Gabriele is an 18-year-old aspiring writer from Jacksonville, FL. She loves the wit of Charles Dickens, the smell of sharpened pencils, and the charm of coffee shops. She lives her life by a Benjamin Franklin quote: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write the things worth reading or do the things worth writing.”
We were out of our minds.
I don’t know if it was the scorching Georgia heat or the fact that the school year was coming to a rapid end, but on that fateful day in May, my fifth grade science class flat out lost their minds. We were throwing paper and screaming incessantly at anyone who dared to listen. We carved our initials into the vandalized desks and drew Crayola tattoos on our swollen cheeks. We told telephone secrets and crunched on stale Cheerios. We twirled in circles until our dizzy brains squashed onto the desk of our worn out teacher. Our fragile teacher finally awoke from her stage of denial, took one harsh look at us, and told us she would return in a short while. She left.
We were astounded. We never ran a teacher out before. We hoorayed and hi-fived and the hoopla was so contagious that eventually our celebration took defeat to our energy, already running low from the rebellion we partook in beforehand. We finally eased down and a few curious souls began to open our teacher’s cabinets. We found cereal, pictures, stacks and stacks of paper, and something else that frightened us greatly: forty-six boxes of Alka-Seltzer. Suddenly, we felt ashamed. Our attempt to have fun created so much pain in our fragile teacher that she resorted to taking strong doses of Alka-Seltzer just to get through the day—or, so that was what went through our eleven year old heads. We filed back into our seats and sat there quietly until our teacher returned. We were perfect little angels the rest of the day.
We eventually realized that the Alka-Seltzer was for a project we’d be working on, but until that project came I actually thought that we were doing damage to our teacher, and for the first time in my years of schooling, I thought about my teachers and what they must be going through.
Now that I have graduated high school, I have seen hundreds of teachers. And out of those teachers I believe that—in my incredibly biased opinion—I live with the best one: my father. Over the years I have seen him work with students and inspire them to become something greater than what they have ever imagined. Sometimes, however, his job becomes too stressful, and it is hard to watch him struggle with, not the students, but the parents.
A social studies teacher I once had in junior high told me that he works with children because “they still have hope” but it was the adults that “couldn’t get any better.”
I disagree. Parents are just as capable of learning as students are, and I interviewed just a few of my hundreds of teachers, including my father, to analyze what teachers most want the parents of their students to know.
“There are two types of students:
1) Those who are internally motivated, and
2) Those who are not. Adjust your parenting accordingly.”
It’s obvious that students are more successful when motivated. Even average students can do better than excellent students when properly motivated. However, the key to motivation is to determine which type of motivation your student responds to. Most students are externally motivated. They do projects because their parents want them to or because they have to or because there’s some shiny reward—or grubby punishment—at the end. Internally motivated students do projects simply because they want to better themselves in that area. Although you may sometimes feel like your teenager couldn’t care less about what you tell them, your words weigh heavily in their lives. When you motivate your student, keep in mind that internally motivated students do not need as much motivation as externally motivated students. If your student is internally motivated, the constant motivation—especially if it is viewed as strict or negative—will only feel like nagging and will cause the student to second guess his success and lose his stamina. And if you don’t motivate the externally motivated students enough, he may lose sight of the reward.
“It is human nature to lie. Thus, students lie.”
Some common lies: “I turned that assignment in. My teacher just hasn’t finished grading it yet.” “My teacher lost it.” “My teacher hates me.” “I don’t have homework.” “I finished all my homework at school.” “Everybody failed that test.” Though it would be lovely to imagine that your teenagers are perfect at school just as they are at home, that is not always the case. Defending your teenager is one thing, but believing a blatant lie before researching and looking into the situation is another. Before you yell at the teacher for something your teenager said, remember that there are always two sides to every story. Trust your teachers; they are on the same team as you are.
“It’s not our job to parent. No. That’s your job.”
This should be self-explanatory. Parent your teenagers. Discipline them and teach them right from wrong, so when they get into the classroom, they are ready to receive an education from an educator, and not a slap on the wrist from a babysitter.
“We have 100 plus students. You have maybe one or two.”
Sometimes parents forget that their teenager is not the only teen in the school. There are hundreds of other students there for the same reason your child is. Constant emails and voicemails about the same problem from the same student can get tiring when the teacher is dealing with hundreds of students. So be patient. Relax. Get yourself a nice breakfast.
“Your students actually do work hard.”
Don’t forget to acknowledge that in most cases, your teenager really is working hard. It’s not easy being a teenager, and school doesn’t make it any easier. With constant essays and testing and required reading and projects and after school study sessions, remember that high school is not always a walk in the park, even if that is what you experienced in high school. Teachers want parents to know that their students work hard for their grades, and that is something they should be proud of.
“Enabling your child will only hurt them in the future.”
It always irks me when my brother blames my mom for not having his homework in his backpack. It is his responsibility to make sure that his homework is in his backpack, and if it isn’t, then it is his fault. Your teenagers should take responsibility for their actions and learn how to just own it. Everyone makes mistakes, and enabling them to make these mistakes or enabling them to be lazy and nonproductive by doing everything for them because you want them to be “happy” will only rob them their happiness when they enter into adulthood and the hand holding is inevitably over.
“Your students will be more successful academically if they organize themselves in the classroom.”
The number one cause for poor grades is a lack of organization. Reduced organization skills do more damage than a lost assignment every now and then. A lack of organization affects the student’s ability to prioritize, schedule, plan, keep track, adjust, juggle, and remember.
“Students need to know when to speak and when not to speak.”
Teaching your students when to speak and when to be quiet will save your teenager a great deal of detentions in the long run. Proverbs tells us that “even a fool is wise if he keeps silent” and Will Rogers says, “Never miss a good chance to shut up.” This wisdom will benefit your teenager greatly. There is a time for everything, and sometimes it is time to speak up. However, sometimes it’s just best to say, “yes sir” and keep it moving.
“We have lives just like you.”
This is not to say, “leave us alone because we have a life”, but that teachers understand that each and every student has a home life, as well as their parents. Communicate with your student’s teachers any trouble that is going on at home because they really do care. Most teachers, like you, are parents. They have children, too, and understand what it’s like to want the best for them. And yes, teachers do buy whipped cream.
“We really are on your side.”
Both you and the teachers have the same goal: success for your students. Teachers are not “out to get you” nor do they have some secret agenda. They really just want your students to succeed and earn the education they so greatly deserve. So talk with them if you have an issue and try to find a common ground. In the end, it’s all about the student.
Photo: amboo who? from Flickr