Your Child is Not Your Friend

There has been a recent trend of parents proclaiming their child as their best friend. These parents will proudly call their child their bestie or best friend and post about it on social media.  While we understand the underlying sentiment that is being conveyed, we do not believe that the parent and child relationship should be friend like.

Your child is your child. You love them, enjoy spending time with them, and have a blast creating memories with them. However, it should always be remembered that this relationship is not on equal footing. As the parent, you should have the power in the relationship. The parents job is to set boundaries, because as a developing child, they do not know what is best for them. They need guidance and support as they mature and develop. The adult knows what’s best for them, and as such they are in charge. Unlike what friendships are like, this relationship is not equitable.

Telling a child that you are friends confuses them. Children have friends at daycare, school, or around the neighborhood. Within these social groups the power dynamics is often shared between the children. No one child is in charge of the group, setting boundaries, or telling others what to do. Children can choose to not play along, or to not listen to what their friend tells them to do. They have the power in their social groups to choose and do as they please. However, if a parent asks a child to brush their teeth or pick up their toys, a child usually does not have the power or ability to disagree and not complete the task. A child cannot interact or react with their parent like they might with their friends. If parents are constantly calling their child their friend, then when it comes time to dictate a rule or set a boundary children will not understand why they have to do it. While at first it might be cute, in the long run this will create challenges for the parents as the child grows up.

This type of adult-child relationship sets up confusing expectations at school for children too. Teachers are not their students’ friend. In an elementary school classroom, the teacher is in charge of the classroom and the students. While they might have fun together, it is very clear that that authority figure is the teacher. There is no bargaining with the expectation that the teacher sets for his or her classroom. When the directions are to work on an assignment, line up, or clean up students must follow the directions. Students who have the idea that they are friends with the adult in the room have a challenge at school where the power dynamic is not equal.

At the end of the day, remember, your child will grow up, and eventually the parent-child relationship will evolve into more of a friendship. When children grow into adulthood they are more equipped to understand and share in certain conversations and responsibilities that are common among friend-like relationships. But when they are young and developing, you are in charge. You are the parent. You are not equal to your child, and they need to know that.

That does not mean that you can’t hang out, talk with, and experience things with your child like you would with your friends. All of these moments will add up to a close and long lasting friendship with them when they do grow up.

Children Need Balanced Teachers

Expectations

Teaching has always been a multi disciplinary job. Because teachers are working with young people, teachers throughout history have not only taught lessons on content, but they have been psychologists, nurses, advertisers, friends, and so much more. The teaching profession has always been a stressful career. However, today more than ever, the expectations placed on teachers are astronomical.

In addition to what teachers have traditionally done, in recent years teachers have had a multitude of new responsibilities added to their already metaphorically overflowing cups.

With the advent of technology, parents all over the world are granted constant communication about their child. This generation of children have grown up since birth with apps that communicate with parents. When children go off to school, many parents expect and want constant communication from their child’s teacher. So, teachers have to take a plethora of photos, run class social media accounts for their class, update a classroom website, write weekly blogs about what they are doing in the classroom, manage individual student blogs, monitor student email accounts, use several applications to send data home to parents, along with teaching, grading papers, reporting for recess or lunch duty, assessing and collecting data, writing report cards, emailing parents, differentiating lessons, planning field trips, making copies, and so much more. We absolutely love the new and wonderful ways to share and communicate with parents their child’s growth, however it seems that many new things have been added to the teacher’s plate, and nothing has been taken away.

With so much to do, in so little time, teachers oftentimes feel like they cannot take a breath. It is an overwhelming and depleting feeling. We feel that we are failing the most important people, our students. Teaching is not just about tests, data, photos, and grades. The most important aspect of teaching is the connections and relationships that we build with our students. As elementary school teachers we know that students will not remember the grammar or spelling lessons we teach, but they will remember the way we make them feel. If teachers are overworked and stressed, then their students feel that too.

Prioritizing

When teachers feel the need to do it all, they get burnt out. According to the National Education Association, more than 40% of teachers leave the profession within 5 years! If you want to remain a teacher for the long haul, take care of yourself and keep a work life balance. It is okay to say no, especially when your cup is already overflowing.

