A Letter to My Kids’ Teachers at Midterms

The fall semester is halfway done, and students are entering midterm exams. Ahhh—there’s nothing like the fall, with high pressure fronts coming in with colder weather, in addition to high pressure expectations among our students.

I also believe this time of year is a perfect period to evaluate our leadership.

Teachers and parents have experienced several weeks of this school year and can see how the kids are managing their course load, their relationships, their free time and their social media status. You can sure learn a lot in eight weeks.

A Letter to My Kids’ Teachers

Because I’ve been on both sides of the education equation (both a parent and an educator), I thought I might take the time to post a letter I’d write if my kids were still in school this particular year. I began to imagine: What would I say—as an educator and leader of students who has kids of my own who’ve attended both public and private schools?  Here is what I think I’d say…

Dear Teacher,

I want to express two thoughts to you in this short letter. My head is in two places, as an educator myself, but also as a father to a child in your classroom. I want you to know I recognize how emotionally expensive teaching can be today. You have to be “on” seven plus hours a day—in front of an audience who may not want to be in your classroom at all. I empathize with you as you’re asked to do a lot with a little, and rarely get thanked by the one you instruct. I just want to say thanks on behalf of my child. I know they benefit from your influence.

My second thought is—I’d like you to know I plan to collaborate with you as you teach my child. I’ve seen her in her best and worst moments, and I know she can be a “handful” on a bad day. Let me know how I can reinforce what you’re trying to achieve with her, and how I can make your work more effective.

I only make one request in return: that you back me up too. We can make our jobs easier for each other if we’re on the same page. I’ll be your collaborator and you be mine. If my child gets in trouble in class—I will assume I should support your judgment, and only call you in private if I don’t see your rationale. I’ll encourage my child to work hard, listen well and show respect. If she does something wrong, I will encourage her to follow the chain of command, trusting you as her authority. 

Backing me up means that you do two things for my child:

1. Be firm

Don’t let her off the hook. She has a tendency to negotiate with others and find a way to take short cuts. You have my full permission to call her on that and keep the standard high, a standard you believe she is capable of meeting. Talk straight and be clear so she cannot mistake your direction. Be firm and fair.

2. Be kind

I realize you may feel exhausted and in those moments find it easier to vent out of frustration with your students. I want to remind you how well my kid responds when adults who lead her speak from belief. Set expectations high but let her know why you do—because you believe in her. Firmness without kindness is incomplete.

So, at midterms, I want you to know you’ve got me in your corner. I promise not to delegate my child’s development solely to you. I believe there’s no reason this can’t be a win/win/win situation.

Your Collaborator in Education,

Tim Elmore

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A Letter to My Kids’ Teachers at Midterms