Dear Teacher, I don’t care about my kid’s grades.

Dear Teacher,

Hi there. Glad to meet you.

I wanted to take a couple of minutes to let you know that I don’t care about grades, targets, inputs, outputs, data, graphs, averages, national standards or any other fashionable way of measuring my kid’s so-called achievement. I especially don’t care about these things if it means producing such paperwork is sapping your inspiration and leaving you tired and stressed in the classroom.

I want you to have sufficient time to plan lessons that are relevant to the class and the students in front of you today. I have confidence in your ability to recognise when a particular style or method isn’t working, and to adapt the lesson accordingly. Every kid is different, we all know that. I also know that the rigid policy pushing you to prioritise the particular method or theory that is popular today, is not the same method that was popular yesterday.

I know that you have a wealth of experience working with children and I value that experience for the nuanced, unique and practical wisdom it has given you. Use it. I want you to be adventurous and spontaneous in the classroom, even if it meansโ€ฆ no, especially if it means doing things outside the square. When you discover, for example, that one of your student’s parents knows someone who can come and talk about their first hand experience of the topic you’re studying – a standing MP, a refugee, a former Olympian, I want you to have the flexibility, flair and above all management support, to totally re-work the term calendar to fit that opportunity in.

I want you to lead as much by instinct for what you can see is working right in front of you, as by your training. You will come to know your students well during the year; what is likely to interest and motivate them. Do that. I want you to teach my kid how to learn, not solely what to learn. Moreover, I want you to inspire him as a lifelong learner, not to turn him off by studying topics or reading books that you yourself find boring.

I want you to be part of the reason my kid goes to school in the morning with a spring in his step. It’s a cliche to say that teachers should be inspirational, but what’s so wrong with the cliche?

When kids play up and frustrate the hell out of you, or lack respect for your authority, I want you to know that I trust your judgment on the best way to deal with it. I’ve got your back. I want you to be firm – but fair. On the other hand, when a kid is acting out and you can see through his/her behaviour for what it really is, I want you to be generous enough to keep on trying and never give up on that kid.

I want you to be paid well. Your remuneration should reflect the value that we place as a society on education – which is to say there is no more important job (except perhaps mine!) The hard work, patience and dedication teaching demands needs to be given proper recognition.

By the same token, I want to know that you’re not there just for the holidays, or because you thought teaching would be a convenient profession, or because it was the cheapest and quickest degree on offer at university and only required a C+ average for admittance. I want to know that you were selected from among the best of the best. I want to know you’re not going to turn up to school merely to tick boxes and tow the line, but because you love the job and believe in what you do.

If you’re worried about my kid, you can speak to me directly. No need to wait for the end of the term, have a quick word with me at the end of the day. If I could be doing more to support you in the classroom, tell me. On the other hand, if I come to school and say my kid didn’t do the homework last night because we went for a bike ride, or to hang out with the grandparents, or we stayed up late reading a book together, I want you to say “cool.”

And in the end of year reports, you should know that I’m less interested in how my kid did in the tests than I am in what you think of him as an individual, what sort of learner he is, how he relates to you and to his peers. I know that after all those long monotonous hours of marking is done, that’s all that really matters.

Because in 25 years time when I’m rummaging through my boxes of old memorabilia, it’s not the numbers in the column I’ll look at, but the words that you wrote,

Signed,

A Parent.

***As we draw to the end of another school year and look forward to the next, this post is dedicated to all the hard working teachers out there writing reports and marking exams. It’s inspired by my experience of a teacher who embodied the very essence of this letter and more, as you can see in this tribute video made by his students at the end of the year.. Thank you, teachers, for all that you do.

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27 thoughts on “Dear Teacher, I don’t care about my kid’s grades.

  1. How wonderfully written! I only wish though, that all teachers are allowed the freedom to do what you ask of them here … I think the bigger problem in most cases is that the system itself sucks the life out of teachers by enforcing specific kinds of rules and scoring silliness .. and I guess not all teachers are creative enough to break out of that rigidity without hurting their careers. Wonderfully written nevertheless!

    • As a teacher, I think the biggest problem isn’t that teachers lack creavity but rather courage. It takes a lot of courage and self-confidence to say, “Yeah, I’m not doing that.” I’m not saying teachers are cowardly. It’s just that we are kept on such a short leash that is hard for any teacher who is fearful of losing his/her job to stand up and say, no. Be prepared for a fight.
      I don’t assign homework in elementary school. I take a lot of crap for this, even though our homework policy says 10 min per night per grade is the maximum you can assign and that it is not mandatory. And this is just one tiny issue.

