Catholic Activity: The Parent and the Teacher
Parents must always set a consistent example of respect and charity toward their children's teachers.
Parochial school teachers, we know, pray daily for and with the children. Too often we assume public school teachers do not. Religion plays an important part in the lives of many teachers; and even when we do not meet in the same specific faith, we do on the broad plain of belief in God. I have never met a teacher who was amused to learn that our children prayed for her. Nor have I ever met one who, working with me on some child's problem, did not respond warmly when I asked her to remember the child in her prayers.
Since conflicts between teacher and pupil are not uncommon, a conference with the teacher is the best way to determine the real cause of the trouble. No parent ought to judge after hearing only the tearful one-sided report of an aggrieved child. Often, the parents can explain puzzling behavior by revealing some secret fear, embarrassment, or disability in the child about which the teacher knows nothing. If it is a remedial problem, the teacher can tell the parents how best to help at home, and more important, what measures to avoid. Overanxious parents trying to help a slow reader at home often contribute more to his difficulty and tension by adding the fear of failing before his parents to the already terrible fear of failing before his class.
Conferences with the teacher can explore far more than the child's scholastic progress. The teacher is also an observer and she can help the parents discover areas of social behavior where a child needs help. Frequently, however, she will not mention these unless asked because to oversensitive parents it may sound only like tattling. For instance, a boy who is taller and heavier than his classmates is likely to be rougher, not deliberately, but because of his size. Parents seeing him at home in the company of larger or smaller brothers and sisters have no way of knowing the comparative size of his classmates. A teacher can cue the parents to remind him of his obligation to be considerate and protective of children smaller than he. A child addicted to tattling on the school grounds can be a scourge to the teacher, and slowly develop a warped idea of how to solve difficulties met in play. Once they realize this, parents can help by giving him spiritual motives to help control peevishness, by promoting lightheartedness, and coaxing him to laugh off fancied abuse.
A teacher can also spot physical irregularities the parent may not notice, such as squinting, slouching, difficulty in hearing, and inevitably she will discover special aptitudes that parents will want to encourage, such as abilities in art or music, leadership, service. And conferences concerning the child who has real difficulty learning can help both parents and teacher to work together with patience and love to eliminate all semblance of disgrace from his failures, stressing praise for effort, and assuring him that their opinion of him rests on his value as a person, not his I.Q.
Above all, we must inspire our children to love their teacher. She, too, is another Christ, of whom He said, "What you do to these . . .you do to Me." She is a dearly beloved of God, redeemed by Christ on the Cross; and we must be as eager to promote love of a teacher as love of all human beings. No matter what happens, we must not criticize a teacher to a child. If we have critical opinions, they are the affair not of our child, but one to be settled between the teacher and ourselves. Criticism of teachers to children is the collapse of all classroom discipline.
Activity Source: We and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland, Image Books, 1961