For teachers to have a balanced life and a balanced classroom, they must prioritize. Because there is such a high expectation placed on teachers, you have to learn that you will not be able to do everything. Pick the most important things for “right now” and leave the rest for later. You have to get comfortable always having a to-do list. As a teacher you will never have that moment of being “done.” Education practices are always changing and by nature, we are lifelong learners. Our schools and classrooms change every year. So even at the end of the school year, teachers are planning for their next group of students. Honestly, there will be things that you won’t EVER get to. And you know what? That’s okay. Most likely it won’t change a thing in your class and no one will know except for you. So be kind to yourself and make sure you maintain a balance for yourself.

Flexibility

Flexibility is one of the most important tools in the classroom. If we are not flexible, then the kids will not be flexible. Real life in the classroom is not how it is portrayed in the media. A real classroom is messy, loud, and not perfect. We plan lessons and projects, but things do not always go as planned. When the smart board doesn’t work, the internet is down, the copies you made were the key, and not the actual student worksheet (It happens!) students look to us and see how we react. Teachers need to remember that there is a solution to every problem, no matter how great. The solution might not present itself in the moment, but that is when we say “Oh well,” and do something else in the class. When teachers are stressed, students are stressed too. Being flexible and more importantly modeling flexibility to our students is important.

We remember the feeling of wanting to please everyone when we were new teachers. When you are in charge of educating young minds there are a lot of people with high expectations of you. In our first years of teaching we wanted our classrooms to be Pinterest perfect all the time and we wanted to be liked by everyone. With experience, we learned that neither of these were attainable all the time. Our classrooms will not be perfect all the time, you will not agree with everything that administration says or does, parents might not like you. Guess what? It is okay! As long as you are showing up for your kids every school day and giving each of those students not only the academic content they need, but you are seeing them for who they are and loving them for it, then you are doing an amazing job. Teaching is one of the hardest professions there is, and we are all doing the best we can for our children.

Why do Children Need Balanced Teachers?

When teachers aren’t balanced, their students aren’t getting what they deserve. Lessons are thrown together, the grading piles up and everything gets rushed because the teacher is just trying to survive each day. When you feel like you don’t have enough time, it is time to practice the things above: prioritizing and flexibility. Children need balanced teachers because they need people that are showing up everyday that want to be there. Overworked, unbalanced teachers end up resenting their job. They are tired, irritable, and impatient. Teachers that are balanced want to show up and be present for their students.

It’s important that teachers get the time they need to plan meaningful lessons for the students. It’s important that this time not be taken up by extra meetings, conferences, and a quick PD to teach this brand new program that administration decides needs to be implemented mid-year. Time to plan meaningful lessons should be a sacred time for teachers. When this time is mis-managed by administration, we are letting down our students. They are the ones that suffer.

Balanced teachers have the time and energy to run a functioning, healthy class. They have the energy to support that struggling student. They have the time to connect with that student who often falls under the radar. They have the spirit to tell jokes, have brain breaks, connect as a class community and make their class a joyous place to learn and grow.



Parents & Teacher Partnership

Sooner or later something will come up where a child faces a challenge. It is a healthy part of growth and development. A child underperforms in class, is bossy around his friends, cannot stay focused during structured periods, or is unable to complete her task as she navigates through “perfectionism” presenting itself as a hindrance to her success.

TEACHER: Oh, no!  I need to contact one of my parents.

PARENT: Oh, no! I have a message from my child’s teacher.

Surprise, surprise!  People who care about their children WILL have similar reactions to the situations presented above, whether the relationship is biological or honed in the classroom.  This could be the reason why teachers lovingly refer to their students as “my kids.” This is not being said to appeal to any kind of emotion from the parents’ side. It is exactly what it is.  For that school year, the students in our classes are our kids.

As we kick off this new blog, and this new year, we wanted to talk about something that is near and dear to our hearts. The Parent-Teacher Partnership. This partnership is integral for parent, teacher and student success. We want to offer some points to consider for both teachers and parents. Ultimately, we are in this together and at times, we feel that very important fact is forgotten.

Teachers become teachers because they love children, and they want to see them grow and learn. They design lessons, projects, activities, and field trips that will help their students learn and develop a love for learning. Look up #teachersofinstagram on your Instagram, and your screen will showcase teachers from all over the world demonstrating a deep love for their students and their passion to make their classrooms conducive to learning. Teachers truly want what is BEST for each child in their classrooms.

