After two months away from the blog it is hard to know where to start again….I could tell you why I went on a writing sabbatical or the life lessons found on a Little League baseball field. I met a man named Lou who fired me up so I could relay that mess or even talk about the anxiety of having my husband start radiation and a year of chemo in a week. All excellent topics – surely they will all end up right here at some point. I wrote 139 posts in my head this summer, even one about the joy of a 55 degree morning on a farm far away from the hubbub of the city. Today, back in the stifling humidity, I am thinking about the one thing that has been on my mind this time of year since I was 6 years old – the start of a new school year.
Since Facebook and every other media outlet seems to be obsessed with lists, I proudly give to you my top 4 worst parenting back-to-school mistakes. My disclaimer here is that not all of these have happened directly to me as a teacher (ok, that’s a lie). But I do promise if you did commit one of these “mis-steps” you are in the majority! And I do not remember personally who you are nor do I hold it against you. These are the no-nos, step away, just STOP mistakes we all do. Yes, me too…..
1. Never ever start an email to a teacher in the beginning of the year with “I promise I am not that parent but…..” .
Oooooooh. You are that parent. Despite your cleverly disguised introduction, I get the sense you are about to launch into a well-crafted expose of exactly who your child is, what he needs and all of your hopes and dreams for what he may become. It is tempting – trust me I know! Every year I want to just give a little heads up about my two – just a few insights into their learning styles, areas for improvement, their nicknames, favorite color, best place to sit in class (up front – duh!). Hard as it is, don’t. Why? Kids change. Give your kiddo a fresh start without any baggage. Let him have a go at this on his own. One of the best parts of the new school year for teachers is this fresh start…..give them the gift of a clean slate, too. Oh, and did you know all kids are schizophrenic? They are different people at school then they are at home. You don’t know their school persona – or personas as the case may be. Plus you will earn an ugly red mark by your name in the teacher’s notes….. true dat!
2. Step away from the locker.
And the binders. And the pencil pouch. I have a long standing love affair with school supplies dating way back to the days when my Mam would take me shopping for pens, pencils and crayons. I remember the excitement – all of this was mine! It was what I needed for my job and these were my tools. I cannot even imagine if school supplies included locker wallpaper and rugs – pure joy! And I love it to this day. But these shiny objects are not mine or yours. That locker belongs to your kiddo….and yes, I would love to offer my tips on how to organize books and binders in a very neat and efficient way. I would like to stack the post-its next to the highlighters for easy access and tape that sweet baby picture to the door. Don’t. They will figure it out – maybe. And maybe they won’t. The papers may spill out through the door every time the door is opened and the pencils will get lost and the cute baby picture will actually be a highly adhesive vineyard vines whale sticker that you will pay $25 at the end of the year in order to have scraped off the locker door…. it is their shit. They can deal with it.**
** I do have one exception for parental locker intervention – unknown sources of smell. When this happens, you can and should go to their locker armed with rubber gloves, a trash bag and some Febreeze. Find the source (culprits can range from wet gym socks to dead frogs to spoiled yogurts) dispose of the offensive item, shove the shit back in and walk away. walk. away.
3. Save the board room lingo for, well, the board room.
Here is the thing, teachers are highly educated professionals. We just operate in a different realm with our own set of lingo. Yes, I admit that clapping rhythmically to signal the start of a class may seem absurd to you, but I promise your use of “move the needle” and “drill down” is just as absurd in the environment of school. I understand you want my “buy-in” to ensure “core competency” so that your child is “trending” in the proper direction. There are surely “many moving parts” in my classroom, and I recognize I have to be sure my teaching strategies are “scalable” using “best practices”. I will strive to push your child to “think outside of the box” so he can learn to “leverage” his “assets” for his “vertical” ascent throughout fifth grade. Got it.
4. BYOD – NOGO.
It is tough to be “out of pocket” these days. We are all accustomed to our devices keeping us “synergized” and “in the loop” (wow, the lingo is hard to shake!) but you MUST put your devices away when at school. Turn off the ringer please. Put it in your bag or pocket. Focus. If you are speaking with a teacher at a meeting or conference, or listening to a back to school presentation, focus. Teachers have eagle eyes (and ears). We know the phone is on your lap and you are doing your best to tap tap tap inconspicuously. I am absolutely sure it important. But we see you. It’s our job to SEE. Eyes up. Head nod. Smile. Fake it till you make it. I think you will be glad you did.
Off they go again – on their own. Forging their paths. Making their mistakes and building confidence through their successes. They might eat pizza and french fries for lunch 39 days straight, wear dirty PE clothes for 46 days straight, and lose every stinking pencil you buy. Just don’t forget this is their “window of opportunity” – best to leave well enough alone until you really need to “peel that onion”