• Fri, Aug 26 2011

Back To School: How Not To Annoy Your Kid’s Teacher

Back-to-school time is here and lots of moms are running around picking up school supplies and backpacks and environmentally-friendly sandwich bags. Others are figuring out how to ease their kid’s anxiety – and their own – with all of this back-to-school craziness that includes a more rigid routine, new friends, new classroom. But, really, what parents should be thinking about as day one of a new school approaches is this: how can I not piss off my child’s teacher?

Sure, we all go in with the best of intentions. We want to love our kids’ teachers and they want them to love us back. But lots of parents out there are unknowingly guilty of rubbing teachers the wrong way, especially during the first week of school. The key word here is “unknowingly” – most of us have no idea that we’re annoying.

Mommyish met with three hard-working teachers to find out what irritates them on the parent front (each spoke anonymously so as not to identify their pesky subjects). Here are their top tips for becoming the teacher’s pet. No ass-kissing necessary.

  • Be respectful of a teacher’s time. This is a big one, folks. One teacher I spoke with was setting up her kindergarten classroom in mid-August (the school was officially closed), when a mother showed up at the door. “I was driving in the area,” she told the teacher, “and so I thought I’d drop by to let you now that J. went to camp this summer. They had a special Harry Potter-themed day in which they cast a magical spell and ever since then, she’s afraid to go the bathroom.” Turns out the kid had zero “bathroom” issues once school started. This mom was a bit of a whack-job.
  • If you need to discuss an issue, set up a meeting. Had Bathroom Mom truly been concerned, her best bet would have been to book a meeting with the teachers via phone or email to discuss her concerns. Teachers love this! They are more than happy to chat about any issues you may have – it’s part of their job – but they appreciate you going through the proper channels rather than cornering them in the hallway or randomly showing up at the classroom door to discuss. It’s called respect, people.
  • Let teachers forge their own opinions about your child. Don’t bombard your child’s teacher on day one of school with random info on their eating habits or short attention spans. Again, if it’s a larger issue, discuss in advance of the school year. If not, wait at least two to three weeks to set up a meeting (or wait for the teacher to contact you). In other words, give them some time to get to know your child.
  • Show up on time. Teachers are not babysitters. They have things they need to get done at the end of the school day and that does not include entertaining your child during off hours. Same goes for drop-off times. Sure, things come up and you’re going to be late on occasion. Teachers get that. But consistently showing up late is disruptive to the whole class. Plus, your child won’t get a sense of routine, which in many cases can lead to other issues like anxiety.
  • Read the school newsletter. We’re all busy people. Most of us are running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to balance work with life. But it’s important to know what’s going on in your child’s classroom. Most schools have gone paperless and will send weekly emails with important information (for example, to bring in a piece of fruit for a science experiment, or to come dressed in yellow for a special theme day). “I get that you have jobs and two other kids to worry about,” says one teacher. “We have 15 students to worry about.” She recommends putting aside five minutes each week in which to read school emails and newsletters. “I not, your child is the one who’s going to suffer [if he shows up empty-handed]. He loses in the end.”
  • Empower your kids. Lunch can be a frustrating time for kindergarten teachers. They are, of course, there to help kids open and close containers and encourage them to eat. But they suggest teaching your children at home how to open and close said containers and not to send them with ones that they for sure can’t open. Ditto food options. Don’t pack a lunch filled with items your kid won’t eat. Stick with what he knows – and likes.
  • Be patient. If you’re emailing a teacher or school administrator, you should expect a response within 24 hours. One teacher’s biggest pet peeve? When you write, “I expect to hear back from you IMMEDIATELY.” The all-caps are rude, plus you’d be better off leaving out the word “immediately” altogether. Someone will get back to you.
  • Know the rules. One teacher gets annoyed when parents buy their sixth-grade students a massive Starbucks Frappuccino right before school. “I tell them to throw it away,” she says. “They’re not respecting the rules. How can kids be expected to follow the rules when parents aren’t modeling appropriately?”

So there you have it. It’s always nice to be reminded that teachers are people, too. Like us, they’re balancing careers with a busy family life. And, like us, they have a job to do. So no more cornering them in the hallway or reciting a list of concerns on the first day of school (yes, people actually do this!). Just be respectful and you’re bound to have a positive experience all around.

    (Photo: Digital Vision)
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  • Makenna

    Just to add a few:
    DON’T do your child’s homework. You aren’t fooling anyone, and the child gets nothing out of it. DO help with it, however. Know these are two different things.

    If you have to reschedule a meeting, make sure you are there. Don’t make your teacher scramble to accommodate you, and then stand them up.

    DON’T tell your teacher how to do their job. They have a college degree in this, they know what they are doing.

    A teacher’d least

  • Makenna

    Just to add a few:
    DON’T do your child’s homework. You aren’t fooling anyone, and the child gets nothing out of it. DO help with it, however. Know these are two different things.

    If you have to reschedule a meeting, make sure you are there. Don’t make your teacher scramble to accommodate you, and then stand them up.

    DON’T tell your teacher how to do their job. They have a college degree in this, they know what they are doing.

    A teacher’s least favorite part of the job is often dealing with parents. Please be mindful of this, be respectful, and the year will go great, for you, your teacher, and most importantly, your child. :-)

  • Nicole

    Amen! omg, I wish I could print this out and distribute it to parents at my school. One thing I think parents forget is teachers are professionals, too. You wouldn’t walk into someone’s office unannounced or in the middle of a meeting (a.k.a. class time).

    I would also like to add “Follow the school rules – especially if your children are with you.” Parents who park in the No Parking zone in the parking lot, or let their kids run around campus unsupervised after school while they sit and chat at the picnic tables send mixed messages to their kids that it’s ok to not follow the rules at school and not listen to your teachers.

  • Sanders

    Oh: it’s fine if you don’t join the parent group or can’t get involved in whatever way- but don’t then complain about the very things that the parent group is there to do. Example- you don’t like school fundraisers? Go to the damn meeting and tell them. Or, you weren’t happy with the school carnival/reading night/etc? Well, were you in on the planning? No? Then shut it. I don’t want to hear it.