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Just as there is a wide spectrum of parents there are varied kinds of teachers. This letter to teachers, many of whom are also parents to school going children, is based on points that come up in discussions with parents across the city.
We like age appropriate projects
Please give my child projects that can be done without adult intervention. When you require images to be stuck or elaborate pictures drawn by a 5 year old, know that most often if the project looks neat and tidy it’s because either my spouse or I have done it with our child cheering us on. We would rather have our child learn to be responsible for home work and so ideally please assign work that is age appropriate. I want my child to learn how to be independent even if it means that he may have to deal with a remark in the calendar from you. I want you to partner with us in teaching our child how to be responsible, plan ahead and work well.
Don’t fall for outsourced glitz
When you see a project turned in that seems professional way beyond the scope of what a child is capable of; do question who has created it. Sometimes outside of school art class teachers are paid fees to create school projects that go on to being awarded substantial marks. What then happens to the project turned in by a child who has in fact put thought, creativity and effort into creating the project without outsourced assistance?
What teacher says is important
Our views and yours may be very different when it comes to politics and religion and we may have several cultural differences. Please be sensitive to this fact and understand that my child’s world view is made up of not just what he experiences at home but also what you tell him. Especially in the primary school years, often what ‘teacher said’ holds more weight than what mum or dad say. So please be careful when you are tempted to label or voice your opinions as facts.
You can bring change in the area of gender sensitivity
Please can you try and do away with gender stereotypes? Don’t encourage typical lines like ‘girls like pink and boys like blue, or girls are emotional and boys don’t cry, or boys are better at maths while girls are better at languages.’ Treat the boys and girls in your class equally and don’t make stereotypical remarks. Use gender neutral language. Don’t perpetuate ideas like ‘girls cannot exercise when they have their period’. Don’t direct all your queries and inputs to the mothers of students. Call for fathers to meet and interact too. Teach our boys and girls to be confident; instil in them an attitude of respect for all other living beings irrespective of age or gender. You are helping shape future generations. Your role in how gender sensitivity and prejudice are dealt with in the classroom has far reaching consequences.
If you see a problem don’t wait for Parent Teacher Meeting (PTM) to tell me
You have probably seen a much larger spectrum of child related behaviours than most parents. If you see a red flag in relation to my child, irrespective of what that might be, I would really appreciate it if you could let me know immediately rather than wait for a PTM which may be months away. Call, email, write me a note, ask us to come and meet with you.
Some parents at a PTM want the truth and nothing but the truth when it comes to how their children are doing in school socially and academically. Others may not be open to a direct approach. If parents say they would like you to tell them like it is then please do that. You don’t have to prop the not so good with buffer compliments.
Don’t get swayed by parents who may be older than you and seem intimidating. You are the boss. Be firm. You are the one person who truly knows how our children behave, study, interact and react at school.
At a PTM if a parent shows no concern about the long line of parents waiting and seems to be rambling on and on, please remember that you are not a shrink; if all the necessary points have been discussed be sensitive about the others waiting and move the parent along or assign another appointment for that parent if you think she or he needs more time.
Sometimes the words or phrases you use that are understood by all teachers may not make sense to me as a parent. So when you say, “Your child has to brush up basic maths” I may need to know what exactly has to be brushed up on.
We don’t like violence; we don’t hit people and we assume you will never raise your hand on a child either. You are a guardian and we believe that you will stand up for what you believe to be right in the realm of school life. Command respect; and if my child is disrespectful, please bring it to my notice immediately.
Turn off the people preferences
Partiality hurts. It’s a human tendency to like some folks more than others or to be completely turned off by some all together. As a teacher you need to manage this and not play favourites. Don’t pick on one child all the time. Don’t ridicule. Don’t use terms like ‘idiot’, ‘stupid’ and ‘dumb’.
Too much homework is a burden for us all
Excessive homework is an area that requires your empathy. The day has just that many hours to fit in school, chill time, tech time, play time, revision and homework time, and bed time. Please have a heart. Don’t make homework a burden for us all with the child learning to dread it; the parent learning to nag till it’s done; or you teacher having to hound children for incomplete work. If the child has many different teachers for varied subjects and each assigns homework think about the quantity of work and the amount of time required to be spent on that every day. Instead try and ensure that the children follow what is being taught at every step. My child may not be brilliant in Hindi or Math but if you ensure that he has the grounding right in the first few years, know that he will always fall back on that and thank you for it.
We appreciate you and thank you
The developmental milestones may be listed in books but teachers have hands on experience and know just how much a toddler or even an older child can comprehend, write, play or read. Teachers we hope are also sensitive to the fact that not all children hit their developmental and cognitive stages at the same time and make allowances for that. If it were not for our son’s preschool teachers, I am sure I would not have taught him all he learnt at that stage. I had no clue that he was capable of imbibing it all. Little did I realize that he was like a sponge hungry to soak in all the information he was getting. Our son has always loved books and was on his way to reading by age 4 and for that I thank his teachers too.We know that school management often demand a lot from teachers and it’s no easy task handling a bunch of children on a daily basis; completing the stipulated curriculum; handing out and correcting assignments; planning and conducting school activities; and dealing with school management pressures. We appreciate all that you are doing and thank you for being there for our child.
“No one forgets a good teacher”