Back to School for Teachers

We know that once teachers go back to school for planning week and the first days of school our To-Do lists seem to never end. Back to school for teachers is a very busy time of year. 

There is so much to do to get ready and then the students arrive and there is so much to do. Let’s be honest, it’s what our lives are like all school year long. Too much to do and so little time. 

Over the years we have had relatively easy transitions into school, somewhat stressful transitions, and incredibly anxious transitions back to school. Often times there are many things that are out of our control that can cause stress. A construction site that has not been completed at the school, a new partner you have never met, an unorganized administration, a mandatory change in classrooms, too many meetings and zero classroom prep during planning week, are all things that can cause teachers so much stress and anxiety. We know! We have been there!

We have some suggestions for a smooth and less stressful transition into a new school year:

1) Go into your classroom before planning week
If your school lets you go to your class before planning week, try to go in a couple of days. Honestly, doing this has been a life saver for us. Not only do you get to catch up with the office staff before everyone else, but you can turn up the music and clean, organize, make lists, and set up. Doing this lets you cross some things off your to do list before you are at the will of admin, parents, and students. 

2) Do not compare your classroom to Pinterest or Instagram classrooms
It is really hard to see perfectly beautiful classrooms on social media and think that we are not doing enough because ours do not look like that. Know that it is ok. Your classroom will be perfect for your students because you prepared and worked so hard on it. You can take some inspiration from classrooms and set ups from social media, but know that your students will love their classroom and it doesn’t have to be perfect.  

3) Try your best, but know it’s ok to not be or feel 100% ready 
Don’t feel like you have to have the whole year planned out by day one. Take it a month, a week, or a day at a time. And if your classroom is a work in progress, that is okay too. No one knows what you didn’t put up except for you. 

4) The first few days of school should be about getting to know your students and routines and procedures of the classroom
The best thing is to spend time getting to know your students and letting them know what systems are in place and finding out what you can do to set your students up for success. One piece of advice to try to form your own opinions about students. Even if a previous teacher had some challenges, be open to getting to know each and every student. 

5) Email parents to let them know how their child has transitioned into the classroom within the first week of school
Even if it is just a quick line to tell them how their child made new friends, or is showing enthusiasm for the new school year. It is great to stay positive at the beginning and try to find good things to say about each child.

7) If you see issues with students setup a meeting sooner rather than later
If a child is having a rough transition, it is best to meet with parents early on so you can develop a support plan. Let the parent know that you are on their side and want to partner with them to help support the child. 

8) Have fun and be flexible
Try to have fun with your students, even if you are feeling the stresses of the start of school. Your plans might change and just go with it, be flexible. There are so many opportunities to model flexibility in our classrooms. Often times a lesson, technology, or project will not go the way you planned it. It’s great to point out to kids when things go wrong, and model how to overcome challenges. 

9) Self Care
What we must all remember is that we can only do our best, and if things do not get done, that is ok. Teachers often feel that we must give and sacrifice ourselves for our classrooms. But guess what? That is not sustainable. The most important thing is to prioritize and find a BALANCE!


Happy Summer!

This post goes out to teachers everywhere! Congrats on another year in the classroom. Whether it is your first year teaching or your 20th year, you deserve great appreciation for a year spent teaching and encouraging children. It is no easy task to be responsible for the learning and well being of other people’s children. Thank you for all you do!

The end of the year brings many things, including end of the year gratitude from parents and students. Take in that gratitude, it is well earned and well deserved! You might even want to save some of these cards and words of encouragement to take out and read when you are having a tough day as a reminder of why you continue to teach. You may realize that a child or parent that seemed to be really challenging throughout the year, really is grateful for all you have done. That is the best feeling when you know you have reached someone.

We have some advice for when you finish closing out yet another school year: ENJOY YOUR SUMMER!!!  You have definitely earned it.

Dear teachers, as best as you can, leave school work aside this summer, put your long to-do list on hold, it will still be there in August. You need this time to rejuvenate and do all the things you don’t have time for during the school year.

Our Advice for a Successful Summer:

  1. Do what you want
  2. Put yourself first
  3. Spend time with people that lift you up
  4. Get outdoors
  5. Exercise
  6. Read for fun
  7. Take naps
  8. Go on a trip
  9. Hike
  10. Go to the beach
  11. Explore your city
  12. Meet friends for lunch
  13. Do something creative
  14. Go to a comedy show
  15. Visit a museum

However you choose to spend your time this summer, just know that your value is not tied to how productive you are. Remember that when you start to feel bad about spending all day at the beach, by a pool, or with a good book in hand. Remember that when your mind is telling you, you aren’t a good teacher if you don’t completely have your next school year planned out before school even begins. Give yourself this time to be you, do you, focus on you. Taking time for yourself this summer will ultimately lead to a better, more balanced person, and teacher. Give yourself permission to just enjoy the beautiful moments that summer brings!

