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An Open Letter to Teachers
Mom with a View

An Open Letter to Teachers

Before our parent/teacher meeting, allow me to explain where I'm coming from.

by

Dear Teacher,

Tomorrow night is Parent-Teacher conferences. I don’t know how you view the evening (are you dreading it like I am?) but let me share my perspective. (I’m only doing this out of concern; I’m sure you understand.)

I’d like to begin my stipulating how much I admire and respect you. I can’t overstate the fact that I would never want your job and that I can’t even imagine being successful at it. I know you work hard. I know you try hard and I know that some of those kids (including my own) may give you a run for your money. I’m not indifferent to your challenges and I’m grateful to you and appreciative of your efforts.

But please don’t leave your parenting hat at the door when you put on your teacher one. Please treat me the way you’d like to be treated under the same circumstances (don’t make me squish into those teeny tiny chairs!) and please speak of my child the way you’d like your child’s teacher to speak.

Just in case you’re unsure of what I mean, I am going to clarify (being considerate of your needs yet again).

I think it would be helpful and productive to stop and take a moment to think before you speak (I know it’s hard; you’re dying to get home, put up your feet, maybe pour yourself a hot drink and forget all about school). While this child may be one of many in a classroom, to me they are an individual precious soul, entrusted to me to love and nurture. His (or her) welfare is my primary concern and I devote most of my emotional and physical resources to this end. My love for this child knows no bounds.

While I may not be naïve and may see clearly my child’s flaws and weaknesses, I am focused on their strengths and their potential. I believe in them and love who they are.

You may have something unpleasant to tell me but if you don’t begin with the positive, I probably won’t listen.

You really need to remember this. In fact, in order to be a successful teacher, I hope you are seeing his good as well. I hope you are appreciating his (or her!) potential.

Please start with a description of that. You may have something unpleasant to tell me but if you don’t begin with the positive, I probably won’t listen. I won’t be able to hear you. I won’t take you seriously. Your comments may still be accurate but I will have tuned out.

If there is an ongoing problem, I hope you haven’t waited until tonight. It frustrates me to discover that you’ve allowed a negative situation to fester because you couldn’t be bothered to pick up the phone. I am invested in my child’s academic success and good behavior. Let me know early if there’s an issue that needs addressing.

Please recognize that this is a mutual responsibility. I will do what I can from my end but you have a responsibility to control the class and be sensitive to the students’ needs. If my child is doing well in every class except yours (I am remembering an unpleasant experience from past years), my only (and most logical) conclusion is that you are not adequately fulfilling your end of the bargain. My job will still be to ensure that he behaves appropriately no matter the classroom situation, but you also need to work on approving your own abilities (are we allowed to publicly acknowledge that not all teachers are equally talented?).

I won’t blame you for all the problems, but I won’t absolve you either.

In summary, we are in this together. I certainly don’t want to shirk my parental responsibilities and place everything on the school. And the reverse is also true. If you take the time to appreciate and understand my child, my gratitude will know no bounds and I will excited to work with you in helping her achieve her potential.

But if you are only harsh and critical – well, I won’t respond in kind but I will probably think you should have chosen another profession.

Sincerely,

A Concerned and Involved Parent

Published: November 19, 2011


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Visitor Comments: 19

(16) Anonymous, November 24, 2011 12:55 AM

Students need to take responsibility for their behaviors

I have been a teacher for over 25 years. I am also a parent. I look for the good in all my students. I believe that parents and teachers are in a partnership and the home/school connection is vital for school success. I keep very open communication between school and home. I do find however, at times, some children are very disruptive and make is hard for the other students to learn. It is easy to be judgmental and the blame the teacher but the other students have the right to learn without constant interruptions. Usually the parent sees the same behaviors at home. Teachers and parents need to work together to help redirect behaviors. In the long run the child needs to take responsibility for his/her behavior. It is not a blame game, it is helping each child meet his/her potential and be the best he/she can be without excuses.

