17 Things Preschool Parents Do That Drive Teachers Crazy
A good preschool teacher is worth her weight in gold and then some but, unfortunately, her compensation will never get close to that. Her career choice doesn't garner much respect in our society, and she's often looked down upon for her low status job. As more pressure is put upon her to prepare students for kindergarten, she's taken on even more duties—doing student assessments, teaching pre-reading skills, and supplying the overall academic rigor that many preschool parents and preschool directors now demand. All the while, she must make it light, fun, and entertaining for her young students.
She also deals with kids who have life-threatening food allergies, who are autistic, hyperactive, and emotionally troubled, and who come to school with colds, head lice, and empty bellies. Behind the scenes (much to the surprise of some parents), she's responsible for upkeep at the school: vacuuming the rugs, cleaning the bathrooms, and mopping the floors. It's no wonder the average annual turnover rate for child care staff in the United States is a whopping 30 percent!
Although more and more responsibility is put on her shoulders, she has less and less power as the federal government continues to intervene in early childhood education. The last thing she needs are parents who add to her workload, make unreasonable demands, are condescending, and don't appreciate her talents and dedication. With that in mind, here are 17 ways preschool parents annoy their children's teachers:
1. Sending Your Kids to Class in Fancy Duds
A good preschool teacher facilitates hands-on experiences for her young learners: painting with their fingers, building castles with moats in the sandbox, and creating strawberry-banana smoothies in the blender. The last thing she wants to hear after providing hours of stimulating activities are moms and dads complaining about the spots on their children's new outfits. When I was teaching preschool, I actually had one mother threaten to send me the dry cleaning bill! Unless it's picture day, parents should always send their youngsters to class in play clothes that can get dirty and even stained. It's preschool, people, not a fashion show!
2. Sending Your Kids to Class in Crocs, Sandals, and Slippers
A good preschool teacher knows the value of outdoor time for kids: playing tag, jumping rope, making obstacle courses, and climbing on the equipment. Impractical shoes turn children into spectators, rather than participants. They miss out on the innumerable benefits of this unstructured time to socialize, get exercise, and use their imaginations.
3. Requesting Special Treatment for Your Kids
A good preschool teacher is always thinking about what's best for the class as a whole. Unlike a preschool parent, she doesn't have many opportunities to attend to the unique needs of each child. While most moms and dads are fully cognizant of this fact, there are usually one or two who aren't. They're seemingly blind to the other 19 children in the class, requesting special treatment for their little tyke. One mother wanted me to leave the classroom, go to the kitchen, and microwave her daughter's snack every day so her precious girl could have a warm meal. Much to her chagrin, I informed her that Mollie would need to consume the apple slices and string cheese just like everyone else. Needless to say, she was devastated.
4. Wanting Your Kids to Do Workbooks and Worksheets
A good preschool teacher knows paper-pencil tasks and sitting still are not developmentally appropriate for young children who learn best through sensory experiences. Preschool parents who think “real” learning involves youngsters at desks writing in workbooks are ignorant and need to read up on what a quality early childhood education looks like. Believe me, providing hands-on experiences requires way more effort and creativity than having kids write in workbooks!
5. Thinking That Preschool Is Preparation for Kindergarten
A good preschool teacher has a background in early childhood education and appreciates that the first five years of life are truly unique. She does not see preschool as just another year in a child's long academic journey. She sees it as a time to develop a love of learning, to explore, to make friends, and to experience new things. The goal of preparing a youngster for kindergarten is much too narrow for a talented preschool teacher as she strives to offer so much more!
6. Complaining That the Classroom Is Too Noisy
While most preschool parents appreciate that a noisy classroom means conversations are taking place, questions are getting answered, and exploration is underway, there's always one or two who see it as a negative. In their opinion, a calm and quiet classroom is where “real” learning happens with children sitting still while listening to the teacher. These are typically the same people who hush their co-workers at the adjacent cubicles, insist on a "no talking" policy at the movies even during the previews, and always wear noise-canceling headphones on the subway. While kids should certainly not get too loud (they should use their "indoor voices" as we say in the business), they need to talk and play. It's a preschool, folks, not a library!
7. Complaining to the Director Rather Than Speaking to Us
For most preschool teachers (but especially the veterans), this one really stings and feels like a betrayal. If you know the teacher is conscientious, creative, and wants the best for her students, please have the respect and courtesy to go to her first when you have a problem or complaint. Don't go behind her back, sneak off to the director, and gripe about something. Not cool!
I once had a student whose mother was a pediatrician. She objected to a game the kids played called “Person to Person” in which they touched each other when I called out commands such as: “hand to hand,” “back to back,” and “knee to knee.” She thought it would spread germs, and if she had come to me and said so, I would have immediately seen her point and stopped the game. Instead, she went to my boss and complained, leaving me feeling disrespected and mad.
