With a new school year kicking off, we asked some Long Island teachers to share 10 things they wish parents would learn. Here’s how they completed the prompt: “I wish parents knew ... ”
• How critical it is for kids to arrive at school on time.
Teachers plan the school day to “entice, captivate, intrigue and motivate students,” said kindergarten teacher Linda Grace. She likens the classroom to the stage. “When the bell rings, my Broadway show begins.”
Imagine the lights suddenly come on five minutes into the performance. “Wait! We have a new audience member. We have to catch that audience member up on what’s happened so far,” she said. “I feel bad for the child. It’s a lot of negative attention when they walk in.”
• That test grades aren’t always the best measure of success.
“I wish parents would de-emphasize the identification of success with test grades,” said Christopher Regini, a seventh-grade science teacher. To put that on a 12- or 13-year-old leads to anxiety.”
Instead, parents ought to give just as much weight to the soft skills their child is learning, such as cooperation, collaboration and empathy, Regini said. Did they learn anything in class? Are they excited about learning? “Not just, ‘Hey, what did you get on your science quiz?’ ” he said.
• What genre their child likes to read.
When students find a genre that sparks their interest, it makes it easier to encourage them to read, said second-grade teacher Kristin Maldonado. “That’s half the battle.”
Do they love mysteries, such as the “Cam Jansen” series? Do they like nonfiction informational texts about animals?
• That kids are capable of more than parents think.
“You want them to be independent,” said Maria McMullen, a first-grade teacher. At the end of the school day, for instance, McMullen expects her students to pack up their own backpacks.
Parents should expect the same at home, she said. “It’s amazing to see what a 5- or 6-year-old does when their mom is not around.”
• The power of “yet.”
Tova Moskowitz, a kindergarten-to-fifth grade reading teacher, borrows that expression from author Carol Dweck. While children might struggle, it’s important for parents to remember there’s always growth. Instead of saying, “My child can’t read,” parents should say to themselves, “My child isn’t reading yet,” Moskowitz said.
Eighth-grade math teacher Denis Dagger echoed that advice. “I truly believe in a growth mind-set. You have to work at it,” he said of learning mathematics. “It’s a process. It’s learning how to work through things, keeping your head down and not giving up right away. It’s where you end up, not where you are.”
• Teachers do homework, too.
“Teachers put time in even when they’re not in the classroom,” said third-grade teacher Kevin Chenicek. “Some parents don’t realize we’re prepping and getting everything ready to make school fun for every child.”
• A misstep is not a failure.
“Sometimes in special education, it’s the baby steps that get your child where you want them to be,” said Nyree Francis, a fifth-grade special education teacher. “A misstep is not a failure. A misstep is information. It tells me we need to review material, or that a child is not developmentally ready for this step yet.”
Kindergarten teacher Mindy Zimmerman agrees with that approach. “When mistakes are celebrated, they can often lead to greater understandings and enable children to step out of their comfort zone to take risks,” she said.
• That students’ mental health is key.
“Today’s kids have a lot on their plate,” said Gary Zamek, a sixth-grade teacher. “The increased rigor of academics, higher expectations in sports and social media and bullying have contributed to students’ stress and anxiety. I want my parents to know that addressing these mental health issues is just as important as academics.”
• That they should play games.
“I wish parents knew there are a lot of things they could do with their kids that would increase their critical thinking,” said fifth-grade teacher Stephanie Sullo. Family game nights featuring Yahtzee, Uno or Monopoly, for instance, help kids practice math and reading skills, she said. “They have to make decisions — it gives them an opportunity to think two steps, two turns ahead.”
• That they can relax.
“I feel like some parents, at the beginning of the school year, they’re very nervous,” said Jessica Lowenhar, a music teacher. “I wish parents knew that as teachers, we try to do everything we can to make the school year start off well for the students.”