By Craig Funston
You’re a few weeks into the summer holidays, and you’re already counting the days when school starts up again. Or, if you’re a kid (hi kid, thanks for reading my column!), you’re also a few weeks into the summer holidays and cherishing every single week that you’re away from “inform” school.
(Maurice: I did mean “inform” and not “reform” school. Theoretically, kids attend school to get informed. What they get informed about is, well…)
Teachers, like cops, get a very bad rap these days. Like cops, there are a few bad apples in the educational barrel, but it’s a big barrel with only few miscreants. Sadly, they’re all smeared with the same slanderous brush. Both teachers and cops need a good word said in their favour once in a while.
Consider this a good word of sorts.
Part of it is because I are, er, am one of them, and partly because teachers have such a pivotal role in the life of your child (or that of your grand-kids). We may also have fond memories of certain teachers from our distant past. And don’t forget the other heroines, namely, those who teach their kids at home.
Two teachers that stand out in my mind are Mrs. Matthews (grade 5 homeroom) and Mr. Redmond (Journalism 11, elective). They were key influences in my life in the late 60’s and early 70’s; I assume they have gone on to the “other side,” as we so tactfully put it.
I regret two things about the above information: One, that I haven’t been able to locate them and thank them for what wonderful persons they were; and two, that there aren’t as many of those types of people anymore.
I’m not sure of you picked up nuanced difference in how I referred to them. I used the word “persons,” and “people”–not teachers. They are teachers, to be sure, and very good ones at that. But they were decent, balanced, and virtuous people first—who happened to teach public school.
Our universities are churning out people through the teaching mill that really aren’t fit to lead a classroom. Don’t think a piece of paper (and the years of study and practise it represents) makes for a good teacher. It takes a lot more than post-secondary education.
The inverse is likewise true: I know some great instructors who do not have a university degree.
Let me be clear: There are great people who are great teachers—in that order, please—and I know many of them personally in this county.
Teaching today is not the same as teaching was a generation or two ago. Kids are different today, as are the homes they come from. Wait, let me correct that slightly: The kids and the things that influence them are different today. Kids are still kids, whether it’s 1815, 1915, or 2015. What is different is the toys, mindset, homes, and culture at large that they bring into the classroom.
And that means a lot more baggage for teachers to have to work through these days.
Parents are more willing than ever to leave the best hours of the days, the best days of the week, the best weeks of the year, and the best years the life—at least for their kids– in the hands of someone else. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong; I’m simply saying be an informed, active, and supportive parent.
Learn to develop a rapport with your child’s teacher. Have them for a meal; meet them for coffee; offer to help in them in some way, any way. They’re human just like you, and should appreciate your support.
I have found even in my limited teaching load these past few years (and more extensive back in BC), that when that very thing happens, the kids (their children = my students) behave better, perform better, and feel better about themselves.
It’s almost like marriage: Kids do better, guaranteed, when mom and dad aren’t fighting, or aren’t sniping at each other. The fallout from divorce are the kids, of course. The same can be said when home and school are not speaking to one another—or when they do, it’s really ugly
To milk that marriage metaphor a little more, let me suggest a few things for next fall’s school year: leave pleasant notes that express your appreciation for the work the teacher does; if you have to disagree with the teacher, do it discreetly and privately—not in front of the kids; and finally, honour jurisdiction as to who’s in charge of the child, knowing the when and where.
Sounds like good solid marriage advice, doesn’t it?
So for the next few weeks, just consider the summer holidays as a bit of an annual honeymoon period. Except in this case, it’s a honeymoon without the honeymooners together.