Whether you have a child already in school or one about to start, you’ve likely had many, straight-forward questions for their teacher. You might also have some you wished you could ask but didn’t, for fear of getting a sugar-coated or ‘school policy’ answer.
We’ve asked two local primary school teachers some questions which they can answer honestly, under the veil of anonymity. Each have worked in public & private schools across the Shire over their careers.
- Why are you a teacher?
Teacher 1: I found school quite difficult, throughout primary school I had several teachers I didn’t love and who made me feel dumb. I had teachers that I liked but it wasn’t until high school that I had teachers that helped me to truly “get it”, The penny dropped, the light bulb went on etc etc and I realised how much I loved learning. I wanted to be a primary school teacher to be that positive influence for someone else earlier in their schooling so that they could progress further, faster!
Teacher 2: Unfortunately, I didn’t have the best primary school experience. My emotional and social needs weren’t met so then my academic progress and ability to keep friends was inevitably affected. I’ve always been interested in how children learn, and I guess I wanted the power to make children feel valued and included within a classroom and to see them shine. I like to think I achieve this each year.
- With children (and parents/guardians) so nervous on their first day of school, what’s your number 1 tip for them to prepare?
Teacher 1: Talk it out! Try to focus on the positives, who are you excited to see? What are you hoping to learn? and talk about the logistics of the day. If your little one is nervous, listen to what is worrying them. Acknowledge their concerns, comfort and reassure them before moving on to the positives. If they feel heard and know what to expect from the morning, the day will go smoother. Also, consider having grandma and grandpa come to the house before school for their photo/cuddle/well wishes. Having an entourage of 12 dropping you off on your first day is quite overwhelming.
Teacher 2: Always speak positively about school. Refrain from talking about the ‘what could happen’. Have a chat with your child about safe people and places within our community and mention that teachers and their school are a safe place that is there to love and protect them. Try not to talk about ‘starting big school’ too much. It creates a big build up that can then cause a big letdown. Talk about it as something that everyone does and that it’s just the next step in their development.
- What’s the most frustrating thing a parents/guardians can do, to impact your job?
Teacher 1: I love when a parent is an advocate for their child and is active within their child’s education and social development. However, it can be frustrating when parents don’t realise that their child is one in a class of many with so many complex needs that the general population isn’t aware of. Teachers are stretched to the max and we are trying so hard to cater for everyone, we know when we are falling short of our own impossible standards. Be mindful of how you approach a teacher who isn’t living up to yours.
Teacher 2: Not trusting us. I know it’s hard, but it is important for parents and carers to build a relationship with us and to have open communication. Speak to us when something is happening in your child’s life or if you have any concerns. More often than not, a situation can be sorted out with a small chat and you’ll walk away feeling reassured. Trust that we are in this job because we care for your child and want what’s best for them.
- What makes the best parents/guardians to work with?
Teacher 1: Parents who speak to us with kindness and respect. I love the quote “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected”, parents who appreciate the effort that goes into teaching their child and the class are the best people to work with!
Teacher 2: Parents that work together with us. When teachers and parents are on the same page it helps the student feel a sense of belonging and essentially helps them to learn. It is also important for parents and carers to not compare their child with others. This is a natural response but remember children achieve at their own rate so focus on their effort and encourage a love for learning.
- Is there anything you wish you could add to the curriculum?
Teacher 1: Open ended play opportunities and meditation.
Teacher 2: Resilience building lessons and how to respond to anxiety/feelings. Internet safety and managing social media (more for the older grades).
- What do you think of Naplan?
Teacher 1: Teachers assess their students constantly and use the information from their assessments to inform the next lesson or unit of work. By the time we get NAPLAN results, our students have already moved on! The data we get from NAPLAN can be helpful in our long term planning to see trends and where we need to focus more instructional attention. I hate how much stress NAPLAN causes for everyone involved… I honestly see it as just another day.
Teacher 2: Naplan is a test completed within one week of a 2-year time frame. The results may not be a clear indication of what your child can or cannot do. I understand there is a need for standardised testing to lead state and national areas for improvement and focus. However, it’s important for families to understand that it’s just a snapshot. I recommend listening to what your child’s teacher is saying and rely on your child’s school reports as a clearer indication.
- Finally, do you have a favourite teacher from school?
Teacher 1: I loved my high school science teacher because he had so many silly catch phrases. I always did well in his subjects because he broke everything down so you could understand but did it in way that was fun. You never felt dumb or bored in his class, he always seemed genuinely thrilled when you understood a concept or put a lot of effort into an assignment. Some of his favourite sayings I still remember are “Go you good things!”, “Sir, what’s the date?” and “It is the 11th, all day long and half the night”.
Teacher 2: Yes! My Year 3 primary school teacher. Beautiful Mrs Harris. Why? I knew she really cared for me and she really understood how I learnt. She was always happy to see us. I knew she loved her job.