Skip to content

What Teachers Want You to Know

An Inside Look at the Real Job of Teaching

By Michelle Bourg

Teaching has to be one of the most rewarding professions out there. Helping to mold the next generation, seeing “the light come on” when they finally grasp an elusive concept, watching as their confidence and skills grow day by day and experiencing wonder and fascination through the eyes of a child—teachers cite all these things as inspirations to enter the field and what continues to motivate them in the classroom during every school year.

But, just like parenting, teaching doesn’t occur in a vacuum. There’s a whole world of opinions, regulations, interruptions—in other words, life—to be negotiated. And also just like parenting, there are things about the role that teachers wish others knew, but don’t often have the opportunity to talk about. Some of these things might surprise you; others you, as a parent, will surely recognize.

One of the first things that teachers want parents to know is that they’re on the same team: both parties want kids to not only get the best education possible, but also to be well rounded and happy. Teachers know that parental involvement is crucial to this process,and they welcome parents’ questions and input. They stress that the lines of communication are always open, something some parents don’t always take advantage of, whether due to unfamiliarity with the process or simply discomfort with the idea of bridging a gap in communication.

“We need to understand that we need to be a united front so we can help the children,” says Kourtney Mance, who teaches sixth-grade social studies and reading at Woodward Academy. She also says when teachers contact parents to ask for help with their child, it’s after they’ve already done all they could to “address the issues multiple times and probably multiple ways.”

Also, what teachers would most like us to know is how much they genuinely care about every one of their students. And even though they might teach a class of 20 or more students each day, with a lesson plan designed for the entire class, they are ensuring that each child in that class is attended to. Also, each child in each classroom is different and requires special care, since each one has a different personality and may learn at a different level.

Ron Clark, founder of the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, noted in an essay published on CNN that many teachers reported experiencing situations in which parents viewed them as an adversary: someone only looking to point out mistakes or deliver bad news when there’s a bump in their child’s educational path. But as part of your child’s education team, teachers want you to know that they always have your child’s interests at heart, even when there’s a difficult situation to discuss.

“The majority of teachers are parents,” says Chelle Wabrek, The Lovett School’s associate head of school and mother of three boys. “We have these intersecting experiences. We come from so much of the same place that parents come from. We want what’s best for our kid and in this case, we have teachers who are able to shift perspectives because they’ve sat in both seats.”

Just like parenting, teaching has its stresses, frustrations and heartaches, but in the end, it’s one of the most meaningful roles in life. When parents and teachers see themselves as partners in the educational process, as opposed to “providers” and “consumers,” the relationship becomes not only more pleasant and productive, but it also builds a solid foundation for students to learn and achieve, which is the real purpose of it all.

When parents take advantage of the ways offered by teachers to communicate or proactively open a dialogue, that partnership can flourish. While time is at a premium for everyone, taking time to go beyond the “script” at a conference, such as talking about a child’s habits, peer relations and events at home can give both parties invaluable insight into the things that factor into academic performance.

One thing parents may find surprising is that teachers believe that children should be allowed, sometimes, to fail. “Childhood is the best time to make mistakes,” says Trey Veazey, assistant head of lower school at the Walker School. “It can be tough, as an educator, to watch a student grapple with misunderstandings, but there is great triumph to be found—for both the teacher and the learner—when the picture comes into focus.”

Allison Riley, a Spanish teacher and world languages department chair at Pace Academy, agrees: “Nobody’s perfect. So as much as parents might want their children to be perfect, they know from their own experience that they’re not perfect. They need to allow their kids to fail. Getting angry would be the most detrimental thing to do.”

There are multiple ways for teachers and parents to help students overcome their failures. One is to take a different approach to studying. “Parents often focus on: ‘You got this answer wrong and you need to get it right next time,’” Riley says. “But maybe the kid didn’t study the right way, or maybe they’re lost and need to see their teacher to get their help or talk to another student to get them to explain it better.”

Another, which you as parents may be surprised with, is preparing your children for adversity by talking to them about it ahead of time. “Failure in our world isn’t something we have modeled in a way that lets them believe what we’re saying about failure,” Wabrek says. “… Kids’ fear of disappointing their parents is so real, and we want to make sure we’re talking about failure with kids before the failure happens.”

That includes dealing with the emotions that come with your child failing a test or seeing their overall grades slip. Wabrek says as parents our initial reaction is to make those emotions go away, but “if we as parents learn to deal with these emotions let them sit with them, it will help them in a world fraught with so much anxiety and depression.”

Now, as your child prepares to start another school year this fall, you have a better understanding of how his or her teachers feel on an everyday basis.

Back To Top