“Meet the Teacher”
When setting the stage for a new school year, we shift the focus from our child’s specific story and needs to the expertise of his teacher. Once we understand her philosophy and success strategies, it’s time to get personal.
Our oldest son, Isaac, had a first grade Meet the Teacher night. It went terribly. Horribly. Couldn’t have gone worse.
August in Texas is already unbearable, and here we all were — about 25 five year olds and their parents, grandparents, and siblings — in one classroom competing for the teacher’s attention. Add to that the fact that Isaac is highly overstimulated by excitement. He loves any type of social event, and he shows it by shouting, playing wild, and showing off. When we finally got through the line and introduced ourselves to his teacher, he was on the other side of the room.
“Isaac!” I shouted. “Come meet your teacher.”
He threw a toy on the ground, ran over, vigorously shook his teacher’s hand, said something indecipherable and then ran off.
As blood rushed to our faces, Laurie and I quickly told the teacher, “Nice to meet you.” Then we grabbed Isaac and made a beeline for the door.
At this point, we’d been a transracial family for four years. We were used to getting stares. But this wasn’t the grocery store, where we’d never see these people again. This was our son’s teacher, his classmates, and their parents. We had nine months of class parties and field trips to look forward to. And we could feel ALL of their eyes on us.
A couple months later, we had our first parent-teacher conference. The teacher reported she had no concerns regarding Isaac’s educational development, but he had some behavioral issues. He talked in class, was wild, and could be argumentative with teachers.
It seemed obvious Isaac had ADHD and sensory integration issues, but it would be several more years before we got a confirmed diagnosis. We wanted to partner with his teacher, but weren’t sure what to discuss. She’s a professional, we thought. If we’re candid, then she’s better equipped to help him in class. On the other hand, we feared she might label him as a behavioral problem.
We gave her a short background of Isaac’s medical history, and luckily we found the teacher to be very informative. She told us of some her past experience working with students with diagnosed ADHD, as well as those struggling to get a diagnosis. We worked together on an action plan that involved rewards for good behavior and clear warnings for misbehavior. As the year progressed, Isaac succeeded.
Over the years, we learned how to connect with each of our kids’ teachers on their terms. At meetings and open houses, we ask the teachers questions about their background and teaching philosophy rather than telling them our kids’ life story. From there, we discuss how we can assist them throughout the year, both with our child and otherwise. Laurie and I make ourselves resources for the teachers, equipping them to be a resource for us and our child. We’ve built an amazing rapport with many teachers and admin staff who love Isaac’s spirit and work hard to set him up for success. Other teachers have grown exhausted by his behavior, and have given up months before the school year ended.
At the Meet the Teacher the following years, Laurie and I weren’t caught off guard when Isaac was wild and showing off. Now, we warn his new teacher that he can be a handful and wait to see if their reaction shows amusement or concern. Either way, we’re ready to meet the needs of the teacher so they’re set up for success for the year.