Dear Teacher: I Promise This

Back-to-school promises a mom will make to her son's teacher this year, and promises she expects his teacher to make in return

mom, daughter, and teacher

Dear Teacher, 

I can’t believe it is already a new school year. Well, actually I can. I have been praying for this moment since July 28 when I was officially done being fun summer mama. I posted my resignation on the fridge, started calling Doritos a food group and ceremoniously began Xing out the days on the family calendar until school starts.

Before I have officially met you and day one is upon us, I want to thank you for everything you do in your classroom. My appreciation is not in that patronizing, “you are doing the most selfless job in the world” sort of way, but in the, “if there are two 7-hour kid-raising shifts in a given day, thank you for taking one of them” sort of way. I am fairly certain you will grow my child into his own personal greatness better than I may ever be able to do.

I also want to make a few promises to you as a parent in your classroom. In return, I am going to ask for a few promises from you. I have never done this with one of my child’s teachers, but I am hoping that a few promises to one another will result in my family’s best school year yet.

Me the mama: I promise to always email you first, not the principal. I know you are the all knowing in your fiefdom and you understand your subjects best. You can give me the honest skinny on my child better than anyone. Part B of this promise: I will not email you after 8 p.m. Nothing good ever comes from an email sent after 8 p.m. Why? If you have your own kids you know, if not, let me enlighten you. As a parent of young children I am tired, cranky and probably have had a glass of wine or three by 8. All that tossed into an email is a recipe for a lengthy, whiney diatribe. Plus, there are few things more regretful than a morning-after recollection of an ill-written email. Cringe.

You the teacher: I know my child and his circumstances are not unique and you have seen it a 1000 times before. Heck, you probably just saw it yesterday on someone else’s child. But I haven’t. This is my first go at parenting through social dysfunction, challenging academics, erratic behavior. When I reach out please email, or better yet, call me back. I need to hear the reassurance in your voice, I need to hear you give me your full attention (what is it teachers call it, your “listening ears”) and I need you to bear with me and act as if this is all new and fascinating to you too. And if it warrants it, meet with me. I know, more time commitment, but talking with me in person may assuage receiving several post 8 p.m. emails in weeks to come. Please, let me know we will get through this together.

I know it must be difficult to deliver hard news to a parent who may think their child is awe-inspiringly perfect. I promise to be open to the hard news you have to share, if you promise to share and not go soft when I get squirmy.

Me the mama: I have decided that this year I officially do not need to know every detail about school life. I am retiring as the chief know-it- all in my family. This year I will leave it up to my child to actually have to remember things. Homework due on Friday? Better know your days of the week. Library books due on Monday? I will not be racing into school aglow in a light sweat with a book covered in cracker residue. Forgotten shin guards at home? The pain of one soccer practice without them should solve that problem. I promise not to nag you to document and share every little thing that is going on in school because my child refuses to grunt out more than the bare minimum at dinner. Our family theme this year is independence, his and mine. Personal responsibility will reign supreme. Hopefully.

You the teacher:  In your effort to support my efforts to raise a child who can hunt and gather lunch and, if the stars really align, make his bed, can you please promise to share with me, directly and honestly, when parental intervention is needed. I know it must be difficult to deliver hard news to a parent who may think their child is awe-inspiringly perfect. But I would rather hear, early and often, that my child is struggling with friendships, struggling with fractions, struggling with emotions. I promise to be open to the hard news you have to share, if you promise to share and not go soft when I get squirmy. When my face scrunches up and my eyes fill with tears you may think I will break, but I won’t. Stay on me and stay with me when the going gets rough. Hold me personally responsible to support and act on behalf of my child’s challenges.

Me the mama: I promise not to believe everything I hear about you and about school from my child. I am smart enough to know that you don’t really let the kids cut their own hair in class when I ask my child what happened to his bangs. I also promise not to inquire about the issues and consequences of children in the class who are struggling that are not mine. If the child is not mine this week, he may be next week and I appreciate your tact and confidentiality when talking with other parents when my child becomes the topic de jour.

You the teacher: Can you promise not to believe everything you hear about me and about my home?  No I did not tell my child that using my phone to vote for their favorite singer on The Voice is educational research. I may have claimed watching the show will help with his fear of public speaking. I will own that one.

This school year please be kind, be firm, be objective. With me as well as my child.

Happy first day of school to us.

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