Dear Parents Who Worry About Your Kids’ School,
It’s back to school time, so for many, the anxieties are at an all time high. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember when every news article you read today seems to find a new way to trash teachers and schools, but the simple truth is, the majority of professionals working in schools know what they’re doing and they take the job of educating your child very seriously.
I can remember the days when I worked as a reading specialist (That means I had two degrees in how to educate children.) in a diverse public school. I would sometimes get pulled into long summer days filled with post-it notes on white boards that we shuffled around and around trying to get exactly the right schedules with exactly the right teachers to make the best days for students with the resources we had. It was never easy, we had to get very creative and it seemed to take forever. Often there had been some movement in staffing because of people’s lives changing (Someone was always pregnant or moving!) or some county mandate that added or cut positions. These changes didn’t always happen neatly in May or even June, to give plenty of time to make shifts, but instead they were last minute calls in July or even late August which meant you had mere days to hire someone and move classrooms before the students arrived.
One year, we were making huge changes to the curriculum and the placement of classes because the previous year, after many meetings pouring over data both empirical and anecdotal, the administration and staff decided that implementing the state ordered curriculum changes would be done more effectively if teachers and classrooms were situated differently.
I can imagine what this looked like to the community. If you had to visit over the summer, the school was a physical disaster for weeks as we moved entire classrooms. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure it would all be finished by Open House day. It was. But then, the parents arrived with their students in tow to view the classroom letters posted to the outside door only to find what they were expecting may have shifted dramatically.
There were looks of horror and some squeals of glee because Jan would have her favorite teacher again as they moved up together but Johnny would never have the 5th grade teacher he’d been looking forward to since kinder because now that woman was teaching 2nd grade. Of course the parents questioned us. Sometimes, very loudly and even angrily.
We had to assure them that none of these moves were made haphazardly. Every decision was made on purpose with their children in mind.
And of course, none of this “newness” was intentionally meant to throw off parents and students, including the decision to announce it only a few days before school. Trust me, the administration and staff would have loved to have their fall wrapped up the previous spring with classrooms moved and teachers announced and all happy constituents. But that’s just not how life works.
Is it unnerving to all of those involved, this shifting and changing and uncertainty that comes in summer? Maybe. Likely, for the teachers and staff, it’s exciting and perhaps a little scary, but overall they like a challenge and the new beginnings September brings, or else they would have different jobs completely.
Sitting here now, do I as a parent wish I knew more, and earlier, about what to expect when I send my babies out of the nest in September? Of course. I have some mad-anxiety issues around this place. I sure would love to start planting seeds in June for what to expect for September. Instead I take the summer as the summer and worry about school when it starts.
Here is why.
Because, what I do have is trust that the people in charge at my children’s school know what they’re doing and have the students’ best academic and social interests in mind when they make whatever decisions they make. I can’t promise, but I can say that’s likely true for your school too.
I trust the education process. The people in charge of the process went to university (and beyond) to know how to do this job. They continue to take classes and workshops and learn and hone their craft. They have been doing these jobs, some for many years, successfully. And believe me when I say you will not succeed at this job if you do not keep children at the forefront of your decisions. These people are professionals who, in most cases, know more about educating children than the parents that cross their classroom thresholds year after year.
They may not know more about my child’s moods. They may not know about their food and sleep patterns and the anxieties that keep them up at night. But these school employees know how to educate kids and they take that job, and all the shifting and change that comes with it, very seriously. If you keep that in mind, I promise every change you field this September, you’ll field just fine.
Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.
I approve this open letter.
Phew! I was worried I’d be lumped in with 1970s fiddlers.