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What teachers wish parents knew

November 8, 2012

[What else should we add? Send suggestions!]

Things your teachers and principals wish parents knew:

Parents don’t set curriculum

The school district, aided by teachers, principal and staff, set curriculum. Parents do not. If you feel the curriculum should be different, take it to the school district.


Don’t presume that if your child is having trouble, every child is.

Teachers call this the ‘soccer sideline scrum.’ Parents start chatting during a soccer game and if one or two of their children are having troubles, suddenly it becomes ‘the entire class isn’t learning.’ Then it goes to email and it’s ‘The entire school is failing.’ Check with your child’s teacher first before your make pronouncements about the entire class.


Remember that children aren’t always reliable narrators.

One teacher put it like this: “If you believe everything they say about what I’m doing in class, I’ll start believing everything they say about what you do at home.” Remember, these are children. Check with other parents and your teacher before you take a nine-year-olds’ word for something.


Talk to your teacher in person.

This can’t be emphasized enough! Most Mandarin immersion teachers speak Mandarin as their first language. They speak and write English as well, but often not easily. For them, writing even a simple email in English can take a three or four times as much time as it would if they were writing in Mandarin. They want to make sure they say the right thing, they want to make sure the tone is correct and they want to make sure there are no errors. This is why meeting with teachers is a MUCH better way to communicate about your child and their schoolwork than doing it via email.  Some teachers feel comfortable with email, but most don’t.  Also, your child’s teacher has 20 or 25 other students as well. If each parent just wants a “quick email” back once a week, that’s something like 14 hours of time to write (if each takes 30 minutes, which they easily can.)


If you must email, ask Yes or No questions.

If you’re emailing to a non-native speaker of English, it’s helpful to ask yes or no questions. You can describe your concern, but make it easy for the teacher to reply by giving them easy-to-answer questions.


Trust your teachers

One administrator said “We’re partners. We need you to trust that we’re the professionals here. Start with the teacher if you have a problem. Don’t go straight to the principal just because he or she speaks English or answers your emails right away.”


Support your program financially.

Unless you live in an insanely wealthy school district, most Mandarin immersion programs don’t get any extra support from District. That means the extras that teachers need—dictionaries, maps in Chinese, books, props for play-acting so they can explain words—all of that has to come out of the school’s budget. And most of it actually comes out of the teacher’s pockets. Find out how much teachers make in your school district and see how much a bite it’s taking. Ask how your classroom can help.


New teacher especially need extra help

A new teacher arrives to a bare room. Look in at an established teacher’s classroom and you’ll see pictures, books and materials like rugs and cups and plants that he or she has built up over years. A new teacher walks into four walls and some desks. If you know you’re getting a new teacher, get in touch with your principal and the teacher and ask what he or she needs before school starts.


Don’t be too boastful about your child being in immersion

It’s hard not to be proud of your child and everything they’re accomplishing in school. But sometimes that can veer into a boastfulness that can contain an element of “My kid’s going to do better in the world than your monolingual kid.” This is especially true in districts where there’s a lot of competition to get into immersion schools, so only a few lucky families have the opportunity.






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