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7 Secrets Teachers Aren’t Telling

Inside the Mind of a Veteran Educator


1. “We love your kids, but it’s getting harder and harder to act like we love the Favorite Teacher gifts.”

Look in the highest cabinet of any teacher’s kitchen. Go to the local Goodwill store and count the A+ Teacher mugs. How do you suppose they got there? This also applies to teacher paraphernalia and teacher ornaments of any kind. Most teachers I know feel, as I do, that if you are an especially bad teacher, you will die and go to a place festooned with apples and blackboards, cute little kitties perched on stacks of books, and doe-eyed mice riding pencils. This year, we’d rather have a gift card to anywhere, for any amount.

2. “We know who really did the science project.”

There is a balance between giving your kid a box of markers, a poster board, and the command Have at it! And you doing the project all by yourself. At the least, do take the time to teach your child how to type, print, and cut out headings and titles. Offer direction, yes, but please make sure your child has done at least 75 percent of the work. This is a just a guideline, and there may be times when you doing more, or less, is very appropriate. There should never be a time, however, when your child stands up to share a report and can’t read or pronounce a word he supposedly wrote. So if you’re a professional scrapbooker, stand down. If you didn’t even realize your child had a project, step it up. But in all cases, your child deserves to feel the pride of presenting his own best work.

3. “A medical professional should see your child.”

If you repeatedly hear phrases like attention issues from your child’s teacher, please understand that we are not medical professionals, but we do work with children every day. We have a good sense of what normal childish immaturity looks like. We also know when a child is suffering academically, socially, or emotionally because of a lack of self-control. We cannot say ADD or ADHD to you. We can only describe behaviors and pray that you are savvy enough to get the hint and, at least, get it checked out. I mean when a stranger on the street tells me he thinks my tire looks low, I get out my gauge and check it. Contrary to comments I’ve heard, teachers do not want all their students sitting quietly if that means putting them into a drug-induced stupor. We want your child to be happy and able to work to her full potential.

4. “Omnipotence and omnipresence are not part of the course requirements for teacher preparation.”

When a parent asks, “And where were you during this incident?” it sounds like an indictment. My own children often played in the yard, while I did the dishes in front of the window. My kids had scrapes, bruises, and yes, even the occasional stitch or two, and this Was nobody’s fault. As teachers we are required to be with our class on the playground. On the rare occasion that we do need to use the restroom (apparently, they won’t give catheter bags to otherwise healthy people), teachers ask a colleague to watch their class while using the facilities. And sometimes, despite all our best efforts, some child may get hurt on the playground. In fact, the most serious injury to one of my students happened when he fell and fractured his arm right after he said, “Watch me climb the monkey bars!” This was just inches from my feet. So please remember, stuff happens even if the teacher is right there.

5. “We can’t talk to you during lunch.”

Unfortunately, this is a time when many teachers run into parents in the cafeteria. I say unfortunately because teachers end up with about 20 minutes to eat their lunch. I really want to talk to you, or even may need to talk to you, but I’ve been waiting to use the restroom, wash my hands, sit down and eat something since seven o’clock this morning. Teachers are required to wait in the cafeteria line while the class is served. By the time we’ve completed that, there is precious little time to eat our own lunch. So, please don’t think we’re rude for running away from you. Teachers are glad you are at school to eat lunch with your child.

6. “Your child smells.”

This is a problem for every teacher I know above second grade. Children Are developing more quickly than a few generations ago, and deodorant is a must. You may not notice this at home, but stop by the classroom some day after recess, and you’ll realize that the apple on the teacher’s desk isn’t the only thing that’s ripe in the room! When parents ask why their child doesn’t have many friends, no teacher on the planet is going to say, “Well, your child stinks.” So help us out, and encourage your child to use some deodorant before school.

7. “I am not a walking grade book.”

Standing in the produce isle at Kroger, I am thinking about whether salmon with sweet potatoes will be too much orange on the plate. So, no, I don’t really know how Suzie did on her math test today. I have a general sense of whether she did fantastically or she bombed, but as to the exact grade – I think I’ll go with a Yukon Gold potato. While watching his son’s football game, a teacher friend of mine was approached by a parent who asked if his child had made honor roll. We know and care for your child, but please understand that discrete pieces of information are not at the forefront of our minds, especially outside of school.

Sherrill Kauffman has been teaching – preschool to high school – for nearly twenty years. She is the mom of two adult children and lives in Goochland with her husband.
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