As a teacher, one thinks about the overall well-being of each student: there are the encouraging remarks while students go through challenging assignments, the creation of flexible curriculum that goes with the whole group flow but also addresses individual needs, and the endless questioning of the effectiveness of the application of tested and current pedagogy to the development of the students in the class.  But it doesn’t stop there. There are also gentle nudges to finish their snack and stay hydrated while having an internal battle over keeping the students inside the air conditioned classroom during a California heat wave (in the middle of January), but also remembering that the class has been cooped up in the classroom the last three days due to the elusive California storms.

Parents are invested in their child’s best interest starting in utero.  Soon to be parents will change diets, move to a better school district, listen to classical music, attend birthing classes, and the list goes on even before their child is born!  They read all the books, make their own baby foods, and do everything in their power to make their children’s lives the best it can be. When it comes time for school, parents research options, tour schools, weigh out public vs. private schools, attend admissions or welcoming events, and then make the best decision they see fit for their child. Parents around the world want what is BEST for their children.

There are many factors that need to be considered to build a positive partnership. The most important thing is to focus on what is BEST for the child and to always be child-centered. The best part of this idea is that both parties want the best for the child already. If both parties want what is best for the child, we would suppose that the parent-teacher relationship would always be a strong partnership. After all, they are both on the same side and have the same interest. However, like any relationship sometimes the parent-teacher relationship is not productive. Today we want to adress how parents and teachers form strong, balanced, child centered relationships.

1. Put the child first

Focus on what is going to help the child succeed long term. Not just a quick fix to make the child “happy.”  Happiness is not something that can be created for them (All Joy and No Fun, J. Senior.) A child might need extra support, an evaluation, or help from an outside expert. Putting the child first means that we remove our egos and ideas of perfectionism, and get the child the help and support they need for the long term.

2. Keep the line of communication open

Reach out in a positive productive way. Don’t wait for challenges to escalate. Better to reach out early and often if you see a pattern. We recommend never emailing when you are angry. If something very serious has come up, best to set up an in person meeting. This will also give time and space to think about a productive way to approach the situation. Teachers should also pick up the phone and have a conversation with parents. It’s often better to have a conversation about difficult topics than it is to read it over an email.

3. Mutual respect

Approach challenges from the lense of being a productive problem solver and wanting to understand a situation rather than accusing and blaming. Assume the teacher or parent has good intentions. We love the saying, “I’ll believe 50% of what your child says about you, if you believe 50% of what your child says about me.” Remember the source, children are extremely clever. As much as we love our children and students, they know how to play the game. OR depending on their age, they might not always remember things correctly or be able to accurately assess all the facts.

4. Take responsibility when you make a mistake

Parenting and teaching are both incredibly hard jobs. It’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes make us human and help us grow. Let’s model for our children so they can learn how to overcome, learn, and forgive mistakes. Remember that little ears are always listening. Even if you don’t agree with a teacher or a parent, try to stay positive in front of the children.

5. Collaborate

Oftentimes, teaching is not a one-person job.  It really “takes a village” to raise balanced children. If something is working at home with your child let the teacher know, so that they can implement the vocabulary or strategy in the class. Teachers should also let parents know what they are working on in the classroom, so that parents can use the same or similar strategies at home. Consistency and collaboration are the keys.

6. Be a united front

The best thing for a child is knowing that their teacher and their parents talk and that they are on the same team. We love the moment when a child realizes you know about their home life. They ask, “How do you know that?” And we respond “Yes, I talk with your parents!”

7. Humor

At the end of the day, raising these little people is the most wonderful and funnest part of our lives, both as parents and as teachers. Enjoy the silly giggles, jokes, funny drawings, messes, and playtimes with the children because they grow up really quickly, and what seems so incredibly important today, is not what you are going to remember. It’s going to be the laughs you had with your child and the village that helped you raise them.

Throughout our careers, we have all had parent-teacher relationships that have been productive and positive, and others that, put quite simply, have not. There is no perfect equation that will work for every situation but we have found that in general, these tips will help make for a more positive partnership.

We would love to hear your thoughts! What are some things that have worked for you?