It is easy to think that because teachers have summer vacation off, that they don’t work hard. It should be highlighted that educators need the summer to recharge in order to do all that they do with love and enthusiasm for their students.

Teacher Appreciation Week

This week is Teacher Appreciation week! Appreciation of the hard work that teachers do every day is near and dear to our hearts. Teachers are doing very important work in society, and often can feel undervalued and overwhelmed. While it would be ideal to appreciate teachers all year long, it is nice to have a reminder and an entire week dedicated to appreciating teachers.

Ultimately the best way that society can appreciate teachers is with:

1) Support for students

2) Respectable compensation

2) Smaller class sizes

3) Resources and supplies for classes

4) Societal respect

These are our hopes and dreams for the teaching profession! We understand that these might be a bit difficult to accomplish this week, but a teacher can dream! We hope that one day teachers all over the country have these things.

But seriously, we thought we would offer some realistic ways to appreciate the teacher in your life this week.

1) A handwritten card from students

2) Small treats to keep in the desk

3) Coffee or tea

4) Flowers for their desks

5) Verbal affirmation or a positive email

6) A positive email to their supervisor

7) A bottle of wine

These are all little things that go a long way in making a teacher feel appreciated and supported. While we keep fighting for the top four, it is good to feel like we have people supporting and appreciating the work we do!
We also found this great resource with everything you need to appreciate your teachers or even plan events to appreciate teachers at your school!

Report Cards

We are headed into the last 2 months of school, and along with field day, open house, graduation, and all the other fun activities of the last few weeks of school, writing report cards is something that teachers need to complete as they wrap up the school year. Whether you give out letter grades, numbers, or narrative report cards are one way to communicate with parents about how their child has grown throughout the school year.

In our opinion, report cards should not be the end all be all. We need to create intrinsic motivation in our students and focus on progress and the learning process. The focus should not necessarily be on an end grade. To us, report cards should be looked at as a more formal way of communicating to parents all the things we have already been communicating throughout the school year.

Report cards should reflect progress, strengths, and challenges. They should help give both teachers and parents an idea of how they can better support and encourage students. It should also reflect the things that really interest the student.

When writing report cards here are some things to consider:

No Surprises

When a parent receives a report card, they should not be surprised by anything on it. Surprising parents with a student’s struggles on a report card when you are not present, and cannot elaborate and talk through plans to support the student is never a good idea. If a student is having a challenge academically, behaviorally, or socially parents should be notified early on to develop a partnership and to come up with a plan on how to help the child succeed. Report cards should not be the first time a parent is hearing about a concern. This has been one of the best pieces of advice that our mentor and administrator told us as novice teachers, and it is something that we continue to follow and pass on to new teachers.

Start with the Positive

Find positive things to say about the student. Every subject or category should have an honest and positive statement for the student. These could include comments on engagement, participation, perseverance, growth mindset, collaboration, or final projects amongst other things. Highlighting the positives is just as important as highlighting the challenges because it paints a picture of the whole child, and that is what parents want and need to see.

Choose Your Words Wisely

Remember, that while this might be an elementary report card, it is an official document. Therefore always think through what you are writing and trying to say about the student. Try to avoid words like “but” or “although.” You can usually replace those words with “and” or start a new sentence and get the same message across without negating all the positives you started with. Some positive language includes “we look forward to guiding,” “it would be beneficial,” “this student will grow further by,” or “supporting.”

Support

If you are asking parents for support at home, give specific strategies that will help the student. This is especially important as a student transitions from one grade to another and they might need some extra help in certain subjects. Summer vacation is a good time for parents to support a child at home, so giving them exact subjects and strategies to work on are perfect to convey on a report card. However, keep in mind that a report card might not be enough room to detail all of this, so a parent conference might be helpful to set up with the parents or guardians to further explain student support.

Challenge

Parents of students who are “high flyers” often want to know how their child is being challenged and supported in the classroom. If a student is meeting or surpassing all the expectations in your class, it would be helpful for parents if you communicated how they are being challenged and engaged in class. This again gives a whole child picture for parents and it gives them ideas about how the can continue to support and engage their child at home.

