An open letter to parents from a teacher

Rebecca Berlin Field
5 min readAug 26, 2022

***This letter is dedicated to Ms. York, Ms. Brockman, Ms. Fought, Mr. Owenby, Ms. Williams, Ms. Vermillion, Mr. Garber, Mr. Clark, Mr. Gaskins, Ms. Hein-Sadler, Mr. V, Ms. Siebers, Vic, Brigette, Clary, Emily, Caroline, Lorah, and every public school educator who has loved, supported, and tolerated my children.

Dear fellow parents and public school partners,

We are grateful that you are invested in your child’s education. We really are. We love the presents you send us and all the food during teacher appreciation week. The performances and awards assemblies you show up for? The field trip chaperoning? The “talks” you have with your child so they stay on track? These actions are really, really essential to our job. You put your kids to bed on time, you make sure they have supplies, you fill out a million forms, and you supervise homework even when you are exhausted. We truly are dependent on your awesomeness.

That being said, I am writing this because your advocacy for the welfare of teachers is not going well. We know you appreciate us and we know that you recognize how we’ve helped your child. Let me explain how you can be our partner as we all fight for the survival of public schools.

I am a parent too and I want my children to have as many opportunities and resources as possible. Just like you, I kiss them goodbye when they leave for school and pray that they stay safe. I think my two kids are the greatest humans in the world too. I want them to be good people when they grow up and just like you, I love their teachers. I call or write teachers when my kids need support or school isn’t going well. I know that in case of a school-shooter, my children’s teachers will sacrifice their lives so that my children will live. I rely on educators just like you do.

You know your child more than anyone else. You do. But I know more about how to teach children. I have my Masters degree in education and have taken dozens of courses to stay up-to-date on best pedagogy practices and new curriculum. I have taught close to 1000 children in my 20 year career. I know more than you about learning. I not only know a lot about my content, but I know how to handle situations that you have not experienced. Just like you are an expert at your job, I am an expert at mine.

The major difference between my parent role and my teacher role, is that as a teacher, I have to advocate for every child, not just mine. I have to make decisions that affect 100 children at a time, sometimes 1000. As an educator, I have to be aware of every decision that is made on behalf of all my students because I am responsible for each and every child that I teach, not just your’s. I keep track of educational policy and local, national, and state politics that affect education as do many of you. However, as teachers, we experience consequences of decisions that you don’t know about because it doesn’t affect your child. Choices made by central office and approved by the school board often create obstacles that you can’t see because of our own unique perspectives.

Because teachers have studied curriculum design and pedagogy, and have also experienced curriculum in action every day, we know more than the people who are actually making choices for our students. Witnessing people make decisions who know much less than we do, and get paid much more than we do is extremely frustrating, as you can imagine. Instead of relying on experts, the school board and central administration, many who have not taught for many years or at all, pass policies and buy curriculum that are bad for students. And again, we care about the well-being of each and every child that we teach. Because of this, when we are forced to teach using standardized curriculum, we know without a doubt that many of our learners will suffer. I am writing this because I want you to know that sometimes you and I will disagree on actions of the school board and the administration. I want you to remember that teachers have a broader perspective than you do. Instead of tweeting your opinion or centering yourself at a schoolboard meeting, often the best thing to is to listen and believe teachers.

We know you love and support us, but sometimes we are hurt by your actions. In an effort to push for change, here are some things from you that will bring about the best change possible for all families.

We do not want you telling us how to teach. We are experts at teaching. We got this.

We don’t want you trying to control what we teach.

Do not make your voice louder than ours. If you want amazing teachers to teach your children, advocate for our voice. Support our unions and do not try to undermine our expertise.

We do not want you disrespecting us on social media. If you are upset with us, contact us privately. The problems that you have with us should pertain to your child…not our passion for our chosen career.

Trust us when we tell you that conditions that we work in are dire. We experience these conditions every day.

Trust us when we tell you that the curriculum we are being forced to teach does not serve ALL of our students.

Trust us when we tell you that our administration is making hurtful decisions. We have the expertise to know when these decisions will hurt our schools.

Trust us when we say things need to change because they are not working.

Trust us when we say that we are not being treated like the experts that we are.

Trust us when we disagree with policy or resolutions even when decisions being made by the school board are good ones for YOUR family. We are advocating for ALL of our families.

Show up for us but do not speak for us. Again, you are not an expert. Learn from us and ask us questions. Support us, but DO NOT SPEAK FOR US.

Believe us when we say that your child is important to us but not more important than every child that we teach. Sometimes we have to spend more energy advocating for other children, because we know your child already has support.

Stand with us. Fight with us. Let’s make sure our district leaders and elected officials are held accountable. If you are a writer, a plumber, a lawyer, a small business owner, a nurse, an architect, a realtor, a musician, an electrician, a pest controller, a psychologist…we need your expertise. We need a lot of help.

Parents and teachers should not have adversarial relationships. We should be partners. We are dependent on each other. If we disrespect your child or your child is not thriving in our classroom, we want to do everything we can to correct our mistakes or to change our approaches. You are your child’s best advocate and we want your child to have every opportunity to reach their dreams. When you have a gut reaction to a school board action, do not disrespect us by ignoring or berating us.

Thank you for all of your work. Parenting is the longest, hardest job in the world. See you at Back-to-School night!

--

--