(15) Anonymous, November 23, 2011 1:16 PM

Great topic- part 2

Parents and teachers have to work together, as a team, respecting each other. Children are very insightful and pick up on disdain very easily. Parents have to remember that they are their child's advocates. If the child has a problem with a teacher, speak up. First to the teacher, in a circumspect way, but not in front of the child. If the teacher is unresponsive, go over his head. Speak to your child as well, not in a derogatory way about the teacher, but in a way that makes the problem less overwhelming for the child. Don't focus on the teacher's shortcomings, but on your child's strengths. Give the child confidence that he can overcome the problem, and that he has back-up, again, if possible, with out making the teacher lose credibility in the child's eyes. How you help your child deal with a circumstance like this may influence the way he handles his problems in the future. Remember that the teacher is working for you, you pay his salary, but always show respect. You set an example for your child. This is your child's future you're dealing with. Don't sleep on the job. Teachers should take to heart the parents' concerns, and be mindful that the words you send home with a parent could affect the relationship between parent and child, including resulting in abuse. Physical or verbal (emotional). I thank G-d that I was never subject to that growing up, but it happens in the best families. Parents may not even realize that they're verbally abusing their child. I taught in various capacities over the years and found that these are rules to live by. The rewards of viewing your responsibilities as precious can bring much joy into your life. Having students greet you after years of not seeing you, with a big smile and a story about the positive impact you had on their lives, is one of the greatest rewards there is. Not much in life can beat it.

(14) Shulamis Mallet, November 23, 2011 12:52 PM

Great topic, part 1

Emuna, I wish this letter would be hung up in every teachers' lounge, and every teacher asked to sign it to make sure they actually read it! You make several very salient points. It's sometimes hard for me to believe that a teacher may actually be a parent, too. There are a couple of things I would add. The most important thing, would be that the teacher should ask the parent about their child, first. A teacher can learn more about a child (and the parent-child relationship) in 5 minutes from the parents, than months in a classroom, with 30 other kids. Parents should, of course keep their comments positive, even about issues their child is having. I was actually turned off from school in 2nd grade, if you can imagine that. By 2 teachers. One wouldn't let me go to the bathroom, and so ended up being a source of embarrassment for me, the other dragged me to the Principal's office by the ear because I forged my mother's signature on a test. And I got the highest grade in the class on that test! I later realized that these teachers were actually very nice people, but the damage was done. Teachers, in a sense, became my enemies. A person has to realize that when they get in front of a classroom, they are being given a tremendous responsibility. As with any responsibility, you have the potential to make it into a labor of love and work to build, or you can view it as a burden. I like to view my responsibilities as a gift from G-d, as if G-d is entrusting me with the keys to a porsche. I could treat it carelessly and end up with a wreck, or I can treat it well and the car will only increase in value over time. When G-d created man, G-d used clay. G-d molded man into His image. Is it right for us to use a hammer to continue the process? We can either add to the beauty of a fellow human being, or scar it. It may take years, if ever, until the damage we do is repaired. A serious responsibility, indeed.

(13) Anonymous, November 23, 2011 4:12 AM

you have hit the nail on the head

Dear Emuna. I cried when reading this article. Not because of my child's failings, which I believe I am fully aware of, but because I know she has so many positive attributes which I know she will use wisely, and with which she can contribute to society. There was however, one teacher who has placed a brick wall in front of her future. It has been a blow to her self confidence and self esteem. We are vehemently trying to correct the situation, and may she be granted the ability to continue to grow in her wisdom, strong, silent, gentle and caring ways.

(12) Kerry, November 23, 2011 1:36 AM

Parents do your part too

Concerned Parents, Please connect to ParentLInk regarding your child/children's grade(s)! Most districts require teachers to post grades every Friday or that teacher's administrator runs disciplinary paperwork on them. If you not own a computer, go to the public library on Saturday morning for your child's weekly progress and quit complaining about how hard your life is; your child did not ask to be born and her or his upbringing is your responsibility not the teacher's. Go to the teacher's web page, most districts mandate a teacher maintain a web page with assignments and notes if the student is absent. No excuses parents, none. I worked, raised a son, attended university, paid a mortgage, did all the house and yardwork, cared for two dogs and cats, checked on my son's grade and helped with homework nightly as a single parent. As a teacher, I am tired of parental whining and political administrators who force teachers to pass students through the system regardless of ability or effort. This PC bs is destroying my society with irresponsibility and ignorance. Also remember, do not attack the teacher for contacting you with her or his concerns. This will cause the teacher to not want to contact any other parent's int he future, and I do not care if no other teacher has ever call your with concerns; most are probably afraid of you hostile reaction.

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