I love teachers. They don’t get paid what they are worth, they aren’t supported enough financially (and often emotionally) by their schools, and they have to deal with parents. I don’t envy them.
Every year I write a long letter to my son’s teachers. I also include a Starbucks gift card with it. From the very beginning, I want them to know I am on Team Teacher and that I want to work with them to make the year a good one for everyone. For the most part, I’ve been lucky to have worked with some talented and thoughtful teachers.The best all had several things in common.
Here is my Top 10 list of things that the best ones did that really helped me and my child. The best teachers:
- Listen to me and ask questions. They acknowledge that I am the expert on my child and come to me whenever they have a problem and don’t know how to address it.
- Are the ones that validate to the parents that it is hard to raise a special needs child. And they recognize that even the kids who are best behaved in school often lash out once they get home.
- See my kid for who he is outside of the autism. These are the ones who still come up to us years later for hugs. They love my child, and I love them for that.
- Keep me informed about issues in the classroom, even the small ones, instead of waiting until a major incident happens.
- Come to the table with ideas. It’s hard when teachers always ask me for extra ideas. Especially when I don’t know what they can or cannot do. The best ones do research or have years of experience to fall back on. This is important, because my child won’t be the only child with autism that they will have to work with.
- Tell me about the good stuff, too. This, so much! It makes my day.
- Let me know right away if it’s good news or bad news. Every time I get a call or email, or see a teacher walking with my child out of school, I automatically think the worst. It’s comforting when I know right off the bat if bad news is coming.
- Adapt their style of teaching and communicating to their students to meet each child’s individual needs. These are the teachers that will do sticker charts or other motivational tools to help my son stay on track for the day.
- Have a clear set of rules that are also flexible to meet the needs of each student. These are the teachers who have clear classroom behavior expectations, but make room for redirecting and giving a child the chance to turn things on their own. Especially during unstructured time and during transitions when kids can have the most problems. They usually use positive reinforcement instead of punitive measures of classroom control.
- Are the ones that show up every day to teach their students, inspire them, and love on them.
I can’t thank teachers enough for all of their hard work and dedication. There have been a few amazing teachers in my son’s life that I will never forget. They were there for me in the hard times with love and support, and without them, I don’t know how I could have coped.