Back to School Part 2: Surviving New Teachers

In this post of our marriage and family thread, we look at the next level of back to school: surviving the new teachers.

I remember the first week of third grade.  That seems like an eternity in the past, but I can see it today.  The teacher was a veteran, someone who should have retired years before. I walked home and collapsed on the couch, tired of the yelling, work, and restrictions.  She was brutal.  She had our whole class writing sentences a hundred times for punishment.

I survived but, at the time, the positivity of school turned into stress and that changes everything for a student.

By now, kids have spent almost a week of the new year.  The get-to-know-you exercises are over.  Seats are assigned and work has started.  As parents, we face the challenge of not being in the classroom. Val and I were both nervous about Carter’s teachers.  These people will influence your kids for months and they will remember them for a long time.


If you are worried about the year, here are some useful ideas to keep in mind as you listen to your child answer the golden question, “How was school today?”

  • Ask for information: Every assignment should have a valid assessment that is clearly explained.  If a paper comes back with a low grade, ask to see the grading scale. Find out expectations of large projects. You have a right to know why your kids are doing something and how they will be graded.
  • It is all about the test: Ever since Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind, and other education reforms of the past two presidential administrations, funding for schools have been hooked to test results. In kindergarten, they train students to fill out bubbles on test forms. Assignments are often copied from the state assessment tests. Your son or daughter’s performance is money in the eyes of the district, not necessarily the teachers, but definitely the district.
  • Don’t be that parent: Word spreads. I spent a semester student teaching in a local high school.  Believe me, if your child has caused a problem last year, the next group of teachers will know. If you complained to the school board, they know. If you reported a teacher to the superintendent, they know.
  • Know how to complain: Even with what I said above, there are valid issues to address when they occur.  If your child is harassed, bullied, threatened, or discriminated against, bring it up. There is a chain of authority.  Go to the principals, guidance counselors, or department heads. Be their advocate and know you always have a right to visit a classroom.
  • Be present: Visit the classroom. Email the teachers. Volunteer at activities. Go to the football game. Sell food, candy bars, candles, movies, or whatever they ask.  Go to board meetings.  Read the papers that are sent home. Take an active role and your child will know you care.

The school year will have ups and downs.  If you keep these things in mind, you can help ease the ride and make it better for your kids.

~Matt and Val