I am sure you are all knee-deep in your back-to-school quests for all the things for all your kids. Finding the perfect first day of school outfit for that first day of school picture; getting the backpacks and the lunch boxes monogrammed; checking the crayons and binders and pencil pouches off of the school-provided supply list; putting the meet the teacher night on your calendar; talking through all the first day jitters.
Yep. All those things are important. But I am about to provide you with a back-to-school checklist that costs you nothing AND is 100 times more important than anything above — and YEAR LASTING. It won’t get lost or broken or soiled or stained, like those clothes and backpacks and pencil cases. In fact, educators would actually prefer if you had to choose, you choose the below before the above. Because these items add far more to the productivity and enjoyment of the classroom experience.
Please. Thank you. Those words still work — especially for educators. When there is a problem, be gentle. Be understanding. Threats, accusations, yelling, and anger adds to their already overflowing buckets. Avoid adding to this if at all possible.
When mistakes are made, be willing to forgive. Educators are actually mistake-making humans too. I can promise you that no one enters this profession hoping to mistreat children and stifle their growth. Educators are their own harshest critics. So whatever you are upset about is most likely even more upsetting to them. Allow them to apologize and then truly forgive. Do not hold a mistake against them for the entire school year.
Please, please, please do not turn to social media to air all your grievances. Please. Return to the time-proven art of conversations. I have been an administrator for a long time now. And I can count on one hand the number of situations I have not been able to resolve following a conversation. It is way too easy to slander and devalue educators from behind a keyboard or iPhone. It is much more difficult to seek understanding. But do it. Every. Single. Time. For the sake of your children. Have the conversation. Allow all sides to be exposed. Through understanding and honest dialogue, we can very quickly rectify problems. In all my years, I have never seen anything put on social media in anger or frustration end in a happy solution. Never. Talking is always the best and most productive solution. Always.
Show gratitude often. And not just during teacher appreciation week. Have your child make their teacher a card. Send in the custodian’s favorite candy bar. Volunteer to cover lunch duty. Post a great “review” on the school’s Facebook Page. Whatever you can do to bring the smallest bit of sunshine to their days can be career-changing to someone. It helps to remind us why we do what we do.
Don’t Forget the Administrators
I don’t write this because I am one. I write this for my staff. Administrators deal with all the stuff: upset parents, discipline problems in the classroom, heat from the state and district. They often times go without a sunny word for days at a time. So when you send in that nice note to the teacher, throw one in for the administrator as well. I promise the kind gesture will mean more than you could ever imagine.
Ask Your Children to Follow the Rules
Some rules may seem silly, archaic, confusing, or unnecessary. You may not agree. BUT you are not in that classroom every day. So trust that the educator knows what your children need. And ask your children to follow them. Do not show your bias. Do not show your disapproval. Because your children will let that educator know, thus causing others to question. Support them in all that they do. Even the things you might not agree with.
Oh, and YOU Follow the Rules
In the car rider line, in the number of people you can bring to the school play, in the visiting hours . . . So many times we think we are exceptions to the rules. But this sets precedent for our always-watching children and causes undue stress on those trying to enforce processes and procedures that are made with your children in mind. You may not think bringing that one extra person to the ceremony is that big of a deal, but if all parents do that it means fire codes may be broken, older guests may have to stand, small children may be overwhelmed, etc. Rules are designed with the greater good in mind — never to make your life more difficult.
But the greatest supply of all?
Our educators have had it ROUGH the last few years. To be honest, they often have it rough. From state mandates, overflowing classrooms, little resources, and harsh criticism . . . they still manage to make lemonade out of lemons. BUT they are also human. They are going to make mistakes. They may forget to send an email about the PTA meeting. They may speak a little unkindly in stressful times. They may give out worksheets when they are just too exhausted to perform that day. If these are isolated incidents, remember they are humans and don’t judge them too quickly or harshly. We all have bad moments — even educators — so allow them to be human. Give them room to love on your children and mold their little minds — not focus on trivial frustrations from the outside. Allowing them this courtesy is the greatest gift you can bestow, so do it consistently and constantly. I promise it will be the most important school supply of all!