Education Report: Thank teachers who made a difference

Time to thank teachers who made a difference.

School is out and the kids are probably already becoming a nuisance around the house. They will be off to camp, the city park, their baseball league or some other activity soon enough. Before they are out of sight and out of mind, I would like to suggest an activity for both parents and students.

Today would be a wonderful time to talk together about the past year and which teachers or activities your kids liked the most.

Most of the year, you had to pry information out of them as if it were encased in concrete. “How was school today?” “Fine,” was the usual answer, if you got more than a grunt. “What did you do?” “Nothing.” You recognize the conversation, don’t you?

They might be more willing now to talk about what they really liked, not just what happened. They might tell you about things they did with friends and teachers that they never mentioned before. They might even admit that they actually enjoyed school this year.

Kids, even those in kindergarten, start the school year with certain notions based on what they have heard from an older sibling or a friend. They may begin with a distrust of a particular teacher because of something they overheard on the baseball field. They may have decided even before the first day that they weren’t going to like algebra because of something you said about your experience with it.

By the same token, they may have entered into an activity or class confident that they would enjoy it only to learn that it is not what they expected. Disappointment will follow frustration as they struggle with this through the school year.

Although they said nothing to you at the time, they may now confess their feelings.

Useful information

It is nice to know these things. For one thing, this information can help you when they are planning next year’s activities. You can use the knowledge from today’s conversation to help guide them into or away from situations that warn of failure in the upcoming school year.

Don’t be misled. Your children will continue to act as if you are dumber than dirt and pretend to ignore all of your advice and counsel. After all, they feel confident that they know more than you about school (You went to school during the Stone Age, remember?), and what they don’t know their friends do.

Talk with them just the same. They will hear much more than they let on.

And they will actually heed what you say — once you are out of earshot.

In fact, much of the “wisdom” they share with their friends will be what you have talked about with them.

And here is the second part of today’s activity: note which teachers or activities earned praise from your children and plan to share the information. Share the information by writing a brief note to the teacher or principal relating how much your child enjoyed the teacher’s class. If it was a special activity, share that too.

Teachers and principals always want feedback on what they are doing.

They usually hear from those who are unhappy or dissatisfied. They hear less often from those with something positive to offer.

Teachers are human. (Surprise!) They never tire of hearing that they did something with the students in their class that connected with at least one child.

They may know that the activities and lessons they plan are correct. What they don’t know is how well received those activities or plans were.

Brief contact

Parents often discover, usually when their children turn 24 that they actually listened to you from time to time. You get to see your kids grow up and mature into decent adults. Teachers, however, get to see “their kids” for a school year and then must send them on to the next teacher while they prepare for a new group.

It may take you 15 minutes to write a brief note and send it to a teacher at the school your child attended. Regardless, it is well worth the effort you make. You will be giving the teacher some valuable feedback he or she can use to reinforce (or rework) plans for next year. That information will directly affect the next class of students and may do more for the overall success of students than any other parent/school activity.

In addition, you are going to make one teacher very happy. A little praise goes a long way.

Charles Cummins, Ed.D., is a retired school administrator. Send questions to him at: [email protected]

Categories: Life and Arts

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