What I Want My Son’s Teacher to Know

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Confession: my son started 3rd grade this year, and I cried after dropping him off at school. I cry every year (for the love, someone please tell me this will stop one day so I can save up tears for the day we leave him at college).

I cry because I hate seeing him grow up, and yet I’m so proud of the young man he’s becoming. I cry because I know he’ll be in someone else’s care, and yet I know he will be respectful of that person. I cry because I have way less control on his environment when he’s at school, and yet I know he’s responsible.

But then, about ten minutes later, I always pull myself together and handle the remainder of the day just fine. As I think through the school year, I know I’ve done my due diligence. I’ve spoken with his teacher and the school nurse to ensure all parties are updated on Z’s allergy action plan. I’ve covered supplying the class popsicles so that all of the allergic kids can be included (thanks to our great PTA, who allowed me to the be the class popsicle pusher).

My biggest anxiety is always the fact that I never really *know* Z’s teacher—you know, the one that is with my son the majority of his waking hours five days each week for the next nine months—especially at the start of the school year.

So, there have been a few things rolling around in my brain as I think through what I wish his teacher knew at the beginning of this new school year.

new school year

I appreciate you more than you know. I know you’ve got a bajillion things you have to juggle these days. Common Core, standardized testing, working with 29 (29!) kids in one room with different needs and learning styles. I appreciate the hard work you have already done to start the school year off well, and I will continue to be thankful for your hard work throughout the year. Note: my dad was a teacher while I was growing up, so I know you face a sea of paperwork and a mound of requirements to fulfill—all things that are completely off the radar for most of us parents.

You’ve got rockstar status with me. That you can stand up in front of a class of 29 (29!) kids and capture their attention with your hand signals, code words, and whatever other classroom management techniques you use, that right there is an unbelievable achievement to me. Plus, dear teacher, you know things. You know so much stuff. And you can teach it to the kids. Really, if I’m a bit tongue-tied around you, don’t be surprised, I am in awe of the things you can do.

It’s not just about allergies. I know our first couple of conversations were about Z’s food allergies, and although a large goal of mine for this year is to be sure he is learning in a safe environment (i.e. not being hauled off to the ER in an ambulance), I’m all about him learning. And growing. And continuing to be challenged. I’d love to talk with you (although, referring to your rockstar status, you may have to do more of the talking until I’m a bit more comfy) about ways we can work together to make his school experience a great one.

I’m still learning how to advocate. Because I’m concerned about it not being “just about allergies” and because I’ve worked with parents of college students who could easily be labeled Helicopter Parents, it has taken me a long time to feel comfortable in my role as my son’s best advocate. The absolute last thing I want to be is a Helicopter Mom, so I’m still learning the best way to walk that fine line. I could really use your help with this. I’ll do my best to be a polite advocate for my son and not a Helicopter Mom. It would be helpful if you would be willing to give kind, honest feedback in return.

I’ve got your back. You communicate with me and work with me on how we can support you in and out of the classroom, and I’ve got your back a million times over. We once had a teacher spend almost our entire fall parent/teacher conference telling us about her sons’ accomplishments. This is not the kind of communication I crave. I crave communication that will help us work together for the success of the child you are teaching. If you want to throw in a family story from time to time, I’m cool with that. I do like to know the “person” behind the rockstar, but I need it to be balanced with a clear desire in your words and actions to see your students succeed.

I wish you all the best. Really, I do. Thank you for all of the work you do to help your students succeed. I hope together we can make this a great year.

Tiffany Self

Tiffany Self is a wife, mom to "Z", and a lover of words. In an ironic twist, she is an English class dropout who now writes for a living. Tiffany is a freelancer in the Chicago suburbs by way of Seattle and Southern Oregon. She writes about her journey of parenting a child with multiple severe food allergies, asthma, and environmental allergies. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

2 Comments to What I Want My Son’s Teacher to Know

  1. Great post, Tiffany! A lot of my friends are teachers, and I know they feel that many parents have NO IDEA the amount of extra work they do at home — it’s awesome that you recognize that, and thank them for it.

    • Tiffany

      Thanks Heather! I know that even in the past 10 years, a teacher’s role has changed dramatically…but I saw all my dad had to do in the off hours, so it gives me some insight to the life today’s teachers lead. I’m thankful for those good ones that stick to it!

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