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.

What to Do in the Summer: Academics

With summer vacation quickly approaching, this is the time of year when we tend to get many questions from parents about what academics should be done over the summer. We are big proponents of letting summer time be a time for play, fun, relaxation, and exploration. This can be a great opportunity for kids to explore new things, discover a passion, focus on another interest or develop a talent.

If a child is struggling and needs more support in a particular subject, we would suggest doing some academics. However the only time we would suggest getting any kind of tutoring is only when it is actually needed. There should be no rush or pressure to be ahead in school. Depending on the child, it might actually take the joy out of learning and that would be a shame.

If a child ends up being ahead naturally and is really interested in a particular subject, that’s great. You can definitely support them in this area without pushing them or MAKING them do extra work they do not want or have to do. In this case, the child should be driving it and you are either letting them do their thing or finding ways to support their curiosity.

There are things that kids can do to practice skills that are fun and rewarding for them. The key is to keep it light so that it doesn’t seem like work.

Reading

Summer is a great time for kids to discover new interests, and reading is a great place to discover new passions. Kids should learn early on that reading isn’t only for school. Reading for pleasure can be a wonderful, and good for the soul, free time activity. Going to the library and checking out books with your child is a great way to promote reading during the summer. Checking one out for yourself to read will demonstrate to your child that reading is fun, not a chore.

Journaling

It is great for kids to learn how to journal at a young age. They can write about their summer adventures, add in pictures, illustrations, or make it into a scrapbook. Not only will they learn to and begin to reflect on their day, but it allows them to practice their writing skills. While you should tell them to just write and not worry about spelling and punctuation, the more practice they get with writing the more they will grow as a writer.

Writing letters

Writing letters to family members that live in another place could be a fun activity, especially if they were expecting a letter back in the mail. If you go on vacation, you can have them write postcards to their friends or teachers. Again this is a fun way to promote, support, and build writing skills.

Things you can do in moderation

Practice Multiplication Facts

Multiplication facts are often introduced in 2nd and 3rd grade. It is helpful for children to practice multiplication facts during the summer so that they do not forget them and to keep the momentum going as they transition into the next grade. There are a variety of ways to help children practice and memorize multiplication facts. Practicing with flashcards a couple of times a week is one way, but there are also apps that make it more game like. Keep in mind that it is easier and more fun to practice these for 15 minutes a day than for 1 hour once a week.

Review

A little practice of more complex mathematical concepts, such as long division, multiplication, or fractions, whose algorithm is new to students or consists of multiple steps might be beneficial for students for whom these proved to be challenging during the school year. We only ever recommend it as a way to strengthen their math skills and return to school in September with better understanding and more self confidence in math.

Overall, summer should be about rest and relaxation. While a little bit of practice here and there is a good idea, if your child is having a blast at summer camp, a relatives house, at the beach, or anywhere your family decides to spend summer, do not stress about academic summer work.

Our big motto is that everyone should strive for balance. Summer brings great balance to children. The school year is long and full of lots of learning, responsibilities, sport games and practices, and projects. Let children have the summer to be children, eat ice cream, dig holes, swim, play and climb. Those are the main homework assignments we assign our students at the end of the year, and that is what they need to be doing during summer.

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.

Why are Teachers Quitting?

It seems that more and more we are reading articles and seeing in media reports that teachers are leaving the teaching profession more than ever before. According to the Wall Street Journal, teachers are quitting at record numbers. In the span of a year, one million teachers made the decision to leave the classroom. We are personally seeing and feeling this along with our colleagues.

The question often asked is why is this happening? We will tell you why we think this is happening. The teaching profession in the 21st century burns you out quickly. It does not matter whether you work in a public, charter, or independent school, teaching is hard and the demands and expectations placed on teachers coupled with low pay and lack of respect makes different professions more appealing.

The astounding thing about this recent trend in teachers leaving the profession in high numbers and early on in their careers, is that it seems to be a rather new phenomenon. Think back to your school days, we would guess that you probably had teachers whom had been teaching 15, 20, maybe even 25 years. Even as far back as when we began our careers, our mentors had been educators at the same school for 15-20 years. These experienced educators, whom we learned so much from, were tired and ready for retirement, but they did not appear to have the exhausted burnt out feeling that many teachers feel today. They and their counterparts were not leaving teaching at the rates of today.

So, the real question is: what is so different today than teaching in the recent past?

We asked a few of our teacher friends, and this is what they said:

Administration

  • Out of touch administrators
  • Administrators who value parents over teachers
  • Constant internal communication and no action
  • Not asking teachers for their opinions before implementing new policies or curriculum
  • No priorities, just long to-do lists
  • Unrealistic responsibilities placed on teachers
  • No support in the classroom with behavior issues
  • Lack of school psychologist or therapists
  • Large class sizes
  • Limited Prep Time
  • No breaks during the day
  • Possibility of being laid off
  • Leadership tends to be reactive rather than proactive
  • Pressure to teach to the test
  • Lack of autonomy


Parents

  • Over involved parents (AKA Lawn Mower Parents)
  • Constant access to teachers through email
  • Mean emails from parents
  • No boundaries
  • Callout culture

Kids

  • The effects of technology on this generation of children
  • Disrespect from students

Other things to consider

  • Low Wages
  • Lack of respect from society
  • Emotional stress that never leaves us

Teachers have always had to balance students, their parents, and administration. However, it use to feel that the accountability was placed on the child if a challenge came up at school. Teachers, parents, and administrators would work together to come up with a plan to support students with their challenges. These days it feels like there has been a shift in this dynamic and much of the accountability is placed on teachers. This shift has left teachers in a position to constantly try to please parents, even if it means going against what we know is right for our students. While many parents are supportive and truly want to partner with teachers, the over involved parents can make it very challenging and unpleasant. Relationships with parents can make or break a school year for a teacher.

If schools want to retain great teachers, we need strong administrators who believe in balance and boundaries. We need strong leaders that have experience being teachers themselves. We need them to set clear expectations for teachers and have boundaries with parents. We need to have office hours so there isn’t constant access through email on nights and weekends. We need administrators who trust us and support us when a challenge comes up. We need to have priorities rather than a never ending to-do list. We need to have realistic expectations and fair compensation.

Teaching has always been a hard job. However, in the 21st century the demands placed on teachers without the respect or economic compensation that equates the immense and most important work done by teachers is too much. Unless there is a paradigm shift in society in regards to teachers, we are going to continue to lose wonderful educators in our classrooms.

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?