Sunday, October 15, 2006

Advice for Teachers

"Parental involvement" it's one of those complaints that I run across frequently in the edublogosphere, but perhaps what we really need is more "teacher involvement".

A rough calculation shows that I have dealt with over 25 different teachers in my kids educational careers, and in that time I have seen a wide variety in the quality of teachers, the personality of teachers, and the style of teaching. I have seen strict disciplinarians, teachers that all students love, mother figures, burn outs, etc..., but I have made some observations about somethings that most good teachers have in common.

1. Organization. At the beginning of each school year we make an effort to drop in unannounced on our kids teachers, and one of the first things we notice is how organized their desk is. I know this might seem trivial, but we have noticed a direct correlation between the effectiveness of a teacher and their organizations skills. Teachers with messy desks are usually the same teachers that lose assignments, have trouble finding information if we ask for it, and are less likely to respond to notes from us.

2. Availability. Somehow, the good teachers always find time to talk to us when we drop in to see them. There is nothing more frustrating than playing note tag with a teacher when we are trying to get information or clarify something with the teacher. I recently had a teacher tell me to stop by after school to get some information, but when I did they were in the middle of a "conference". Don't tell me to stop by unless you know you are going to be free to talk with me... I work for a living.

3. Honesty. We know our kids aren't perfect and when we talk to/conference with a teacher we want to know exactly what our child needs to work on, the more specific the better. We don't want to know that our kid is "acting out", we want to know exactly what they did under what circumstance so that we can address it specifically with the child. If our child is struggling with something, don't tell us that they need help with "math" tell us that they don't know their "6x times tables".

4. Email. Everyone else in the world uses it, but for some reason teachers don't use it to help with communicating with parents. Instead of sending a note to school with a 1st grader, it would be so much easier if we could send a email and know the teacher was going to read it in a timely manner. In addition, instead of sending all those copied notes, send us an email, I know not every parent uses email, but a large majority do.

5. Pre-plan homework. We love teachers that give us all the homework for the week on the Mondays. That way we can have the kids work ahead if we know that they have a soccer game on Wednesday.

So teachers, if you work on your "teacher involvement" we parents will have an easier time working on "parental involvement".


MellowOut said...

Excellent list. I especially agree with you about the organization and the honesty parts. If you want results as a teacher, you need to start by being specific when there is a problem. It saves you, the parents, and the student a lot of hassle if you focus directly on what kind of behavior is occurring and exactly what the student is behind in.

That teacher was wrong to have a "conference" when you were coming. Although emergencies come up, I can tell this probably wasn't the case. If another teacher wants something, we need to be able to tell our colleagues that the parent coming in for a meeting comes first.

My only quibble is about e-mail. In a perfect world where everyone (parents, teachers, and administrators) had e-mail and used in a timely manner, I would agree with you entirely. Unfortunately, not all parents have e-mail or answer them on time (or teachers...or administrators), so a teacher cannot depend on e-mail communication. If a parent prefers to correspond by e-mail, though, I try to do so as much as possible. I also like the idea of having a website for classes where parents are told what's going on in the week and can find their children's homework assignments (and download, if possible).

BTW, congrats on the great job you're doing with your niece. Good luck.

rory said...

I don't think that email should replace other communication, but should be used more. In 25 teachers we have only had one that used email effectively. None of the other teachers have sent home their email, though some asked for ours... and then never used them.

Thanks for the compliment.