"An 'A' Teacher" by Ellen Mongan for CatholicMom.com Photo via Pixabay (2016), CC0 Public Domain.

By the time you read this article the first school bell has most likely rung, sounding the start for the 2016-2017 school year. Your lazy days of summer, of going at a turtle’s pace have been replaced by running the race to win. Maybe you too are the carpool mom with your lipstick on who is also trying to accessorize with virtue. Each stage of life has its own jewels to collect as we walk along, if we but look through the eyes of Jesus.

Those days as a mother of school-age children are now behind me. I and my husband faithfully brought seven children to the finish line towards adulthood. However the lessons I learned along the journey remain. The road I traveled as a mother was filled with a lot of laughter and a few tears too. This “Wordy Woman” could fill up an entire book with the wisdom imparted. I have limited this article to just one life lesson.

What makes an “A” Teacher?

When I think back on my own school days, what is forefront is the important role the teachers played in my life. By now your child has sized up their teacher and given a verdict. Before they give a pink slip, or a verdict of innocent of all faults, teach your child another way to grade their teacher. Try to imagine yourself in your child’s shoes. It is the first day of school and you are carrying those heavy books as you race down the locker filled halls to class, trying to outrun the first bell. Try to picture the teachers from your school days who were not on your ten-most-wanted list. Has your impression of him or of her changed? As I recall the teachers that were my favorites at the time, some would now only get a passing grade, based on what life lessons I learned from them. They greeted the class each day with a welcoming smile but my memory of them is that of a kind heart and a fun school year. On the other hand, some teachers who started each morning with what seemed a “Let‘s get down to business" attitude, and ended the day assigning lots of homework, changed my life forever. Their demeanor came with the determination to teach the lessons well and guaranteed each student would learn the material. After the first month of school the students were convinced this teacher was there to teach and not to win a “Miss Congeniality” contest.  Looking back, I have come to appreciate the tough teachers that I would not have chosen for myself more than the easy ones. Today I may even give them an “A.”

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For example, my sixth grade teacher, Sister Lucida, would say in her authoritarian voice, “Now, for your homework, please memorize these pages of typed notes.”  I went home and studied for hours because the next day all were required to recite those notes to another student. The end result was a well-formed memory that seems to never fail me. Another teacher, Sister Benedictus, pulled every single paper out of my desk one by one in front of the whole class, while reciting the words, “disorganized Ellen!” I vowed never to be messy again. To this day, organization is one of my strongest gifts.

A teacher’s job is to teach. Some lessons are learned the hard way, but they become the unforgettable ones! As parents, we work as a team to help the children learn the lessons well. Some of the lessons that your child will learn this year may not be academic, but instead a life lesson.

  • Do not enable your child; let them learn even if the learning is accompanied by a few tears.
  • To be a successful team, be positive and try to think the best of the teacher, especially around your child.
  • Be an asset; offer to serve the class in ways that utilize your gifts.
  • Get all the facts if a problem arises, then try to solve the problem quickly. Do not jump to any conclusions; listen to both sides so that you have all the facts.
  • Always keep the lines of communication open between parent, student and teacher. When conflict or wrongdoing occurs, seek wise counsel. Always advocate for your child in this case.
  • Make your child’s learning a priority by encouraging time for assignments and good study habits. If the child seems to be failing in some way, go to the teacher and ask how you can help.
  • Have a plan, pace yourself and avoid over commitments in both your life and your child’s life. Teach your child to do the same.
  • Teamwork counts! A three-legged race is won if you work as a team and move in the same direction toward the goal. Your goal along with the teacher is to educate your child, and you are both in it to win!
  • If there is a weak point anywhere in your parent-teacher team, your child may try to sow seeds of dissension. Once the team is weakened it is hard to rebuild unity and trust between teacher and parent.
  • Most importantly, pray for your children and their teachers.

Each teacher, if given a chance, will impart to your child something important. Just as growing pains are a part of increasing our height, hard lessons in life cause growing pains that increase our maturity. Aid your child in learning the lessons well, because the pain is worth the gain! Avoid enabling your child and let the chips fall as they may. Sometimes picking up the pieces for a child stunts their growth.  Don’t be surprised if at the end of the school year your child has grown in knowledge, height and character. The teacher to whom your child was quick to assign a failing grade at the beginning of the year may be the very one who goes down in the history books of your child’s life as an “A” teacher.

As you look through the eyes of Jesus, you may find that both you and your child learn and grow this year through life lessons. You may also discover together that an “A” teacher is one who imparts what is never forgotten!

Copyright 2016 Ellen Mongan