For parents, ‘the good teacher’ will make all the difference

School stress is some of the worst stress there is, especially when you are a parent worrying about your child. Academic issues, friend drama, scuffles at recess, college acceptance letters; there are multiple strains of torment, but only one balm — getting “the good teacher.”

Our leaders in Olympia, with their infinite wisdom, are trying to help all kids get “the good” teacher. The Teacher/Principal Evaluation Project is supposed to identify poor instructors. What it means in actual practice is up for debate.

You know, and I know, that a binder of TPEP statistics can’t tell you squat compared to a parent’s judge of a teacher’s merit.

It’s that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you know — you just know — that the teacher genuinely cares about your child. In fact, she doesn’t merely care about your child, she genuinely likes your child, even though there are a lot of times when your child does unlikable things.

When you see a real connection between your child and his or her teacher something significant forms: trust. You know the teacher will do whatever it takes to help your child. You are positive the teacher has your son or daughter’s best interests at heart. When the teacher sends an email, you read it. When they call you on the phone to talk about a disciplinary situation, you back the teacher up 100 percent.

The best part of having “the good teacher” is that every day when you send your kid off to school you can relax. You feel calm knowing that the piece of your heart that walks around in blue jeans and muddy sneakers is safe. You have peace because the teacher wants your child to succeed almost as much as you do.

Sadly, the opposite is also true. When you feel like a teacher doesn’t like or “get” your child, it makes you feel sick inside. It doesn’t matter what the teacher says or does. Years of experience don’t impress you. Classroom newsletters make you tense.

Instead of noticing examples of quality instruction, you focus on the ways the teacher did your child wrong. The stress builds up bigger and bigger and you count the days until summer.

It can be hard to remember that teachers are humans too. They have good years and bad years. Sometimes they struggle with health issues or time constraints at home that can’t be helped. It’s difficult to be patient with every child.

This spring many schools ask parents to fill out intake forms for the following year. Parents write about their child’s strengths and weakness and describe what type of learning environment would be best next year.

Rarely, if ever, do schools allow moms and dads to request specific teachers. Instead, parents must pin their hopes on carefully worded replies.

You can’t ask for “the good” teacher. All you can do is hope that initiatives like TPEP don’t drive her away from teaching.

Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two. Find her on Twitter @jennbardsley and at www.heraldnet.com/ibrakeformoms and teachingmybabytoread.com.

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