No matter where you are are on the pendulum of counting down the days until the start of school to wishing to push the pause button on summer vacation, at this point most moms have at least begun to think about the their child’s next teacher…from baby music classes and daycare to preschool and kindergarten, straight on up through high school. And, often these thoughts lead to anxieties. So, to ease your mama heart, I’d like to give you the same pep talk I’ve given countless mamas during my 17 years in public education. Here are three things you can do today to wipe out your back-to-school worries:
Get off the Mommy Gossip Train. Pull the emergency handle if you have to, but get off as soon as possible. Participating in negative discussions about the teachers, administrators or other school personnel at your child’s school is not productive in any way. It’s just not. Just because your neighbor’s friend’s daughter had a bad experience with a teacher three years ago, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the teacher was the problem. When more than one human is involved, there are always multiple sides to a story, but, school personnel are often legally prevented from publicly sharing their side of the story, so there’s a pretty good chance that your neighbor does not know the whole story. To this point, I have never met an individual who went into education because they wanted kids to fail. I am certain that this year will not be different. Do teachers occasionally make mistakes? Yes. Do moms occasionally make mistakes, too? Yes. So, put down the phone, stop reading or commenting on negative social media posts, walk away from Negative Nelly at the pool. Instead, take a deep breath and thank God for allowing you to live in a place where your child – regardless of gender, religious beliefs or color of skin – has the freedom to go to school. Thank Him for allowing your child to learn and grow and develop under the guidance of a wide variety of educators who all have different strengths and weaknesses, passions and interests, teaching styles and expectations – and remember, this variety is an important reason why we grow into well-rounded adults.
Don’t Fear the First-Year Teacher. Support her instead. Whether she’s new to the profession or new to your child’s campus, be a supportive, welcoming member of the school community. Remember how much about parenting you couldn’t possibly know or understand until your very first sweet bundle of joy was placed in your arms? Well, entering the teaching profession is very much the same. Now, remember how your friends and family and neighbors rallied around you when you first brought your baby home? Most likely, you had friends who brought you meals or offered to hold your baby so you could take care of your own basic needs, or they generally celebrated with you and cheered you on. First-year teachers could benefit from the same kind of support! They need you to cheer them on! Young teachers enter the profession with a passion for kids, a “change the world” level of enthusiasm and knowledge of the latest research on what to teach and how to teach it. Before entertaining even a critical thought about the first-year teacher on your child’s campus, consider how different it would have been if you faced criticism, skepticism and isolation the moment your first child was placed in your arms. If your child is placed in the classroom of a first-year teacher, from your very first encounter, be a positive light in this new teacher’s world. Write her a note telling her how thankful you are that she answered the calling to teach, offer to bring her dinner, buy her an Instacart gift card, or work with the other parents in your child’s class to set up a meal train with weekly meals. Find out if there are any administrative jobs you can do to help the teacher…and, be respectful if she says no (sometimes it would take longer to explain the task to you than complete it herself). Find out her favorite sweet treat and bring it to her now and then. Offer to cover lunch or recess duty for her so she can catch her breath or take care of her own basic needs once in awhile. At the very least, do not engage in any negative gossip among other parents. Strive to shift all conversations to a positive, supportive tone. I once read a study out of the University of Wisconsin that tracked the number of hours that the “average” teacher works. They discovered that the “average” teacher works more hours in 9 months than the “average” person in a 40-hour work-week position works in 12 months. So, hug those new teachers, thank them for the hours they put in every week for your child, and cheer them on…in August, in November, in March and in May!
Pick Up Your Pom Poms – You’re Cheering for the Same Team! Before even meeting your child, your child’s new teacher already wants your child to be successful. If you are sending your baby to daycare for the first time, the teacher wants your baby to sleep and eat just as much as you do. Trust me, it really makes the teacher’s job easier if your child has a full belly and a good nap. If you’re sending your toddler to preschool for the first time, the teacher wants your child to be happy and secure while at school just as much as you do. Trust me, it really makes the teacher’s job easier if your child is not crying for you while at school. If you are sending your child to elementary, middle or high school, the teacher wants your child to be a successful learner who is well liked by his/her peers just as much as you do. Trust me, it really makes the teacher’s job easier if your child is successful at the academic tasks and positively engaged in social activities. You see, you are both cheering for your child. You are both cheering for the same team. Considering this allows you to approach the school-year with an attitude of optimism and trust. It also helps you approach all communication with the teacher positively and respectfully. You are your child’s #1 fan, so put on your giant foam finger and approach this “pre-season” just like you would for your your favorite sports team! Between now and the start of school, be intentional about projecting an attitude of optimism, trust and respect for education.
I have been in public education for 17 years now, and for 9 of those years I’ve been a mom, too. My mama heart is certainly not immune to the back-to-school worries. In fact, this pep talk is just as much for me as it is for you. One more powerful tool is prayer. Each night between now and the start of school, I encourage you to pray for your child’s teacher. You’ll find that not only will those prayers reach your child’s teacher, they will comfort your mama heart, too.
A little about the author: I am a wife and a mom of three children – two in elementary school and one in preschool. In addition to volunteering with Fearless Mom, I have been involved in public education since 1998. In my tenure, I have served as a first grade teacher (where I first met Julie!), a campus technology specialist, an assistant principal, and I currently coordinate a Master’s degree program for teachers. Everyday I thank God for the amazing educators who have shaped my children’s lives – from baby music classes, to daycare instructors, to sports programs, to the children’s program at our local church, to classroom teachers and administrators at our school and within our district.