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Listen Up, Teachers Are Not Our Co-Parents!

Photograph by Twenty20

My kids' parent-teacher conferences are coming up soon and, yes, my brain has been in overdrive. So far, with a kindergartner and first-grader, I'm weirdly obsessed with conferences. "Let's solve any concerns and issues together, teacher! Help me raise my child into a fantastic human! Tell me what you know, what to do, how to handle ... I need your educated wisdom!"

All dandy, right? Except, I had a sudden thought: Am I innocently trying to get my kids' already overextended teachers to be my full-time co-parent? I fear many of us are expecting our precious teachers to guide us—and our kids—in ways that they aren't necessarily responsible for.

I'll use my home state as an example. A variety of California school districts are implementing new programs this school year that mandate teachers and students take "classroom breaks" throughout the day to allow kids to breathe, cope, practice kindness and reset themselves. While I fully respect and agree with the attention and highly focused research driving these programs, I also couldn't help but wonder why these initiatives are suddenly becoming so desperately needed and popular.

Then I had a lightbulb moment: Are we not teaching enough of these things to our own kids at home, as parents? Could all these extra to-do's dumped on our teachers be partly our fault? Is our unintentional ball-dropping driving these time-consuming programs and teacher collaboration days for how to keep everyone on track in schools?

One teacher I talked to didn't hesitate to spill the beans when I asked her about the possibility of these new problems and initiatives being our fault. "Oh, totally!" she responded. Wow.

She dished how, on many days, her colleagues would wonder with deep frustration, "Why are so many of these kids showing up every morning an absolute wreck?! Cranky, not ready to learn and pretty much scattered and whacked-out." Yes, "whacked-out."

Expecting our educators to cram every aspect of a balanced life into a six-hour school day on top of academic lessons is selfish on our part.

Then we expect teachers to accomplish the requirements of nailing curriculum and having students score high on tests so they can get decent funding, while also administering classroom breaks to "breathe" between the times they're required to have 15-minute roundtable discussions about why it's important to be respectful towards others.

It's too much for them. We can't place all the blame on other things anymore. We have to accept that we are partly to blame—what we're not doing enough of at home.

Let's reality-check the kinds of topics our teachers are now required to take on (outside of what I imagine they prepared for while getting their credentials). Things like:

* Sex-ed: At ages so unexpectedly young that it makes most moderate middle-of-the-roaders (like me) semi-enraged.

* Mindfulness and the ability to cope: Breathe, kids. It can calm you down when you feel frustrated.

* Digital citizenship: It's not nice to write mean things online.

* Race relations: Just because someone is different than you doesn't mean they're better or less-than.

* Kindness: Smile and be friendly instead of yelling at someone that they can't play with you.

Basic human life lessons, right? Obviously, all relevant and important for kids to learn, but aren't WE supposed to be the ones taking charge and doing this at home, rather than the other way around? It's time we acknowledge that teachers have to spend more time tackling these things now because we AREN'T.

Expecting our educators to cram every aspect of a balanced life into a six-hour school day on top of academic lessons is selfish on our part.

We know how it's supposed to work: Teachers take charge of educational stuff and then give assignments to reinforce those concepts at home (i.e., homework). They teach the major parts, we follow up. On the flip side, we pay attention and take charge of life and social skills at home with teachers reinforcing at school.

I know we're not lacking intentionally, but we are indeed lacking. I don't care how much of a pressure-cooker modern parenthood is, if we're dropping balls like this and expect our teachers to pick them all up and keep them in the air, we're in big trouble for the long haul, on all sides.

Teachers are many things: our teammates, our friends, our most trusted and best resources to give us tips and tricks about how to keep our kids on track academically and socially. But they are not—nor do they have time to be—our co-parents every single day. We parents need to start stepping up our game.

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