Backpacks? Check. New shoes? Check. Traditional picture on our doorstep? Check.
Back to school brought excitement and earlier bedtimes back to our house — it’s also brought me concern about how many of us semi-expect our teachers act as our co-parents inside the classroom.
Last school year, a variety of California school districts implemented new programs that mandated ‘brain breaks’ each day so students could ‘breathe, relax and reset’ between math and reading. I fully appreciate and agree with the research driving this — Stanford University’s fascinating “Challenge Success” program being one of many — I just couldn’t help but wonder why these programs were suddenly so desperately needed.
Then, it hit me (I think I was at my girls’ Back to School Night last year when I realized): We must not be doing our job well enough at home, as parents.
I’m no teacher/therapist/doctor, but I assume things must be alarmingly urgent if educators are grasping at every and any new program to keep our kids’ attention and behavior in-check several times per day. Based on the uptick of these kinds of initiatives, I can’t help but wonder if we’re failing to raise kids with fortitude, confidence and age-appropriate self-regulatory skills?
If I’m right, we should all be mortified. Embarrassed at ourselves. Downright humiliated. (Too dramatic? I write this as someone who does make it a point to take restorative breaths throughout the day to calm my mind and stay productive…)
Teaching life skills falls on us, as parents. We’re seemingly collectively slacking, y’all. (#notsorry)
So I’m looking (extra) alive this year.
Educators’ already-overwhelming jobs should not include ongoing therapies about how to be nice, what it means to behave age-appropriately and/or how to manage stress. How dare we dump this task — that we’re responsible for troubleshooting and handling — on our overextended teachers’ piled-high plates. How dare we expect them to be our personally-appointed co-parents without their consent.
WE ARE RESPONSIBLE. WE ARE ACCOUNTABLE.
BECAUSE: If you don’t think some teachers constantly commiserate and wonder why so many of our kids show up to school confused, angry, downright mean and/or out of control, think again.
If a child has ongoing behavior issues at school, we’d better step up and solve it at home with the same urgent attention we give to updating our Facebook and Instagram.
Give the morning pep talks in the car on the way to dropoff. Ask about what went wrong yesterday and how they’ll make it better today. Brainstorm one small act they can aim to do to make their classmates’ and teachers’ days a bit easier. Give them a daily goal to focus on and work towards (and feel good about doing).
And, don’t forget the downtime — not every single afternoon needs to be packed with art, dance, cooking, soccer and beyond. Research shows that healthy self regulatory behavior is rooted in navigating downtime. (Which is why I keep 1-2 days totally free from after-school activities for my girls at this age… no matter how tempted I am to enroll them in that Lego-Robotics class.)
And, we’d better slap ourselves to wake up and acknowledge that smartphone/device we innocently gave our kids as a means of ‘modern entertainment’ and/or ‘what everyone is doing these days’ and/or ‘a great way to keep in touch with them during the day’ is actually jacking up their brain and making our kids more difficult to teach in the classroom (don’t ask me, look at the science).
Teachers are our leaders, friends, supporters, most expert resources and cheerleaders. They are here for us when we need guidance, extra help, insight or a ‘try this at home’ trick.
But they are not, nor do they have enough time or energy to be, our co-parents every single day.