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!

Sharing Report Cards with Kids

It is common for most schools to send home some sort of report card to parents. The question many parents have asked us over the years is: Should I share this report card with my child? Ultimately that is going to be a personal preference. Depending on the student’s age, understanding of report cards, and their social emotional development, there are appropriate things to share with your child. However, what we feel is more important is HOW you talk to your children about report cards.

We want to give some helpful ways on how to talk about report cards with your child. As we wrote last week, report cards aren’t the end all be all. They are one form of communication. Report cards show one snapshot of your child as a student. Teachers all know kids are more than a grade!

Don’t Compare Your Child to Others

All children are different. They have their own unique sets of strengths and challenges. If your oldest child excelled in reading and your youngest has found it to be challenging that is ok because they are two different people. Parents should not assume that a child will earn or receive the same grade or report as a sibling. It is not a good idea to compare them. Every child is different and as such, their grades and report cards will be and should be different. Focus on each child’s unique set of strengths and challenges.

Ask Your Child’s Perspective on their Strengths and Challenges

By third grade most students have an understanding of report cards or grades. They know that teachers report to the parents their strengths and challenges and that sometimes this is in a form of grades or a narrative. Asking them what they think they’ve excelled at and what they need to work on would be beneficial. Some children may be too harsh on themselves or have an overly positive idea of themselves, but most of the time students will know that they need to work on spelling, reading, math, or focusing in class. Asking them their thoughts could lead to a conversation about ways they can improve in areas and how proud you are of their efforts.

Discuss Strategies for Improvement

If you decide to share the report card with your child, it would be helpful to discuss with them ways to help them grow and improve in the areas that they might need to work on. This could include strategies like a tally chart on desk, emailing the teacher on Fridays, sticker charts, reminders in their folders, or extra practice. Getting them involved in this strategy development allows them to take ownership of their own growth and have more investment in the plan. Children, especially in the middle elementary years, are better able to understand and communicate their thoughts and opinions about what helps them the best, therefore we believe it is a smart idea to include them in the conversation.

Focus on Progress and Growth Mindset

We like to say “practice makes progress,” in our classrooms. No one is perfect and everyone has something they are working on, and that is OKAY. The most important thing is that when the going gets tough we have grit and a growth mindset. The power of “yet,” is very helpful for children. Using these phrases and ideas might be helpful when discussing their report cards.

Tell Them You are Proud of Them

At the end of the day, each and every elementary school child needs to know and believe that grades are not the most important thing. Their effort and growth in school and on the playground with their friends, and being a kind respectful person are the most important things. Letting them know the areas that they have done well in or that they have improved on gives children a sense of pride and accomplishment. It fills their bucket, so that they build up a sense that they can indeed persevere. Gaining self confidence will help them throughout their educational careers.

What are some things you have found to be helpful when talking to kids about report cards?

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.

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.

Teaching is Not Cute

It doesn’t matter what age or grade you teach. Teaching is NOT cute. Please do not refer to someone’s profession as cute. It is insulting and demeaning. We can’t even count how many times someone has asked us what we do, and this is their response when we tell them we are educators. We understand that they are not intentionally trying to insult teachers. And really it’s not even their fault. Society has painted teachers in a very specific way. Teachers are often portrayed as these loving “mother-like” characters who play and color with children all day. This is NOT what teachers do. Which is why we would like to change how people and society view teachers and the education field in general.

Teachers work very hard to become teachers. Many have advanced degrees, certificates, various credentials, and participate in ongoing professional development to understand the latest trends and best practices. Most teachers become teachers because they want to have an influence on society. Teachers understand that kids are our best hope for a better future. They don’t become a teacher because they couldn’t have done something else. Can we go ahead and throw out that idea? Even if that might be the case for a handful of teachers, that’s the exception not the rule.

We understand that sometimes people don’t actually understand what teaching is like because they have never done it, they don’t have kids, or they can’t remember what their teachers did in school. “That’s so cute!” Seems like an automatic response to people that just don’t know what else to say. If someone tells you that they are a teacher, here are some alternative things you can say:

  • Society doesn’t do enough for teachers.
  • Wow, teaching seems really hard.
  • Seems like you have a lot to juggle.
  • I had a teacher that really helped me, I bet you are that person for many.
  • What is teaching like?
  • What kind of school do you teach at?
  • How long have you been teaching?
  • What are you working on with your students now?

We are not saying that at times the kids we teach don’t do or say cute things. There are many moments between planning lessons, meeting with parents, assessing, writing IEPs, meeting with administrators, dealing with behavior issues, attending PD, collaborating with therapists, responding to emails and all the other things we balance throughout our days, when our students will do cute things. These moments are incredibly fun and brighten up our day. However, the teaching profession should not be thought of as cute simply because of those moments.

You would never tell a parent that it’s so cute they decided to have kids because parenting is challenging yet rewarding. You would never tell a pediatrician that their job is cute simply because they treat children. You would never tell a firefighter or police officer that their job is cute because they have sirens on their vehicles. You would never tell a person in sales, or communications, or media, or politics, or really any professional job that their job is cute. It is honestly not appropriate to tell any hard working professional that their job is cute.

Teaching is not cute. Teaching is a profession that many people work really, really hard at. Let’s work together to change the way people perceive teachers. Teachers are professionals that deserve respect and acknowledgement that they have an important job. A job that is both challenging and so incredibly important for our society.

Help us spread the word! Share your stories on Instagram and tag Dreaming Teachers or Teaching is Not Cute. Use the hashtag #teachingisnotcute for the chance to be featured.