1. We’re not teaching your son or daughter on a nice individual basis, where we can cater to his or her every need and correct every one of his or her mistakes. Your son or daughter is part of a class. There are 30 children in that class, all of whom have needs and all of whom make mistakes.
2. Therefore, sometimes, we are going to look after your son, sometimes we’re going to look after someone else’s. We try to check on every student in each lesson, but most of them are only going to be checked on once because THERE ARE 30 CHILDREN IN THAT CLASS.
3. They’re at school to learn, so they’re all going to make mistakes. We can’t correct every single one of those individual mistakes. What we can do, however, is have a general look round while they’re reading / writing / whatever and see what mistakes come up in several different copybooks. Then, when we correct the exercise on the board, we’ll refer to these common mistakes and explain what’s wrong with them and how to stop making them.
4. However, not every one of those 30 children in that class wants to learn. And those that don’t are probably going to make it difficult for those that do.
5. Children don’t behave in the same way at home and at school. It’s not because they’re calm and docile at home that they can’t turn into Taz the Tasmanian Devil once they’re in a classroom. It’s also not because your daughter is a real chatterbox at home that she can’t suddenly become very shy and quiet in a school environment.
6. In each class, there is at least one hyperactive kid who can’t sit still, one extremely apathetic kid who will fall asleep on his desk if he is not propped up, one kid who needs to be taught individually and have all the exercises repeated to him and him alone, one kid who always finishes everything early, one kid who never finishes anything, one kid who can’t be bothered, one chatterbox and one teacher’s pet. Any of these could be your kid.
7. This is why we don’t spend every minute of the lesson teaching your children valuable stuff. Depending on the class, anything from the first minute to the whole lesson can be spent on discipline and repeating things like “sit down”, “be quiet please”, “stop talking”, “go back to your seat”, “copy the lesson” and “pick up whatever it is you just threw on the floor”.
8. Scattered among these kids are a handful who behave relatively normally. They ask the odd question, then they generally get on with the work. They might chat a little, but they’ll fall silent when asked. They don’t necessarily put their hands up very much, so we might take a little while to get to know their names at the beginning of the year.
9. Because yes, we have a lot of children. Your average European teacher – it can’t be that different for American teachers – sees roughly two hundred kids on a daily to weekly basis. So please, please, don’t get annoyed if we need a photo to remember which one your child is during the first few weeks of school.
10. Collective Parent-Teacher meetings are organized with one teacher and all the parents for that class. These meetings are there to tell you about the class, about the school in general, and for you to ask any questions about the syllabus, the timetable, the bus schedule or any extracurricular activities. They are not the time nor place to ask how Johnny is getting on or whether Zoe is talking too much.
11. Holidays are the same for everybody, teachers and students included. They fall on set dates, and the school calendar revolves around them. Real schoolwork is actually done on the last days before the holidays and the first days after. So we are not going to be happy if you take your kid out of school for a couple of days either side so that you can escape the traffic jams on your skiing trip or summer vacation.
12. When your child misses a school day or even just a lesson, for whatever reason, he or she is expected to catch up on the missed work. Most children do not do this spontaneously. The result is generally that the child is confronted with a test a day or two after his or her return, test that he or she is incapable of doing BECAUSE HE/SHE DIDN’T CATCH UP THE WORK. This, then, according to the child and also often according to you, the parents, becomes our fault. This is not our fault. As I said above, we have two hundred children. We cannot, therefore, tally each hour missed by each child and put to one side the relative documents. We need the child to come up to us at the end of the lesson and say: “Miss/Sir, I’ve missed the last (insert number) lessons, I need (insert documents given to classmates)”.
13. The child’s test results are also not our fault. We do our best – we really do – to teach all the children and to help them to succeed. Many teachers are doing the job they love and happily give loads of extra time, effort, extra work and even school supplies to their students. But if your son says he understands when he doesn’t, if your daughter spends the whole lesson chatting with her friends and sending text messages under the table, we can’t run after each individual child to make sure they have understood and are capable of applying the knowledge. We’ll ask them if they’ve understood. We’ll do exercises with them to check. But if they don’t or won’t care, there are other kids that do.
14. Please, please help your children at home. Bring them up well so that a basic knowledge of manners and behaviour doesn’t have to wait until they’re teenagers. Go through their homework with them and make sure they understand it. Check their bags each evening with them to make sure they’ve got all the books they’ll need the next day. Show them how important school is and how lucky they are to be able to attend it. Make sure they do attend it. Feed them and clothe them. It may sound silly, but as a teacher, I’ve had to feed and clothe a good number of students whose parents could easily afford it but who couldn’t be bothered. If you don’t have the money to raise your child, you can get help for that. But if you do and you just don’t want to spend a cent on the kid, that’s a different kettle of fish.
15. Love your kids. We try our best to show them how wonderful they are, but if they’re not getting that input from home, we become the only adult they can turn to. Not many parents want to be replaced by a teacher who’ll only have the kid in her class for a school year or two.