How Your Child Can Benefit from Having a New Teacher

Originally posted September 27, 2015 on Merely Mothers (now Evie & Sarah)

Being the inquisitive writer I am, I often listen in on fellow shoppers’ conversations as I wait in the check out line or pass people in an aisle. (Okay, I’m just nosy. Go with it.) As school was starting this year, and I was making my annual pilgrimage through Target for supplies and a few new accessories, I couldn’t help overhear a conversation between two mothers comparing the upcoming year’s teachers. While one mother seemed pleased to have a teacher both had heard about, the other was obviously somewhat distressed about her child being in the classroom of a new teacher.

I thought back to my first year of teaching, how inexperienced I was, how nervous, how young, and I could totally understand this mother’s fear of the unknown. After all, parents entrust a year of their child’s education and school experience to their child’s teacher or teachers. But then I thought back to not only my first years, but also to the first years of the teachers I’ve mentored over the last decade. It occurred to me that second mom didn’t know how lucky she was to have her child in a new teacher’s classroom.

No one’s first year of teaching is perfect. But no year of teaching is ever perfect. And newer teachers have an awful lot of advantages that more experienced teachers might not. Here are just a few to ease your mind.

Knowledge of the Most Up-to-date Research and Trends in Education

If your child is lucky enough to be in the classroom of someone fresh out of college or grad school, you can be assured that teacher is probably the most up-to-date in the building on recent research about childhood development, best practices for 21st Century teaching, and how to incorporate the ever-growing technology our children will need in their futures into their learning. While almost all teachers are required to take classes to keep their certification, few who are in the middle or end of their careers take the number of classes required of students in teacher preparation programs. New teachers are full of new ideas, new strategies, and new research.

High Stakes Drive Them to Excellence

With recent education reform, no teacher’s job is entirely secure. As it should be, if a teacher consistently doesn’t perform, he can be let go. However, new teachers have more at stake than anyone. Their jobs are never secure, which means they need to work twice as hard to prove they ought to be kept on. New teachers are more willing than most to take criticism and run with it, revamping their methods until they work for every child. They’re more likely to actively seek out help to improve, and in most districts they are watched the closest and given the most support to be better, because we want them to succeed as much as parents do. Who wouldn’t want their child in the classroom that the entire building, from administration to fellow teachers, is helping to be amazing?


Fourteen years ago I arrived at school at or before 7am, stayed after doing extra help or numerous after-school activities until 4pm, went to grad school one or two nights a week until 8 pm, and still had energy left on Friday afternoon to go socialize with my co-workers over a beer. Today, I do not.

New teachers are usually young, often don’t have families yet, and still have the stamina they built up in college to survive quite well on limited sleep. This energy is evident in the ways they teach, the ways they get involved in the school community, and in the ways they interact with the kids. They have the energy to be more active, more creative, and more involved, all qualities that make for excellent teaching and student engagement. Energy is contagious in a classroom and, when channeled, can lead to tremendous learning.

Untainted Passion

Like energy, passion is also contagious. I was given a little sign one year by a parent that reads “A teacher that loves teaching creates children who love learning.” I absolutely believe this is true. I also absolutely believe that the majority of teachers, no matter how long they’ve been in the classroom, do love teaching. It’s too hard a job to stick with if you don’t love it. That said, the longer you teach, the more you experience the downsides to the job: pendulum swings in policy that condemn one year what they espoused five years before, interference by politicians who’ve never taught a day in their lives, and an ever-increasing workload that seems to take more and more time away from the very things teachers love—the kids and the teaching.

New teachers lack experience in all areas of the profession, the good and the bad, which can actually benefit them and the students they teach. They start their careers focused on what all educators should be focused on: great teaching and great learning. If you’re lucky enough to have a child in a room of a teacher who has yet to have their passion tempered by the realities of the profession, who’s bounding with energy and new knowledge, and who’s striving to prove she’s capable of being the best, enjoy it—and encourage it with all the support and kind words you can! You and your child are in for a great year!


Photo credit: alphaspirit

Making the Most of Parent Night

Originally posted September 13, 2015 on Merely Mothers (now Evie & Sarah)

With school underway just about everywhere now, the season of parent nights has begun. No matter what age your children are, attending these informational evenings can be a great way to assure a smooth school year for them and for you. In order to get the most of these nights, here are three top tips from a teacher who’s now hosted fourteen of these evenings herself.

Know the Format and Purpose

While nearly all schools have an evening event early in the fall during which they welcome parents, not all are created equal. In order to get the most of the evening and not be disappointed, know what type of parent night your child’s school holds ahead of time.

Open house – Usually this type of parent night is what it sounds like. Teachers are available in their classrooms for a set number of hours, and parents are welcome to come in and out during those times. Open houses often involve seeing the learning space, meeting and chatting briefly with the teacher, and viewing some early student work.

Curriculum night – Unlike open houses, curriculum night usually involves hearing the teacher or teachers speak about what will be taught that year. Teachers usually have specific times to present their prepared presentation, and parents need to follow a set schedule to see all their children’s teachers. While there might be a little time before and after the presentations to meet teachers, this format often doesn’t leave as much time for individualized conversations.

Conferences – Often time open houses and curriculum nights are held very early in the year, sometimes even the first week of school. While these nights are certainly times to introduce yourself to your child’s teacher, they are not the time or place to expect an individualized conference. Parent-teacher conferences are usually held later in the year so that the teacher has a chance to learn more about their students and can provide better feedback to parents. That said, if you feel you need a one-on-one conference sooner, you can certainly mention to the teacher at open house or curriculum night that you wish to meet and that you’ll be contacting them to set up a time. Please don’t put this burden on the teacher. Remember, while your brood of three might seem overwhelming, the teachers most likely have twenty or more students and sets of parents to keep straight—in addition to their own families.

Do Your Homework

Whether it’s emails, online newsletters, or paper handouts, the beginning of the school year usually involves flooding parents with informational memos, forms to be completed, and packets to be signed. Once the dust settles and the important documents have been sent back to school, do take the time to read the rest of what the school or teacher sent home at the start of the year. Often teachers send welcome letters to parents or post important information on their teacher website. School websites are also often a wealth of information. Knowing a little about the teacher’s and/or school’s philosophies, policies, and expectations prior to going in to school will help you prepare questions you might have and will allow you to reinforce some of the same things at home with your child.

Follow Up

Curriculum night and open house can often be a whirlwind for parents and teachers. Time can run out. The line to talk with the teacher can wind around the classroom. Emotions and nerves can run high—on both sides. Take a breath, and know that if you forgot to mention something, didn’t get a chance to ask an important question, or just didn’t have time to say hi, there’s always tomorrow. Thanks to technology, parents and teachers are in constant contact through emails, websites, and newsletters. And while daily questions or comments can become burdensome, teachers usually really appreciate hearing from a parent after an open house. It shows you were interested and that you are concerned, which usually means you’ll also be supportive—and those are the best kinds of parents to work with! So don’t feel bad about following up with a comment or question (or compliment!).

And if you can’t make it to a parent night event, it’s great to send an email saying you would have loved to attend but couldn’t. Please understand though that it might not be possible for a teacher to convey in an email everything that was covered. Instead ask if any handouts provided could be sent home with your child and if there were any key points you should know to help your child have a great year.

Whether it’s called curriculum night, open house, or something else at your child’s school, these early events are a way of starting the year off with positive and open lines of communication between home and school. It’s a reminder that all involved want the same thing: to assure every child has a terrific school year!

Photo credit: egal