What Teachers Wish Parents Knew: Part Two of a Two-Part Series
In our last issue we asked teachers what they most want parents to know. We had so many good responses that we decided to make it a two-part series. So parents, let’s put on our “listening ears” and let some of our local educators educate us!
Teacher: Kimberlee Hairston, Salk Elementary, Tulsa Public Schools.
Kimberlee has taught kindergarten through 6th grade in Tulsa Public Schools for 22 years. She previously taught at Columbus Elementary and Celia Clinton Elementary. Her primary focus has been 3rd and 4th grade.
She has a degree in Music Education from Oral Roberts University and received her elementary education certification from Langston University.
• Please don’t view suggestions that teachers make as criticism of your child or of your parenting. I’ve had battles with parents when I’ve suggested that their child might need testing or other help. These suggestions are made out of a desire to make your child as successful as he or she can be. When we have a parent’s support we can be a team working together. Parent support helps us do our job well and helps the child do well.
• Remember that sometimes the stories your children tell you when they get home are only half the story. Try to put faith in your child’s teacher.
• When children say they don’t have homework, that doesn’t always mean they don’t. If a child consistently says he doesn’t have homework, parents need to check into it. We try to be very consistent with homework in elementary school so students and parents know what to expect. All TPS teachers will have web pages this year that can be accessed from your child’s school website. By checking online, you can find out if your child has homework, or you can call the teacher.
• Feel free to visit your child’s classroom. I always want parents to feel welcome to come and visit or volunteer. If possible, give the teacher 24 hours notice and always check in at the office.
• Join PTA. Attend all the functions for your child that you can, and let the school know if an event doesn’t fit into your schedule. If more parents would speak up about their schedules, we could find the best times to schedule events. We want parents to be involved!
Teacher: Jan Heerwagen, Union 6th and 7th Grade Center.
Jan has taught 2nd, 6th, and 7th grades for 30 years for Union Public Schools. Currently she teaches 7th grade science—a subject she is “passionate” about. Jan has a degree in Elementary Education from OSU, but is certified to teach language, history and science. Her advice can help ease the tensions of the challenging middle school years.
• Go to Open House so you can get information about the teacher and the class being taught. E-mail the teachers, if possible, and tell them your name, e-mail address and phone number. Do a grade check every two weeks with your child’s counselor or online. I know up until now you have had a perfect child and don’t think you need to monitor your child’s progress. That was before puberty! Your child is a new animal from this point on.
• Invest in an assignment notebook or agenda so your child can write down all his or her daily assignments. At the beginning of school, check the agenda every night. After a time, let your child be responsible for his or her assignments, but check it weekly. Then, if you notice grades dropping, start checking it again daily. In some cases it may be necessary to determine involvement in extracurricular activities based on agenda completion.
• An important no-no: Do not walk your child into the school! Middle school is not a time for your child to be known as a “mommy’s boy” or “daddy’s girl.” Life can be very difficult for your child if that happens.
• Have a set time for homework so it is not the last thing your child is doing at night. Your child may need a break right after school, but then he needs to get on with his homework.
• If your child is struggling with a subject, talk to the teacher or enlist a tutor.
• Attendance is extremely important to your child’s success in middle school. Kids can get behind very easily. Try to set appointments [orthodontist, doctor, etc.] before or after school.
• Keep the lines of communication open between you and your child. Remember, hormones cause emotional changes in both males and females. Girls will often cry and boys will cry and get angry. Their bodies are not used to the hormonal storms they are experiencing, so be patient. Tell them you love them even when they are unlovable on a particular day.
Teacher: Rabu Leyva, Thoreau Demonstration Academy, Tulsa Public Schools
Rabu has been teaching for nine years, first at the Union 8th Grade Center and currently at Thoreau Demonstration Academy. He has a degree from Oral Roberts University in Communication Arts Education. He previously taught drama and currently teaches math and science. He also coaches middle school basketball.
• Try to remember that your child is the rule, not the exception. Every parent sees his or her child as the exception to the school’s rules, but your child has to follow the rules just like everyone else.
• Teachers love your kids. Most teachers have a love for the children they teach, even if they are getting on to them. It’s rare for a teacher to pick on a child.
• Teachers gossip a lot less than you think. If your student is getting into trouble at school, don’t think the teachers are getting together and talking about your child. We don’t have time!
Teacher: Candace Matthews, Holland Hall
Candace has a Masters in Economics from Penn State and a Bachelors in Economics from Rutgers. She had a career in banking and telecommunications before deciding to teach 10 years ago. She previously taught 5th grade math and is now teaching 7th grade math.
• Experience math every day. Be actively engaged with your child’s math learning. Cooking, traveling, shopping, sports, gardening, games, pets – you name it, math’s involved, and it’s fun! Help your child see that math is part of the familiar patterns, puzzles, activities and problems that occur every day. Experiencing math at home develops a strong number sense and builds confidence. Additionally, children become more flexible problem solvers and creative thinkers. Children accustomed to connecting with math every day are less likely to develop feelings of anxiety about math at school.
• Be involved with homework. Encourage your child to gather all resources – notes, textbook, examples, directions, etc. before starting assignments. Ask your child to “teach” you—with words, actions, or pictures—what the homework is about. Talking through concepts boosts confidence and deepens understanding. If your child gets stuck, help guide the process without giving answers. Make good use of worked-out examples – there are always examples in your student’s resources. Ask your child guiding questions such as “How should we start?” “What’s the next step?” “Does this seem reasonable?” and “Did you answer the question?” Roadblocks happen, so keep positive as you help your child balance feelings of frustration that may come with hard work. Skills developed through the process of problem solving are just as important as getting a correct answer. If homework becomes a daily struggle, or takes way too long, contact your child’s teacher for specific strategies and suggestions.
• Model lifelong learning. Parent support plays a huge role in student success. At home, an atmosphere that values education is an incredible blessing. Be interested, engaged, and involved in all parts of your child’s education. Model lifelong learning in your own family life. Help your children see education as an enriching and essential part of life.