Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The letter I wish I could send home to parents

I'm not teaching this year. But if I was, this is the letter I would want to send out, however there is a few reasons I couldn't. Firstly, I deliver some home truths - parents don't tend to like that. Secondly, these pieces of advice have words like 'don't and 'no', which modern teaching pedagogy deems as wrong. Thirdly, I spell things out explicitly. And if you're prepared to deal with that, please read on.

Dear Parents,

Hello! I am you child's teacher this year. I am certainly not perfect in any way, shape or form. Please don't believe everything you are told about me - most of it will be true enough. I have good and bad days, just like your child. I have a family, I sometimes lack sleep and I work long hours to run this classroom. In my classroom all students are encouraged to dream big. They are encouraged to be inclusive and positive in the way they speak to each other and to me. Here is some advice I will be giving your child this year.

Let's set some goals.
All my goals are SMART goals - they need be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. I will give students ideas of SMART goals - they might want to write longer stories, more to a different reading level or learn a new times table. And when they have achieved that goal we will celebrate and move on to a new goal. We will do this all year - starting from day one. Please as your child about their goals.

Expect to lose games.
We will play all sorts of games this year. In sport lessons, fitness games or any other competitive activity, you child will lose the game many times. Why? Not due to their lack of ability, but because they are one in a class of 25. Students will be expected to leave am elimination game if they are asked to. They will be expected to show good sportsmanship and cheer for all classmates, not just their friends. Many of these games have little to do with skill and all students will be on an even playing field.

You won't be good at everything and sometimes there will be things you can't do.
Most students will have difficulty grasping new concepts, ideas and concepts. Some students will have an easy time reading, others will have plenty of reasons why it is hard for them personally. One day you child will come home and say something along the lines of "it's not fair that _____ gets out of sport/has extra help/is only pretending they can't read". Yes, that's true. Sometimes it isn't fair that one student will require additional teaching to help them master a task, however this is unavoidable. One day you child will be the person receiving additional help. And that makes it fair.

Make your own choices.
You might know this one as "If so-and-so told you jump off a cliff, would you?" Students are expected to be responsible for their own actions, both positive and negative.

We will be trying new things. That means everyone.
Everyone in this class will try new food, watch new films to celebrate the end of term, study new topics and challenge themselves in different ways - physically and mentally. I expect students to experience new things together. It is okay for them to be a little worried, however if you are concerned please contact me.

Have 5 or more people you can play with.
Having a best friend can be fun, but it is important students have a larger network to play with. 5 people don't have to be "friends", just people they can spend time with at recess and lunch. During this year I will be speaking to students individually about who their 5 people are. The 5 people may change over time and it may include younger or older students.

Don't send toys or anything else you don't want to lose at school with your child.
Our school has plenty of places for students to play and resources for them to use. These include sports equipment, inside play and recreational games. Toys at school can be very distracting and can be misplaced easily. Please do not send these to school.

Label everything. Yes, even underwear and shoes.
Please label every item you send to school. At home your child can easy identify their own items, but in a school situation there are often duplicates of lunchboxes, pens, containers, jumpers and even shoes. And before you ask, yes, most Lost and Found boxes having at least one lost shoe.

Show your manners.
Please, thank you, using people's names and tidying up the space you use is really respectful. Please encourage your child to use manners whenever possible.

We are all different.
Accept that every child in this classroom is different. They all have different needs, interests and backgrounds. Help your student know and identify things they like and dislike. Be explicit. Teach social skills. Let them sit alongside other children who they may not know or like. I am different too. You will know this because you will hear all sorts of things about me before the year ends. Some of it will be true. Most of it will be true enough.

Yours Sincerely,

Mrs Birch