While students across the country settle in to another year of school, a recent plea from Halifax teachers is very unsettling. They’ve taken to social media to crowdsource funding and in-kind donations of classroom supplies. And a survey by the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation found that over half of its members spend more than $500 on school supplies for their students every year, out of pocket.
My parents, and much of my extended family, are retired teachers. It’s a very demanding job, both physically and mentally, that provides a vital service to families and to society, often at personal expense. Doing what we can to support our teachers not only makes their work easier, it benefits our children’s education.
Working with so many teachers, I’ve learned from them what’s most appreciated from parents. The ideas they’ve shared aren’t rocket science—most are doable, even for the busiest families. As parents, we just need to take a moment to remember.
Here are some simple ways to support your child’s teachers.
Give when you can
As parents, and as voters, we must hold our governments responsible for properly funding education. But if your teacher is struggling, try to fill the gaps by donating supplies and supporting school fundraisers whenever you’re able.
Keep in touch
Education is a partnership, and partnerships are built on communication. Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher as soon as you can so that your first interaction is a positive one. The first time you talk shouldn’t be when your child is two weeks behind on homework. If the school issues a daily planner, check regularly for notes from teachers. Give a heads up if there are issues at home that might affect your child in class.
Don’t be that parent
When your little one comes home complaining about something her teacher said or did in class, there’s a natural parental instinct to rush in breathing fire. Douse the flames. Be respectful and calm when dealing with conflicts and hear the teacher’s side of the story before blasting off.
Go back to school
Attend parent nights, open houses and school performances whenever you’re able (the school play could be a fun family night out). If you can’t be part of parent council, try to attend some meetings. And, volunteering for field trips or school events not only helps the teacher, it’s a chance to see your child in a class environment, interacting with their peers and teachers.
Say the magic words
“Thank you” is something teachers don’t hear often enough—except during the holidays when some are overwhelmed with trinkets. Seasonal gifts are lovely, but the occasional note of thanks for their work means so much more. And for that annual gift, skip the cliché coffee mugs for something more meaningful, like a charitable donation in their name.
Parents, you may not have the time or resources to do everything on this list, and you don’t have to. Even a little support means the world to a teacher—and to your child’s education.
Craig Kielburger is co-founder of the WE Movement, which includes WE Charity, ME to WE Social Enterprise and WE Day.