Diary of a First-Year Teacher: The Trouble With Being 22
Each week, an anonymous first-grade teacher will share her confessions, musings, struggles, and successes during the first year of her teaching career in rural Mississippi.
I sit cross-legged on my bed, lesson plans open on my desktop, and my iPhone staring me down in my lap. I have a list of three parents I need to call to discuss their student’s behavior.
I don’t have a phone in my classroom, and I rarely get a chance during the day to make it down to the office to call parents. This means I must make parent phone calls after dinner.
It’s 7 p.m., arguably past dinner time, and I know the responsible thing to do is call these parents and give them my professional opinion on their student’s behavior and academic performance, but all I want to do is flip on the TV and hang out with my roommates. Part of me lets Taylor Swift’s lyric float into my head: “I’m feeling 22 tonight.” But quickly I remind myself that being responsible to parents is paramount to my students’ success.
There are many reasons I dread these phone calls. First, I have a mere seven months of experience in my field, and my lack of confidence comes out in my shaky voice when I respond to parents’ questions and demands. Second, I am often ten years younger than the parents I serve. Already insecure about my “professional opinion,” I am imposing it upon an adult ten years my senior who also happens to be the living expert on his or her child. Who am I to offer a suggestion on how to raise, support, and discipline their kids?
Navigating the parent-teacher relationship is tricky for any teacher, but it’s especially tricky for a recent college graduate, still getting her “sea legs.”
Navigating the parent-teacher relationship is tricky for any teacher, but it’s especially tricky for a recent college graduate still getting her “sea legs.” The conversations are often awkward. “Hello, ma’am, I am calling to talk about your child’s behavior.” Neither of us wants to have that conversation, but they are a necessary evil. Getting parents invested in their child’s education is essential.
Unfortunately, I did not start the year really buying into this. I had heard this was important, but with all the other things on my plate, I let parent relationships fall by the wayside. Of course, I fostered the relationships that were easy—the moms who work at the school and the parents who show up to every school event. I called all the other parents once to introduce myself, but then when I did not hear back, I left it at that. I had lesson plans to write and steam from the day to let off.
However, the harsh reality I’ve realized as I study my students’ data is that all of my A students have parents that are invested. No exceptions. Parents who are invested support what I do at school with their students at home. They read with the kids regularly, and they support the character of education that is vital to my classroom culture and management. Essentially I can try to do it on my own, but I would likely fail. I need the parents on board if we are really going to get their kids to learn.
So that means going out of my way to contact parents to let them know what their child needs to work on, and what their child is succeeding at, even if it’ll be an awkward conversation. Does that mean that I call parents every night? No. I have hard days when that is the last thing in my plans. But I am being more intentional with parents and making an effort to improve my parent-teacher relationships, because I know now how important it is for student success.