HEARD in the Classroom: Judy

Judy, National Board Certified Teacher

Judy from HEARD

“My first year of teaching was at a school in Queens. None of the children spoke English at home. I was teaching fifth grade, but modifying each lesson so that the students could learn English alongside the academic content. It was a Title I, Title III, “Title everything” school. Connecting with parents that first year of teaching was a faraway thought. I was so beleaguered. I could have told you when the sun set because that’s when I began to think “just another hour or two” before I should ride the train home. Parent communication was not on my mind. It wasn’t something that was encouraged by administration. It wasn’t something my kids’ families asked for. At some point, I realized it was because of the language barrier and the culture of being undocumented: those things change how you interact with your children’s teacher and school. So I brushed up on my high school Spanish and was able to communicate more with about a third of the families. It meant a lot to them--even for me to say “hello, how are you,” smile and indicate that we were in a partnership with their child at the center. That’s when I started to see relationships with families change. That first year left me with one of the most important understandings of my career in education: I couldn’t truly serve children if I failed to collaborate with their caregivers.”

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"One year, a relationship with a parent was nearly destroyed after her son’s glasses were broken in a playground scuffle. That day, I focused on restoring the relationship between the two children involved and didn’t realize what had happened to the glasses. I wanted to explain that I prioritized human relationships over material possessions -- that was the reason for my oversight. But I decided not to weigh in further because I feared damaging a fruitful relationship between my student’s mother and I. But here’s the truth: Teachers are overworked. We’re human beings trying to keep all these plates spinning in the air -- applying a band-aid to a child, trying to manage somebody’s tantrum, trying not to lose the attendance form. Mistakes are made. We are understaffed. You can’t expect perfect outcomes if you have an incomplete set of crayons. And I’m one crayon in a box that should have 12. I taught your kid how to read and kept him safe every day. Let’s not put glasses ahead of academic, social, emotional and physical wellbeing.