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The Guide to Parent Teachers

When Worlds Collide

By Mary Ellen Flannery

Good morning, Mrs. Smith, Hi, Mom.

The Guide

Meiko Arquillos

Here are the parents. There are the teachers. And never the twain shall meet—except, of course, on parent-teacher conference days, fall field trips to the pumpkin patch, and the occasional IEP review. But what happens when the teacher also is a parent?

Let’s say you’ve got a student who just won’t hand in her homework. Her father is your colleague on the curriculum committee…. Do you bring it up during science textbook selection? Or, perhaps it’s your own darling who isn’t doing her work. Ack! How embarrassing!

Fortunately, many teacher-parents say those uncomfortable moments are few. In fact, your colleagues with kids say that the confluence of the two roles actually makes them more effective parents and more empathetic teachers.

“Being a parent has definitely made me a better teacher. I am much more empathetic to parents, and more patient and understanding with kids,” says Lisa Turner, a social studies teacher at the Aspen Creek School in Colorado and a parent who is actually teaching her own son this year!

Plus, the dual role does give you an edge on some school-related parenting issues, even if it makes a few others more challenging.

The homework issue: Some kids don’t want to do it, of course. But as teachers, you have plenty yourself. Says one teacher-parent, “Homework was smooth because we were just a school-based household—they did their work, and I did mine. And I always made sure to have poster board, markers, ink cartridges for the printer, and anything I could think of that they would need for projects.”

Another rule that works for Turner is no screens—except for school-related computer work—on school nights.

How I…

Do something nice for parents and students!

Tisha Talikka, a teacher in Perry, Ohio, asks a parent volunteer to do some videotaping of students reading books in her classroom each week. At the same time, throughout the year, Talikka takes tons of still photos. At the end of the year, she combines the video and stills with a musical backdrop and delivers a personalized video album of the year. “The students love having their pictures taken, and the parents enjoy having a window into their child’s classroom,” she says. Wouldn’t you?

The Guide

The behind-the-curtains issue: Do you wonder what your kids are really like at school? You can ask them, you can ask their teachers…or you can find out for yourself. Consider the New Hampshire high school teacher who started an after-school art club at her son’s elementary school. Her son, and his classmates, benefited from her expertise and enthusiasm, and she got an excellent chance to observe her child in the school environment and let him know just how much school participation mattered to her.

The conversations with teachers issue: On the one hand, as a parent who works in a school—maybe even your child’s school—you have great access to your child’s teachers. It’s tempting to stop them in the hall and ask about that mid-term C-minus, isn’t it? Well…don’t. Just don’t. It’s unfair to your colleagues—one teacher describes that kind of drive-by parent-teacher conference as a “gotcha” experience.

Do say, “I’d like to talk to you about Peter: When can we make a date?” Learn from Turner’s example, who says, “I enter the meeting by reminding them that I have my parent hat on, not my colleague.”

The whose-side-are-you-on issue: Remember the days when parents always sided with the teacher? (Certainly your parents did, right?) These days, it seems like parents are much more likely to say, “Oh, no, not my child…I just don’t believe it!” Except, that is, teacher-parents, who say they’re much more likely to say—to their child—“Oh, no, I’m quite sure you deserved that detention.” And that’s fine, to a degree. Students should respect their educators. But, at the same time, make sure your child knows that you’re on her side, too.

Finally, consider that, in a world where educators actually don’t get as much respect (or pay) as they deserve, nobody better understands the time and sacrifices that go into your profession than your own children!

Recounts Turner, “It was very interesting when my son…corrected a fellow student who was speaking badly about a teacher. The other student was saying that teachers have it so easy and don’t work very hard, and my son said, in no uncertain terms, that teachers work very hard, and that his mom is up late and at school late and puts in hours and hours.

“It sure made me feel good to have a student doing public relations for all teachers.”

Proceed with Caution

With car crashes leading the cause of death for teenagers—responsible for two out of five deaths—that old Honda Accord in your driveway could be a lethal weapon. But there are steps you can take to increase the safety of your teens.

The Guide

Be aware of the danger zones.
According to AAA, there are a few driving behaviors that come with greater risk. For one thing, 42 percent of the fatal crashes involving teens in 2003 occurred between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. For another, the fatal crash risk nearly doubles when a passenger is in the car.

Add a second rider, it increases five-fold.

The Guide

Sign on the dotted line.
Consider signing a contract with your teens that would have everyone promise to specifically avoid alcohol and drugs while driving, refuse to take on passengers, wear seat belts, and obey traffic laws.

The Guide

Call in the professionals.
You might fondly remember driving lessons with your mother or father (or not), but this is probably an area where DIY isn’t the best option. Although most public schools have cut out drivers’ ed programs for liability and cost reasons, there are still private options. Costly, yes. Get tips for selecting one.

It doesn’t cost much to make a baby…but to keep one?

Your new bambino has arrived and, aside from the $35,000 bill for her delivery, which hopefully you aren’t paying, she has brought with her some serious expenses. As the diaper gets heavier, the wallet gets lighter…

The GuideDiapers

The Costs: You’ll go through about 8,000 diapers per child, according to Consumer Reports—and some premium diapers cost as much as 50 cents each.

To save a few bucks: Although some parents point to generics, this writer says the money saved wasn’t worth the baby rash earned. But do go online. The same Huggies Supreme Size 3 that cost 43 cents each at CVS goes for 29 cents at

Consider this: The cheapest (and greenest) option is home-laundered cloth diapers. Before you hold your nose, the mommas who use them say they’re not unclean or inconvenient. Need more convincing? Check out

The GuideFormula

The Costs: Depending on whether you choose powdered or pre-mixed formula, the cost can range from $1,000 to $2,500 for the first year.

To save a few bucks: In this case, generic formula may be the way to go. All meet the nutritional requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Consider this: Breastmilk, baby! It’s the cheapest, of course, even if you have to buy the bras, the pads and the pump—plus it comes with the added value of health bonuses for your infant.

The GuideWipes

The Costs: You start off in the hospital with soft towels and plain water. Nice and cheap! Then you go home and start shelling out the big bucks for fancy wipes.

To save a few bucks: Again, buy bulk online. An 80-count pack of Seventh Generation wipes at CVS—unperfumed and chlorine-free, natch—is $4.99. Go to and get the big box for $3.50 a pack.

Consider this: Try making your own. One recipe: Cut paper towels in half to make rough squares, then mix together a cup of water, one tablespoon of baby oil and two tablespoons of baby wash. Pour the mixture over the towels and store in a recycled wipes container.

The GuideCar Seats

The Costs: The cost: Top-of-the-line car seats go for more than $200.

To save a few bucks: Should you buy used? Only if you can verify its age and accident-free history. The date of manufacture should be on a seat label—it’s required by law —and most should be retired after six years.

Consider this: Even the best car seat isn’t worth much if it’s installed incorrectly. Go to to find a certified car-seat inspector near you.


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