The most important thing to remember is that we are placing our own personal judgements on other people’s most valued treasures. Every kid is different and has strengths and challenges. As history has continued to show us, a grade or a number doesn’t always reflect a child’s success. Report cards should not be used as a weapon to shame or punish kids. Rather, they should be used as another form of communication that is a guide and tool to help kids grow and develop.

Snowplow Parenting

Disclaimer: Here at Dreaming Teachers we want to create a space where both teachers and parents feel like they can read and share our posts. The last few weeks we have been writing on topics related to parenting styles and providing tips on how to develop balanced healthy adults. In no way are we trying to shame parents for wanting to be there for their children. We want that and we completely understand it. We simply are here to provide research on how to help kids grow into resilient, balanced adults.

In the last decade, we have seen shifts in parenting styles. Today, gone are the helicopter parents who just hover over their child and monitor the situation. What many are seeing today are parents who, with good intentions, try to make everything perfect for their child. This is all done with the intention of wanting them to have a perfect future where nothing will stand in the way of their success. Experts have coined this as snow plow or lawnmower parenting. These parents clear the road of life for children so that it is perfect without bumps or ice. They want their child to be happy and always thriving, and to accomplish this they remove any sort of impediment in the road of life that might be a hinderance or cause any negative feeling.

We do think this is done with good intentions and parents that choose this form of parenting most likely felt like they were left to fend for themselves as children. Or maybe they experienced this form of parenting to some degree. Either way, we know the intention is to provide the best life for their child. However, what we do or don’t do to help children when they are young has a major effect on how they develop. We can’t think of these learning moments as one-off situations, they have long lasting effects.

In The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt write, “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.” This is an incredibly powerful quote. Often times parents want to clear the road to make it easier and more pleasant for their children. They don’t want them to feel any discomfort or pain. But when we clear out all the roadblocks for our children, we are taking away their learning and development as well. We are taking away so many important learning opportunities that will help them develop and grow the skills they need to become functional in society and adulthood.

According to experts, children who are being raised by snowplow parents “won’t be able to handle failure or solve problems independently. Kids of snowplow parents may quit something instead of settling for second best. (Today’s Parent) In addition, children who are products of over protective parent often lack self confidence or feel inadequate when doing anything. (Psychology Today).

It is unrealistic for your child to always be happy and to always be successful. There will always be things that go wrong that are out of our control. Learning coping mechanisms for disappointment and sadness at early ages, will help children develop skills to conquer the adversity that life brings. If they do not learn these coping mechanisms early on, we are setting them up for major challenges in adulthood. All of a sudden they are exposed to the real world where things go wrong all the time and it is a shock. They are left with a feeling they have never felt and no way of processing. This leads to depression, anxiety, addiction, blaming others for your problems, and not a real sense of reality.

When people are able to navigate adversity and make it out on the other side, there is a sense of confidence that you are able to manage whatever comes your way. When you look back at your life and think of things you have been through, you remember all of the things you learned from the challenges you encountered and how you persevered and worked through a challenge. If you never learn how to face challenges because they have strategically been removed from your life, how will you learn to deal with them when they eventually sneak their way in?

As parents and teachers of course there are situations that need our involvement. What we are talking about is age appropriate setbacks that help kids in development. These include things like losing a science fair, working through typical social dynamics, playing in the backyard without constant adult supervision, falling down and getting up, or not getting the lead in the school play. However, if something comes up that needs intervening, such as your child being repeatedly targeted or their needs not being met, it is our job to step in and support them.

We just can’t jump in and clear out every road block for our children because they will never learn. It is one of life’s greatest challenges to watch people experience setbacks, discomfort, and struggles without trying to solve all of their problems for them. Just know that you are going to be fine. And so is your child! These challenging moments are fleeting but the experiences and lessons of overcoming adversity will carry on into adulthood.

Related Articles:

Helicopter, Snowplow, and Bubble Wrap Parenting

Lawnmower Parents

Todays Parent

Parent Involvement

Unlike any other time in history, parents have access to so much information on parenting and children. They want to make sure that they are doing a good job as parents and that their children are thriving. To do so, many parents are incredibly involved in every aspect of their child’s life. Some researchers call this style of parenting “intensive parenting,” and it is a common form of parenting among upper-middle-class households. According to an article in The Atlantic, intensive parenting includes “Supervised, enriching playtime. Frequent conversations about thoughts and feelings. Patient, well-reasoned explanations of household rules. And extracurriculars. Lots and lots of extracurriculars.”