8. Complimenting Us for Our Patience
While preschool teachers do indeed have an enormous amount of patience, it's frustrating when moms and dads see only that and not the entirety of our skill set. We are trained professionals who are college educated, have taken classes in early childhood education, and sometimes have even earned a master's degree. We've been schooled in developmental psychology, developmentally appropriate practices, and classroom management. Please notice our many talents beyond just putting up with a lot of crap!
9. Speaking to Us in a Condescending Manner
Many preschool parents can't imagine spending their days in a classroom, encouraging children to drive Matchbox cars through shaving cream and make animal sculptures out of papier mache. Preschool teachers, though, are a rare breed and love doing these hands-on activities with a bunch of wide-eyed youngsters who are eager to try anything new. It's patronizing, however, when parents make comments such as, “you have paint on your blouse” or “what a big mess you have to clean up!”
Instead, parent should say something that acknowledges the teacher's efforts: “Thanks for always finding new and exciting activities to keep the kids involved. You always give 100 percent and we so appreciate it.” After all, you wouldn't say to a doctor who just performed successful surgery on your spouse, “hey, doc, you have a big blob of blood on your scrubs!”
10. Bringing Your Kids to Class Late
We all get stuck in traffic or have hectic mornings from time-to-time but always arriving late to class is a nasty habit that should be broken. It not only sets a bad example for the children but starts their day off at school in a fragmented way. It interrupts the class and is insulting to the teacher, conveying the message that preschool is just not a big priority in your busy life.
When I was teaching preschool, I had a mother who brought her daughter 20 minutes late to class every single day. She was starting her own baking company and had a haughty attitude that the world revolved around her. Her daughter seemed frazzled and disorientated when arriving, and it took her a good 15 minutes to settle down and get into the groove.
11. Bringing Your Kids to Class Early
You don't arrive at the dentist's office 20 minutes before your appointment and expect to be seen, do you? The answer is “of course, not!” Some cheeky preschool parents, though, think it's okay to drop off their children early. Then they make a dash for it, leaving the teacher in charge of babysitting the youngsters.
Preschool teachers have a million and one things to do before class begins. They often need to set up stations, talk to one another about how the day will run, and rush around to gather the needed supplies for various projects. They don't have time to watch your children and keep them entertained. While I've never witnessed parents doing this with veteran teachers, I've seen them do it frequently with young, inexperienced ones. Shame on them for taking advantage!
12. Arriving Late for Pick-Up
It's understandable when this happens once or twice, but it infuriates the teacher when it happens more frequently and no explanation or apology is offered. She may need this short window of time to scarf down some lunch and get ready from her next class. She may need to clean the classroom, return phone messages, pick up her own kids from school, or go to another job (because her wages as a preschool teacher are so low, she may have another gig or two).
While some youngsters take being picked up late in stride, others definitely don't. They feel abandoned and sad, and the teacher must comfort them and keep them occupied so they don't cry. While these tardy moms and dads may be charged a late fee, they don't realize that it goes into the pocket of the preschool owner and the teacher doesn't see a dime of it. So, parents, for the sake of the child's emotional well-being and the teacher's sanity, please arrive on time for dismissal.
13. Giving Kids Long, Lingering Goodbyes When Dropping Them Off
A teacher's worst nightmare: preschool parents who's been instructed to give a brief, nonchalant goodbye to their children but insist on doing the opposite. Because seeing their youngsters sad feeds their ego, making them feel loved and needed, these parents won't leave even when the teacher tries to shoo them out the door. Their long, drawn-out departure upsets the youngsters, making them cry and scream, distressing the other students and angering the teacher. Say a quick goodbye, moms and dads. Your children may be sad for a brief while and then they'll be fine—just like the teacher told you!
14. Rolling Your Eyes When Your Kids Have Made a "Messy" Painting at the Easel or Some Other Art Work You Deem Unworthy
A good preschool teacher knows the benefits of open-ended art: painting at the easel, sculpting with clay, drawing, coloring, printmaking, and creating collages. These activities let kids express themselves, experiment with materials, and try new techniques without adult interference. While these activities may not result in masterpieces to be framed and hung in one's home, they promote imagination, initiative, and independence. That's what the goal of preschool art should be, not creating a crafty project to display on the refrigerator or give to grandma.
When moms and dads roll their eyes as children proudly show off their latest paintings or the sculptures they've created from recycled materials, it's beyond disheartening to a teacher. I even had preschool parents refuse to take such projects home because they found them so displeasing. It's tragic because open-ended art is a reflection of the children, their uniqueness, and their abilities as preschoolers.
