. Now she is married and has three young children of her own. Her time with our children is as precious to her as your time with your children is for you.

Night times in our household are very busy with dinner, sports, baths, reading and bedtime. So, no, my wife is not available to meet you at the school at 7:30 pm on a school night. Like any other professional she is not regularly available to meet with you after hours. Several times a year the school will schedule an evening when she will meet with you, but those should be seen as the exception, not the rule. Respect her family time in the same way you ask others to respect yours.

Your child is one of 30 students in a teacher's classroom.

Your child is the most important person in the world to you but represents one of 30 students in my wife's classroom. Your child's teacher will work hard to adapt the classroom to your child's specific needs but a teacher cannot be all things to all children, all the time. A teacher does not have time to prepare daily reports for parents because a "five-minute email" for each child translates to over two hours of extra work every night.

Don't blame the teacher for the state of the school or for classroom assignments.

I can assure you no teacher wants to be in a portable or in an over-crowded classroom. Teachers do not run the system. Administration assigns them a classroom and the school district is responsible for allocating resources for the schools. So don't blame teachers for things outside of their direct control. Teachers may be your first point of contact with the school system but that is no excuse for directing your anger about the system onto them. Frankly, they are as angry about class sizes/resources as you are and are your kid's biggest allies in resource battles.

Teachers are human and will have good days and bad days.

I work in an office environment and spend the day interacting with other professionals. These people are mature individuals who know what is expected from them. Even under these conditions, I have my bad days when things go wrong and I need to be just left alone to finish a task. My wife, meanwhile, goes to work every day and regardless of whether she has a headache, has a sick child at home or is simply tired, does all her work in front of 30 young adults who are still learning things like self-control while dealing with physical and hormonal changes.

So if your child comes home and complains about something that happened at school give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. He/she is a human after all and has both good days and bad days. But remember, your child's teacher cares deeply about ensuring that your child has a happy and encouraging educational experience.

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