There does seem to be some positives in this style of parenting, and we understand why many aspire to achieve this level of involvement in parenting. However, as we have written in previous posts before, our jobs as parents and teachers is to raise and educate children who will grow up to be strong, resilient, balanced, well adjusted adults. As you can probably imagine, living a life where your parents constantly step in to solve all troubles, problems, or issues as a child causes some trouble as children grow into adulthood.

This level of parental involvement has begun to reach the business sector as young adults begin their careers. In the New York Times Article When Helicopter Parents Hover, Even at Work, “Within that group of employers, more than 30 percent reported parents submitting a résumé for their children; 15 percent reported fielding complaints from a parent when the company didn’t hire their child; and nearly 10 percent said parents had insinuate themselves into salary and benefit negotiations.” These parents are submitting resumes for, sitting in on interviews, and calling employers on behalf of their adult child to negotiate salaries and promotions. It sounds absurd, but it is happening today.Adults have to be responsible for a variety of things and life is full of surprises, conflicts, and obstacles that they have to navigate and work with. Unless children learn how to deal with and work through the bumps in the road then they will not know how to do this as adults. Thus they will have to rely on parents to continue to solve issues for them.

During childhood, intensive parenting includes constant communication with teachers, yearning to know every little thing that happens in class, supervising all recreational activities, scheduling and attending all extra curricular activities, and wanting to control every social situation that their child encounters. Again, we wholeheartedly understand why this appeals to parents. Parents are charged with caring for and raising someone who is quite literally the sun and the moon to them. We get it. They want to make sure that their child is doing fine, is happy, and thriving across all situations. But if an adult is always present in the life of a child doing everything for them, solving all their conflicts, and speaking on their behalf, then how will the child learn conflict resolution, coping mechanisms, responsibility, and independence that they will need as adults? Children will grow up, and it is up to us to teach them the tools to use when they reach adulthood. If we, as parents and teachers don’t do this, then we have failed them.

Here are a few things we can do as parents and teachers to help our children develop the tools they will need as adults.

1) Let children attempt to solve their social conflicts

Social dynamics are hard for everyone. Children will struggle with friendships and collaboration. That is normal. Before you step in and take charge of a situation, allow your child to try to talk it out with their peers. Children are very good about speaking about their feelings with others, listening to each other, and mediating conflicts. They might need a mediator, so you can let the teacher, coach, or counselor know in case they are needed. Letting children talk, and figure out social dynamics with their friends on their own might be uncomfortable for them, but it’ll help them gain the experience to be able to navigate social dynamics as they grow into adulthood. Not all relationships are perfect, and they need to learn how to navigate them.

2) Give children free unplanned time

21st century children are constantly being stimulated by technology, intensive reading programs, flash cards, and many extracurricular classes. This is so much so, that many children often struggle with being bored. They do not know what to do when they have nothing to do. Sometimes it is good to not have a schedule, plan, or device readily available. Giving children some time to do whatever they want will help develop their creativity and bring balance in their life. We highly recommend it!

3) Teach children to talk to the teacher themselves

Children as young as 5 can, and should, speak up for themselves. If there is an issue in the classroom, let your child talk to the teacher. If they have a question about an assignment, don’t understand a concept, would like to discuss their grade, or would like to share a thought or opinion, encourage them to speak to their teacher.  If they are on the younger side, we recommend an email before hand or as a follow up to make sure that they did indeed speak to the teacher and what the conversation yielded. However, having children stand up for themselves allows them to learn how to speak to authority figures. So that when they grow up, they are able able to speak, negotiate, and stand up for themselves in the workforce.

Of course we are firm believers in balance. Although children need to learn the tools to collaborate, resolve conflicts, speak up for themselves, and be independent by trying, and possibly failing, with using different techniques, they will still need parent and teacher support to guide them. We also understand that children need support from the caregivers in their lives. Parents can always communicate to teachers and let them know that they want to partner with them to help support their child in learning independence and responsibility. Teachers are always willing to partner in this endeavor, as it is their goal too.

Resources:

Social Class, Gender, and Contemporary Parenting

Being left out hurts: Moms, stop ‘social engineering’

‘Intensive’ Parenting Is Now the Norm in America

http://ceri.msu.edu/publications/pdf/ceri2-07.pdf

Independence & Children

It’s time to talk about raising more independent kids! Teachers and parents need to work together to develop a sense of independence in our children. It is essential for their development and their future. We need to remember that children will grow up, and it is our job, as parents and teachers, to help them become independent and successful adults. Independence gives them a sense of purpose and responsibility and will help them grow into a more balanced child and will make them better prepared for the real world. Not only that, it will free up some of your time as a parent and some of our time as teachers.

