Let me begin by saying “thank you.” Thank you for dedicating your time and energy to supporting my child. Thank you for caring enough to practice and perfect the art of instructing children at the (in this case) fifth grade level. Because of your knowledge and expertise, (not to mention your big heart,) you are an invaluable source of help and advice for your students' parents.
I, on the other hand, am a parent. My role as my child’s primary educator is constantly changing. I morph through the characters of nursemaid, counselor, nutritionist, cheerleader, tutor, role model, moral coach, and more. My children keep changing, growing, and moving on to different ages, phases, and developmental stages. I struggle to keep up at times. While I’m trying to figure out yesterday, my children have already moved on to tomorrow.
I pick my children up from school; they are often tired, hungry, and cranky. I try to be firm, encouraging, and supportive about homework. I prepare nutritious meals that maybe they’ll eat. I make every effort to get them to bed on time because I know the importance of getting enough sleep. I get up in the night when they’re sick, having bad dreams, or just afraid of the dark. Then I get up early, wake the little sleepy heads, and do it all over again.
Every day, I do my best to say and do the right things when my children are upset, disappointed, or confused. I think through all the “rules” I’ve read: don’t do too much or too little, don’t hover, enable, or coddle. Do be emotionally available; know when to listen, and when to say “no.” And above all, don’t lose your cool…ever.
As parents, we have a mighty responsibility on our shoulders. We are responsible for shaping and guiding our children into the adult people they will become. We must provide a strong ethical foundation, we must encourage self-confidence, and we must keep our children safe, yet prepare them for independent life.
All this we parents do, to the best of our abilities, without the benefit of academic preparation. To my knowledge, there is no Perfect Parenting University or advanced degree in being a Mom or Dad. But, we do have the gift of advisers. Those blessed, wonderful people who freely offer us help and guidance, people such as grandparents, friends, pediatricians, and, yes, those clever, educated, practiced people called teachers.
I know that teachers don’t just teach our children (as if that isn’t enough,) they are also valuable, knowledgeable guides for parents. I gratefully hold teachers in admiration and respect for many reasons.
Yesterday, I met with my youngest son’s teachers. These teachers are busy people with many, many students, and yet they were more than willing to take the time to sit down with me to discuss my concerns. My concerns, by the way, stem from my child’s “special needs,” so we already receive more than our fair share of extra attention. I was impressed and grateful that all these people (four teachers and two aides) were doing so much for the benefit of my child. I was also impressed with their depth of knowledge and generously offered counsel. To my child’s teachers, again I say THANK YOU.
P.S. If you are (or are training to become) a teacher, know that you have powerful influence. Good teachers make big differences, in the lives of their students and—ultimately-- the future of humankind. As the brilliant Dr. Maria Montessori so famously said:
“Whoever touches the life of the child touches the most sensitive point of a whole which has roots in the most distant past and climbs toward the infinite future.”