CANDY ALLAN: Connecting with teachers

School is just around the corner. Early mornings, packing lunches, finding homework — here it all comes.

As a parent, the start of school each year is bittersweet. The kids get to go back, see their friends and stop complaining about being bored. The kids get to go back, see their friends and their world expands again to be bigger than just our family. We work around their schedules rather than working events around the family schedule.

And, inevitably, I will hear about teachers.

Some teachers the kids like; others, not as much. Some teachers I think are truly excellent, and no, it’s not always the same teachers my kids like.

Hopefully, everyone has had the experience of having an incredible teacher, that person who stands out in your mind long after you’ve left the classroom. If you’re really lucky, you’ve had a handful of teachers like that.

After a year in the classroom, one of the best teachers I’ve ever had taught me social studies, history, geography and more English grammar than I’ve ever had before or since … and I was taking her German class.

In the classroom of a truly great teacher, everything is a lesson. For example, in Frau Allen’s German class, she would sometimes open the windows in the dead of winter if she thought we were too sleepy.

“Steh auf!” she’s say, and after we’d all stood up, she’d lead us in jumping jacks until we seemed appropriately awake.

Lesson: Be prepared for class (or work).

I want my children to have teachers like her — teachers they remember for decades after they’ve left the class. Teachers whose lessons stick with my kids for a lifetime.

For my kids to have that experience, I pretty much have to trust to luck (that the kids will sign up for the right classes) and get out of the way.

Frau Allen didn’t make such an impact on me because my mother was calling her to check on my homework. It wasn’t because my parents were brokering extra credit for me if I was struggling. It was because she and I dealt directly with each other.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for parental involvement in school. When the kids are smaller, parents have an active role in the classroom. But as my kids get into middle school, my role begins to drop back somewhat.

To enable my kids to connect on that kind of level with a teacher, they’ve got to be the ones taking initiative and addressing concerns or asking questions. As they get older, they’re going to need to know how to advocate for themselves anyway … no time like the present to learn.

And, if luck is on our side, they’ll find an incredible teacher or two along the way.

Bring on the first day of school.

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Posted by Candy Allan

Candy is the Pioneer's associate editor. She also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Parenting pages. She can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at callan@pioneergroup.com.

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