We currently live in a time where it is becoming more common for kids to rely on adults to make every decision for them, to speak up for them if a challenge arises, and to save them from every mistake. Or even worse, not even allow them to make mistakes. Adults inherently want to protect children from all the harm that we conceive there is in the world, however by protecting them from everything and doing everything for them, we are taking away their sense of responsibility, problem solving skills, and independence. The very things that that will set them up for success in the real world.

According to Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Stanford Dean, overparenting leaves kids unprepared for college. We happen to agree, and moreover we feel overparenting can leave kids underprepared for elementary school too. We see it in our classrooms on a daily basis with students not carrying their own backpacks, parents unpacking them for them, parents turning in their homework, forgotten items constantly dropped off throughout the school day, and never ending emails from parents to do and tell children a variety of things. Parents have constant access to their child throughout the day and it is playing a role in delayed independence in kids.

Children start to naturally develop independence at two years old.The National Association for the Education of Young Children give tips on how you can start that development at a very young age. It takes time and effort, but will pay off immensely when it is time to send your child to school. If slowly each year you continue to give your child more responsibility, your child will become increasingly more independent.

We understand that it is difficult seeing your baby grow and become more independent. Sometimes it feels like it happens too fast and we try to hold onto the idea of our children as the babies they once were. However, if we continue to do this, we set them up for failure, so here are some recommendations to help your child be more independent at home and at school.

Drop Off

Drop your child off at school, and let them walk into their classrooms on their own. Starting in kindergarten they are capable of walking into their classes independently and following the morning procedures. By allowing them the autonomy to do this, children begin to feel responsible and capable. Over the years, we have seen many stressful morning drop offs whereupon the child cries and the parents coddle them in attempt to soothe the child. This often heightens the situation and does the opposite of what is intended. We promise that once you drop off your child, she or he will calm down and join in on the fun of school. Usually within five minutes.

Backpacks and Supplies

Let your child carry their own backpack. We see many parents continue to carry the backpacks of older kids. Let’s set them up early on to carry their own things. They can do it, and again it makes them feel empowered to be able to do it.

Unpacking and Packing

Put the responsibility on your child to unpack and pack their own backpack. If you develop a routine and have a school spot at home, this will save a lot of time and headache in the long run. Have a basket where they can place school papers for you to look through or have a special time when you go through it together. Items that go into the backpack should only be placed by the child. If they didn’t put it in, they most likely won’t know or remember it is there. We understand that it takes longer for parents to ask their children to put things in their backpack, and by doing it for them, you are saving time in the short term. Something that takes longer now, will set them up for success in the future.

Homework and Projects

Let your child do their homework and projects on their own. Of course you can assist them when they have a question or help them if they need an extra hand putting a project together. Don’t let a little hand become a takeover. Projects should be their ideas and their hard work. When we do our children’s work for them, we are sending a message that they hear loud and clear: yours isn’t good enough. This has a major effect on their confidence and risk taking and they will fear doing things independently.

Chores

Having chores at home is a classic way to develop responsibility and independence in children. They are capable of much more than we think and in the younger years, they actually really love to be a helper. For more information on age appropriate chores check out House Wife How-Tos: Chores That Kids Can Do.

Getting Dressed

At 4 and 5 years old children can start to get themselves dressed with limited parent involvement. A skill that is easily taught and goes a long way, is how to turn an article of clothing that is inside out to right side in. We would think that this would be second nature, but it is a skill that needs to be taught to school age kids. Imagine 20 kids trying to get one teacher to help them put on their jackets in the winter. That’s when we stop the main curriculum and have a “how to put on your jacket tutorial.”

These skills are really important for development and should not fall by the wayside. We already know that academics are important, but again kids need a balance. These skills are essential to help your children in the real world. And these are just some ways to help develop more independent kids. Certainly, there are many more ways to teach independence to children, and every child is unique. We understand that if your child has any special needs that not all of these things will work for your family and you have to do what works for your personal situation. We are also not trying to shame anyone or say that you need to be perfectly doing these things all the time. We want to help educate and partner with you to help raise more balanced and independent kids in this very busy, ever changing world we live in. When studies show that kids are increasingly more dependent, not developing basic responsibility, and unprepared for the basic rigors of life after high school, we need to take a step back, get to the cause, and make some changes. Even if it feels like these changes are going back to a simpler time, they are skills that hold strong in society today.