15. Challenging the Preschool's Philosophy
When parents look at preschools for their youngsters, they have many choices: Montessori, Waldorf, play-based co-op, and the list goes on. To the untrained eye, they may look similar in many ways, but they're differentiated by their unique philosophies. A preschool's philosophy is what guides instruction, interactions with the kids, and the overall atmosphere. A philosophy is firm and won't change according to the latest whims in early childhood education.
Nothing is more aggravating to a teacher than preschool parents who pick a school and then challenge its philosophy. If you want your 4-year-old child to only be in a classroom with other 4-year-olds, Montessori is not for you. If you want your youngster exposed to technology at an early age, Waldorf is not for you. If you want your child prepared academically for kindergarten, a play-based co-op is not for you. Do your homework, moms and dads, and choose carefully. Fighting with the teacher about the school's philosophy is just not fair and an utter waste of time!
16. Fretting That Your Kids Are Being Bullied
Bullying has become a hot topic in the past decade, both at school and in the workplace. Many books and articles have been written on the matter, and many daytime talk shows have examined both bullies and their victims. Not surprisingly, the issue is on the minds of many preschool parents. This becomes a problem when ill-informed moms and dads complain to teachers about bullying at preschool when it simply isn't happening. Teachers become exasperated when parents slap the bullying label onto any negative behavior displayed by a youngster.
Once again, it's useful when parents understand children's developmental stages. Preschoolers, for example, have just moved through the period of “parallel play” in which youngsters play adjacent to one another but not with one another. This typically occurs when kids are 2 and 3.
Hence, kids at preschool are just beginning to learn how to interact with one another. Their vocabularies and social skills are limited, and they may experience disagreements and get frustrated with one another because of this. According to noted pediatrician, Dr. Bill Sears, most children don't know how to truly share until they're 7 or 8. They may go through the motions when they're younger because their parents and teachers tell them to do so, but they don't really understand why it's important. That's because they're highly egocentric at this stage.
Bullying at school means a youngster is methodically picking on another child and this is not in the nature of preschoolers. When calling someone a bully, parents demonize a child who's simply struggling to learn how to interact with others. So, parents, if you see a specific behavior that's destructive, please bring it to the attention of the teacher, but don't label it as bullying.
17. Giving Us Yet Another Mug
Okay, I understand that this last one sounds a little ungracious. But, if you only knew how many mugs a preschool teacher receives, you'd know why I'm including it. While any token of appreciation is welcome, teachers especially like gifts that show you know something about them. A teacher who's a dog lover would be delighted with a gift basket containing a dog bowl, biscuits, and a leash. A teacher who likes spending time at the ocean would love a beach bag stuffed with a towel, sunscreen, and some fun snacks. A teacher who enjoys reading would appreciate a gift card for her favorite book store.
The gifts I treasure most are the notes of gratitude. When a parent and child take the time to write a message and draw a picture, it just melts my heart and is something I'll keep forever. It's especially meaningful when they express thanks for specific things we've done during the school year: making piggy banks out of clay, taking a field trip to a bird sanctuary, or putting on a talent show.
Here Are More Gift Ideas for a Dedicated Preschool Teacher!
Questions & Answers
How do I better relate with parents?
This is an outstanding question because, as you know, preschool teachers need to not only successfully relate to their students but their students' parents as well. Today, tech-savvy moms and dads expect to stay connected with their children's teachers through e-mails and texts as well as in-person and on the phone. The number one complaint I hear from parents is that teachers don't reply to their messages. While this places new demands on educators, it's part of the new reality. Having a blog or website with updated information about classroom happenings is another effective way to stay connected, and it reduces the number of texts and e-mails you receive with questions about upcoming field trips, holidays, projects, and special events.
The best way to relate to parents is to behave in a professional manner and know your stuff. Preschool teachers don't get a lot of respect in our society and many moms and dads have no idea how accomplished so many of them are. If preschool teachers want to be seen as trained professionals in their field and not just babysitters, they need to effectively communicate to parents the latest research in early childhood education, brain science, and childhood psychology.
Lastly, when relating with anyone but especially parents of preschoolers, it helps to show empathy. Moms and dads of young children are often overwhelmed, exhausted, sleep-deprived, and frazzled. They need someone to show understanding and kindness. A recent study stated that 1 out of every 40 children in the United States has autism. My son was diagnosed while attending preschool. His teacher was fantastic in the classroom but never acknowledged what I was going through and never showed a drop of compassion. She never did during those three years my son attended her school, and I still remember that after all these years!Helpful 1
© 2018 McKenna Meyers