Parents, welcome back to another school year! On behalf of teachers everywhere, I would like to strike a bargain.
You and I may not come to know each other well, but we will certainly know all about each other. I will learn how much you weigh and what your favorite songs are. If you get a traffic ticket or throw up, I will hear about it. You will be informed when I buy ugly shoes, change my hair color or crack dumb jokes. I can’t do a cartwheel or sing and you will hear about it. You will know I can’t cook; I will know you can’t dance. I won’t judge if you don’t.
If we meet at the grocery store, I won’t avoid you, even if I am wearing grungy sweats and my shopping cart contains nothing but wine and toilet paper. Please don’t duck down the next aisle so I can’t see the giant economy size bag of chicken nuggets, the Hot Cheetos, or the 3-liter bottle of Diet Coke. Let’s agree to turn a blind eye.
Your son will tell you that I scold him for talking because I don’t like him. The same child will tell me that he couldn’t do his homework because you dragged him around the mall all evening. He may swear to you that I never assign homework. To me he may insist that you don’t make him do it. I won’t believe him if you don’t.
I don’t always get work corrected and returned to students as fast as I should. If you forgive me these lapses, I will forgive you when — in April — I find a notice about the Halloween carnival still in your child’s backpack.
At least once I will be compared unfavorably to you: “My mom does it this way.” I hope that makes up for the times you hear “But my teacher says...” Let’s make a pact not to roll our eyes when that happens.
Your child will accidentally call me Mom, Grandma or even Dad; she will call you Teacher. Both of us know that this does not mean she loves me more than you. You have not been demoted. I will never be as important to her as you are.
Both of us will occasionally hurt your child’s feelings, neither of us intentionally. I will assume you are generally kind and loving; please assume the same of me.
I know you work hard to keep your child safe. You toddler-proofed your house when he was born, and insist on bike helmets and buckled seatbelts now. Believe that during school hours, I will do my best to protect him from playground mishaps or bullies. We will talk about crossing the street safely and how to avoid Internet predators.
I will teach him what to do in the event of a fire, earthquake or lockdown. Within the first few days of school I will figure out if your child can be hidden in a cabinet or cubby or will have to hide under my desk in the event of an armed intruder.
Trust that his safety is important to me. If he does come home with a skinned knee, recognize that it is not due to neglect and that kids play hard and sometimes fall.
You and I will need to talk sometimes. I promise to answer your phone calls, texts and emails.
In exchange, all I ask is that you talk to me.
Even when it’s hard, talk to me. Even when your child struggles, even when you’re embarrassed, even if your command of English is shaky, talk to me. If I ask about your impending divorce, your child’s last visit to the pediatrician, or your upcoming trip to the Grand Canyon, I’m not being nosy. I can best teach your child if I can see beyond her score on page 54 in the math book.
If your child takes medication or didn’t talk until he was 5 years old, if he is on a swim team or collects Legos, please tell me. If I see something that concerns me I promise to tell you, even if it makes for an uncomfortable conversation.
Come to Back-to-School Night, parent-teacher conferences and Open House. Ask me what I’m teaching. Ask me how I know your child is learning. Insist that I push your child harder.
I promise our conversations will begin on a positive note. I like your kid. I really do. Whether your child is challenging or practically perfect, let’s start by seeing the best in her. She will live up to our expectations, good or bad. While we’re at it, let’s see the best in each other.
Here’s to a great school year. I’m delighted to be on your team.