1. ASK questions and LISTEN to your children. We cannot be afraid or too busy to talk with our children about their day. Yes, you’ll suffer through the “it’s boring,” or the “how come we can’t have pizza every day?” types of exchanges. It comes with the territory. Just press through those comical yet droning things. It will pay off. Also, ask open-ended questions like: how was math today? What did you do? Tell me the strangest things you did in class today? It may seem like a tiny thing but let me tell you it makes a world of difference. Asking questions like those, led my daughter to talk about a substitute teacher who repeatedly used the words stupid and idiot when referring to her classmates. She vividly recounted how the teacher made her friend cry because he couldn’t add. That leads me to my next point:
2. VISIT, LISTEN and WATCH teachers. When I visited the classroom, I witnessed the substitute teacher using unkind words and name calling with the children. Although, I wanted to bop her upside the head with the bumper of my car, I decided on a different approach. I countered every harsh word with a kind one. For every snide remark she made to a child, I made an encouraging one. She was noticeably surprised and perturbed. So, I approached her saying, “these children are just so bright. I look forward to the day when teachers will hone in on their gifts and cause them to really shine.” I wish I could
say she magically turned a new leaf, she didn’t. But she stopped using the names in my presence. Afterward, I voiced my concerns with the principal. End result? No more substitute teacher. Parents: YOU have more POWER than you think.
So many of us are worried about being labeled troublesome, or annoying or nosy by school administrators. When it comes to my kid, I’m all of that and more. It’s my right and business to know just about everything going on in my child’s school and classroom. If something isn’t right, I want to know about it which brings me to the next step:
3. DO NOT IGNORE YOUR GUT. I cannot stress this point enough. So many times, I hear from parents who say I could tell something wasn’t right but I didn’t… or I never liked that teacher… Do not let this be your story. If you don’t feel right about something or about a teacher, do something about it. Chances are you are not the only one and even if you are, you owe it to your child.
When my son was in the second grade, there was a teacher in the school who just thought he was so adorable. She would visit his classrooms throughout the day, almost every day, to give him a hug. Odd right? When she showed up at my church, the ‘yellow alert’ alarm sounded. Of all the churches in the city, she showed up at mine? Okay. When my son tensed, grabbed my hand and tried to hide behind me, as she approached him asking for a hug, the oh-I-don’t-think-so momma in me came alive. After I briefly, cordially, but directly stated “oh Ms. ___, it’s so nice to see you again but this time I plan to keep all my son’s hugs for myself. You know how it is.” We had no more problems after that.
4. FIND AN ALLY at the school, with others parents or family members. There were many times that I simply could not be at the school in the day, especially when I transitioned from stay-at-home mother to working full-time. To assuage my fears, I wanted eyes and ears in my children’s schools so that I could be better poised to handle situations, if needed. As such, I turned to other teachers and parents who knew my children. In this circumstance, my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher proved to be a great resource. Likewise, I had family members who would regularly (and unannounced) check in on my children while in class.
Parents, our journey is treacherous. We bear the responsibility of trying to not only raise and instill morals and traditions in our children, but to also safeguard them from what seems like a society teeming with depravity and indifference. As parents, we have to be our child’s best advocate and do all that we can, and even a little more, to see that our children are safe, no matter where they are.