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!
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?
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:
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
21st Century children have never known a world without smartphones, the internet, tablets, or social media. When we first began teaching, a little over a decade ago, we had to teach children how to use a mouse, navigate on a computer, and introduce tablets. We no longer have to do that. Many toddlers know how to turn on smartphones or tablets, and open to the home screen. They can even navigate Youtube to look for cartoons or videos of other children opening toys. Most, if not all, of our students come into our classes with the knowledge of how to use technology. Often times, it is second nature to them. Devices and social networks are changing childhood in extreme ways and we need to find strategies to help our children develop into healthy and balanced individuals.
The students that come into our classrooms are vastly different than the students we taught at the beginning of our careers. We have noticed that many children today are use to constant visual stimulation and instant gratification. They are not sure what to do with themselves when they do not have a device and many feel uncomfortable being bored. Their social emotional skills are underdeveloped because kids are spending more time on devices and less time playing and interacting with other children.
We are not doctors or psychologists (yet) and we cannot diagnose or treat people. And while there may be a variety of reasons for this shift in children, we believe that the biggest factor in this drastic and rapid change in our children is technology. It is our responsibility to find ways to both educate kids on healthy technology use and offset the effects of this digital revolution.
Now this post is not about how horrible technology is. In fact, we love technology, we use it in our classrooms to augment and enhance lessons, look up information for the class, and connect our students to the world. Yet, we also incorporate cutting, glueing, writing with pencils, cursive, coloring, dancing, performing, and most importantly playing and social skills. This is because there has to be balance in our classroom between technology and real world experiences. Our big theme is balance for children. We advocate balance for children, and the area of technology is no exception in and out of the classroom.
According to Dr. Tovah Klein, an expert on early childhood development, the more you use a device to calm your kids down, the less they are able to do it for themselves because they do not learn that skill. If devices are used all the time by children, they will not actually learn how to socialize, how to behave in different places and with a variety of people. They will not learn how to be bored and they will not be able to figure out a way to entertain themselves. If they have constant access to everything on the internet, they will not learn how to be creative themselves. They will not learn inventive play because they won’t have to. We need to make sure we are creating the space for them to do these things because it doesn’t organically happen like it did when we were kids.
What we can do as parents and teachers:
Limit Screen time
Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving
Find media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms
Model device free for them
Do not use devices in restaurants and stores
Let your child be bored so that they can play and develop social skills and creativity
Teach proper device use
Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
When they use a device, interact with them. Educational apps are great, we use them!
What society can do:
Stop judging parents over a crying child
Stop giving dirty looks to parents and families on airplanes
Stop expecting kids to be silent at restaurants and in public places
There is an immense amount of pressure put on parents today to know it all, do it all, and to have the perfect happy family. Kids have emotions and no matter what we do, we can’t control when they throw a fit, are feeling sad, have an outburst in a restaurant or make a scene in a grocery store. When kids are not quiet and perfect, parents are judged by society. It has become routine to throw a device at a child to keep them quiet in a public space. Let’s work together to make it okay for kids to make noise and be kids. Let’s not be so judgmental when we see a struggling parent or a misbehaving child. We don’t know the full story. What we do know is that these devices that we use to keep our kids quiet are having a real strain on our children and society as a whole. We all play a role whether we have children, are in education, work in the tech industry, or are a childless bystander. We all have an obligation to help kids navigate a world that has been revolutionized by digital media.