What happens if you get a so-so teacher?
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By Carol Lloyd
Supplement the weaknesses
Once you have a sense of what your child's teacher isn't — figure out a way to support the part of your child's education you feel your child may be missing. For instance, does your child's teacher emphasize rote learning of facts, focusing on spelling tests and math facts, while glossing over deeper critical thinking? Then introduce your child to challenging conversation: Talk about an ethical dilemma you're having at work or discuss a political story from the newspaper.
Don't just give your child more information, or feed them your opinion, but help them develop their ideas and opinions: "How do you think politicians should solve the problem of war in the Middle East?" "Do you think it's fair that the head of my company makes 50 times more than the person with the lowest paid job?" If, say your child's teacher seems lax about writing skills, consider signing up your child for an afterschool creative writing class or summer program. Skipping over basic math? Make it into a car game and quiz your child on the multiplication tables on your way to the grocery store.
Finally, support your child's teacher, but do it in a discerning way. Sure, your child's teacher may have a wish list about how you can support her projects. But if you feel like your child's first grade teacher is better at planning elaborate celebrations where the learning gets lost, you may not want to contribute the 10 books of sparkly animal stickers for the 100-day party.
Instead, offer to visit the classroom to read with struggling students or do math games with small groups. In suggesting your wish list you may feel like you're overstepping your boundaries, but chances are you'll find that your teacher welcomes support in an area of learning that isn't their strong suit. And if not, just remember, supporting your child's learning means just that: spending what little time you have on the most important educational issues, not sacrificing yourself to whatever volunteer request flies across your transom.