First of all, let me just start this letter off by thanking you for your time, commitment, and enthusiasm for teaching my children. It takes a strong person with plenty of patience and creativity to do what you do. I know this job can’t be easy, and I know you must leave work with a pounding headache, an aching back, and a stack of assignments still needing to be graded. I don’t doubt that your knowledge and expertise in this field are far better than my own, and I’m sure most days you feel like you’re herding cats with all of those kids. However, I have some concerns, and even though I’ve reached out to you throughout the year, they’re still there. I fear these are concerns that you might not fully grasp because, well, you don’t have children of your own just yet.
Rules are rules, and that’s that.
Let’s talk about policy for a minute. You are very organized. I actually envy how organized you are! One would think my organizational skills would have kicked into high gear after having children, but quite frankly, the opposite seems to have taken place now that my children are of school age. You are very structured and prepared, and as so, you state what your grading system is, very clearly ahead of time. You adhere to it exactly throughout the year. But, sometimes your strict guidelines come at a price regarding my child’s learning experience. There’s nothing exact when it comes to young children. Learning skills and development are matters that are not black and white. What helps one child thrive can hinder another. As a mother, I’ve come to learn that leniency and compassion also help young school-aged children thrive. Turning away my 7 yr old daughter’s late homework simply because your “policy states no late work will be accepted” teaches her two things: 1. Her efforts were futile, and 2. You don’t care. It’s very easy to always use the policy against inquiries. Why wouldn’t you? You only know what you see in the classroom. And, it’s very easy to blanket every child’s learning ability as the same – makes your job much easier even; but, what I fear you don’t understand is that my daughter worked very hard on that assignment. My ADHD daughter, who missed the deadline by one day because her tutor mistakenly overlooked it, was already anxious to turn in the work a day late. I understand rules are given for reasons. They shouldn’t be bent every time for my daughter, but to not even offer partial credit really set her back in her learning experience and shows me that you truly don’t understand the village and stress it takes to complete just one assignment. I ask you to please have some empathy for these very young students who are just now learning about deadlines and structure. Had my daughter gotten upset because her Modern Theory Professor didn’t accept her late work as a college student, I’d understand, but is strictly adhering to policy really warranted in this case?
Projects, homework, and tests, Oh! My!
You are SUPER creative. That’s definitely a trait I want in my kids’ teachers. I get that you like to assign out-the-box assignments and plenty of at-home practice for your students, but what I don’t think you realize is that time is more on your side than mine. Once the school bell rings, we don’t go home to a quiet house. My time is consumed solely by my children. With two working parents and 3 kids, rarely do we ever end the day at 3:15 and head straight home to peace and quiet. I ask that you please take into consideration your students’ home life and if the amount of homework and projects you assign to be completed at home is truly beneficial to my child’s overall education. Because, as far as I can tell, yelling, fighting, crying, punishing, threatening, and stressing over a 2nd grade solar system diorama, doesn’t exactly reinforce any type of learning skill other than the fact that my kid has expressed her hatred for me and now for school. I know what you must be thinking, and you’re right – this is not how families should behave at home, but this is reality. When you become a mother, this is what consumes your evenings. When a “simple” at-home assignment turns into a couple of hours of stress, is the child really learning? It’s easy to assign these things to be completed for homework all the time because that’s your sole focus. Your job and its expectations might have conditioned you to associate school with homework, but I beg you to think about this when assigning as much work as you do: getting home late, extracurriculars, distracting siblings, working parents. Is all the homework and out-of-class projects necessary when the children are at an age that requires parental help? With many subjects for multiple kids to address in one evening while also cooking dinner, driving to and from piano lessons, referee-ing sibling fights, and being a keeper of all things magical and innocent, your subject can’t always be a top priority at home, and I fear you might have miscalculated that when planning your creativity. As a parent on the verge, especially around holidays, I beg you to lower expectations of what the children can complete at home and raise your expectations for what they could complete in class.
I realize what I’m asking of you is a lot, but then again, this career you have chosen is a demanding one – one that often gets overlooked as such and definitely warrants a pay raise. You clearly can see that this role is not just a job for you; it’s a career that quite literally touches not just the life sitting in your classroom but all of those lives he sees at home too. Like a growing tree, there are so many intertwined branches and sprouting leaves that you alone can affect. The stress that can be caused by just one assignment trickles down to multiple family members. And, before you know it, what is supposed to be a happy familial environment becomes a tense atmosphere my kids try to avoid. You don’t see this yet in your own home. Sure, you have other stressors, but you don’t see the ones that I’m trying to explain, and that makes it challenging, for both of us, to affect positive change. And, I guess that is why I’m ultimately writing this letter – for change. I’m writing to you in hopes the small window I’ve shown you of life with school-aged children will somehow resonate with you when organizing your policies, planning your creative assignments, and responding to parent inquiries. Thank you for taking the time to read, and I hope the rest of the school year is a successful one.
A Teacher Mom
P.S. I was once just like you.