      • Regarding creativity and the courage to take risks, well, frankly it’s upsetting to hear that teachers are put off fighting for what they know would be a better way out of fear for losing their jobs. But it must happen all the time, and of course that’s only logical. Perhaps in the same circumstances I’d do the same thing (knowing all too well the pressures of raising a family and the need for financial security). But the conditions that create and perpetuate this clearly flawed situation should be addressed. For starters, we could make teaching the coveted profession it ought to be by rewarding it with the status and pay packet it deserves. If we selected only the very best, perhaps then we’d have such creative and dynamic teachers that we wouldn’t need to keep on such a short leash…

        Pie in the sky stuff? But why? Why is it so hard to dream big for education? Or dream different?

        As for homework.. hurrah for you! Why people believe that having elementary kids in tears and arguing with their parents every night reinforces anything but a low self-esteem and disdain for learning is beyond me. For the 5% of kids that love homework, good on them. But for the vast majority of us, it’s just a headache. (And research shows that believing homework teaches kids self-management skills and prepares them for high school is a. fallacy too)

    • Thanks – yes, freedom! That’s a word I should have used in here. I wish I could give teachers more freedom and more flexibility. If we were raising the bar at the entrance to teacher training, we wouldn’t need to micro-manage teachers so much after the fact. Professional development is one thing, and every school needs good policies based on sound theory, but at a certain point we gotta hand over the reigns and let go a little, trust teachers to do their thing. I know a good (and not so great) teacher when I see one – it’s wrtten all over my kids face when I pick them up from school!

  2. I’m a qualified primary teacher, and what you’ve outlined is partly why I DON’T teach! If it was all about the kids, and planning what WE as a class and school were going to achieve it may be different. To me there was too much ‘benchmark’ talk and meeting and after meeting after meeting. Some is important yes, but it seemed the kids and the class were secondary to the ‘learning learning’ that was to be done by teachers. I love kids and enjoyed the actually teaching, but I don’t have the passion overall, and kids education is to important to have a teacher who is unenthusiastic.
    Well said ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks – tho sad to hear you’re no longer in the classroom! There seems to be a chorus among teachers and it echoes exactly your sentiments… too many meetings, too much reporting, not enough contact time – the stuff that teachers love, the whole reason they’re there.

      It makes me sad because parents are probably just as much to blame in creating this situation as school management and education policy; by demanding to know where our kids sit on the scale relative to other kids, by wanting to know which school is the “best” on a list of arbitrary indicators, by getting involved in school boards and steering the school in a particular direction as a part of some personal power trip.

      No-one ever asks the kids at the end of the year; hey, who do YOU think’s a good teacher, and why? Why are we so scared to hear what they’ll say? Would we listen even if we did?

      • That’s exactly right! I’m happy ATM, I have my own 2 year old to raise, and am a part time library manager, writing in my spare time. Pretty much perfect life for me at the moment ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks! High school… bbbrrr, haven’t got there yet. I bet that’s a whole other kettle of fish to look forward to as a parent! And yep, the video is lovely, although my son still can’t watch it without choking up. Even just the first few bars of the song bring tears to his eyes – a not normally sentimental kid!

    • Oh, you are so welcome! I just read your link – (please other commenters you must click over and read it) it is fantastic! You are the kind of teacher every PARENT dreams of having!

  3. Wonderful post. I feel the same way exactly. Unfortunately, the test, test, test education system is making great teachers leave in droves. It’s so sad for our children and for the teachers who deserve to be happy and fulfilled in their jobs.

    • I agree completely – as I’ve said in the comment above, I do think that parents are probably just as much to blame in creating this situation as school management and education policy; by demanding to know where our kids sit on the scale relative to other kids, by wanting to know which school is the โ€œbestโ€ on a list of arbitrary indicators, by getting involved in school boards and steering the school in a particular direction as a part of some personal power trip that has nothing to do with the children.

      I admit to being interested in how my kids are faring relative to others, and I’m not arguing for any less quality control, but I don’t understand why these things have to come at the expense of genuine productive contact time. I don’t know, maybe i”m just a dreamer!

  4. I wish every parent is like you, and every teacher is like Mr. Pearce (video). Wonderful article. Sincere & well written. Wish you all the best, and I’m sure your kids are lucky to have a parent like you.

  5. Hi Nadine

    As a school teacher, thank you. This is spot on. This week, as the term draws to an end, my delightful Year 11 Drama class will spend their evenings in school, performing their major production to a paying audience. And every one of them will take a memory of it with them into their adult lives. Yes, there’s a all sorts of nonsense that various careerists would have us attend to, but those of us who love the job do it quickly and badly, and return to our work.

    So good to know there are parents on our side.

    Best

    Bernard

  6. This is going to be a big issue covered in my book, the responsibility of the educator to know and fulfil the vital part they play in the formative years of the people who pass through their schools.

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