• Name: Xan Griffith
    Subject:  English Language Arts

    Dear Parent,
    Thank you for visiting my website.

    I am grateful for the many responses I received in response to my journal assignment.  I feel honored and blessed to have a small glimpse into the life of your eighth grader. 

    In return, I am happy to tell you a little about myself and a lot about how I believe we can help your child have a successful year in eighth grade.

    I grew up all over the place:  Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Arizona.  I received my teaching degree from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, 24 ½ years ago.  I taught in Oklahoma and Texas before moving to North Carolina in 1998.  This is year 16 for me at Kernersville Middle School. I love reading, writing, and grammar, especially grammar.  And I am really excited to teach eighth grade for the third year, after having taught seventh grade at KMS for 13 years.

    Every fall, I start out so hopeful and excited to begin the new year with your child. I’m coming in with hopes and dreams of what this year will be like – and all of those visions include good things for your child. While I am willing to put in the effort, the hours, the creativity, the enthusiasm – there are some things on your end that would be incredibly helpful for me – which result in the overall success of your child, which is what I want most.

    I can speak probably for a majority of teachers when I tell you that we pour our heart and soul into your kids. Truly, we do. Our job is NEVER done at 2:00 when your kids leave our classrooms. Our evenings, weekends, holidays, vacations are not entirely our own. Most teachers I know are grading, planning, and creating for your kids. We don’t leave our work at work at the end of the day. Our work comes home with us more often than it doesn’t come home with us. Even when we aren’t working, our minds are constantly going…with new ideas, brainstorming, problem-solving, wracking our brains for ways to help your child ‘get it.’

    Now, I’m not saying all this for pats on the back or applause. I say that so you know how thoroughly invested I am in the success of your child. Trust me. I would not be teaching if I wasn’t; the financial return for the investment of time, energy, and our guts just doesn’t add up. I don’t feel good about myself and my job if your child is not successful.

    I know you realize that regardless of the age of your child, the importance of the student-parent-teacher trio cannot be measured.

    Here are 10 things from inside that would help this part of the trio along:

    1. Please use Parent Assist. I work very hard to keep records and grades up to date. It is impossible for me to call or email you every time your child does not do his homework. I know some of you are ‘not into’ technology, but can I respectfully ask that you ‘get into it,’ for your child’s sake? I’m not asking you to get a Facebook account, but the way of the world – business, education, communication – all of it – is locked into the Internet. For good. It’s not going away. These systems have very valuable information about your child’s progress. Please check it often. It is much easier to catch your child before he sinks if you know he is in danger. We need your help on the home front to ‘be on top of him or her.’

    2. Please beware of the other side of technology. TV, the Internet, cell phones, video games, etc are huge distractions. Watching TV sitcoms will not help your child be a better student. They need to be reading; they need to be exposed to good writing. This will benefit them in every class, not just English; they need reading comprehension and writing skills in history and science, too – right? That might mean you may have to model good habits and turn the TV off yourself. Set ‘no technology’ zones and times and enforce them. Some of your kids are on their cell phones all night, texting back and forth with their friends, and then they aren’t in the best learning mode in class. And honestly, most kids are addicted to their devices. They cannot part with them even for a class period. Please support us when we make rules about phones in the class and when we have to confiscate them. I know as an adult, sometimes I have a hard time separating myself from my cell. Do you think a 13 or 14 year -old has that kind of self-control and discipline?

    3. Please have an open mind if I need to call you about an issue at school. I know it is hard to  believe that your darling could behave that way at school, but trust us – I am way too busy to invent stories that would cause me to call home. I am not calling to badmouth your child. I am calling for intervention and solutions.

    4. I love involved parents; I do not love helicopter parents – the ones who hover and do not give their kids a chance to grow up and learn. If you always come to his or her rescue and never let him experience the consequences of his or her actions, you are crippling your child and doing an enormous disservice to him or her. You are not helping your child in any way by enabling them or making excuses for them.

    5. I give 150% during the week when we are with your kids. If you need to communicate with me, send an email or call the school (703-4255). But please let us have some down time on weekends. Do not expect replies to emails or return phone calls on weekends. I try to detach as much as I can on weekends. I need to do this for my sanity and to be a better teacher.

    6. One of the best things you can do is to teach your child character. This goes along with #4. Life is unfair sometimes. Your child will get hurt. Your child will be treated unfairly. Your child will struggle. I know; it hurts even just thinking about it. As much we all want to, we cannot protect him from every source of pain and discomfort. This is heart-breaking – I wish we could. I hate to see your child suffer, too. But what we can do is teach them how to navigate through these difficult parts of life with character: integrity, honesty, self-respect, maturity, and perseverance. Teach them coping skills. Teach them how to resolve conflict. Those are life-lessons that are invaluable! I can’t stress that enough. That will serve him much better in the long-run than rescuing. And believe or not, his character has a lot to do with the overall outcome of not just his education, but his life.

    7. Speaking of things to teach, two of the most important qualities I need you to help me build in your child is discipline and self-control. We live in an instant-gratification society. We want what we want yesterday. Teach them to wait. Teach them discipline. Teach them to work hard, to persevere, to discipline themselves, and to create good habits and break bad ones. Teach them that they do not have to react emotionally to every emotion they feel. If they are weak in these two areas, everything unravels quickly after that. Give that some thought: discipline and self-control.

    8. This seems minor, but late work gets graded last. If your child turns in work late, it goes to the bottom of the grading pile. Don’t expect to see that one graded overnight.

    9.  I don’t “give” your child a bad grade, and I don’t fail him or her. Your child earned a bad grade or failure.  I do, of course, inadvertently mess up on the grade book.  I am more than willing to correct my mistakes; however, I will not correct that for which your child is responsible.

    10. Finally, I really, really love your kids. I want to encourage them. I need you to encourage them, too. This only works if we all are on the same page. They really need positive adults who believe in them. We know they aren’t perfect. We don’t expect them to be. But they do need to know that we believe in them. Even if your child disappoints you, lets you down, frustrates you – never neglect calling out the best in them. Let them know you think they are better than that. Never put them down – it is a horrible motivator. They need to know you love them and accept them unconditionally. They need to know that you believe in them, not just that their teachers do. Deep down, most kids really, really want you to be proud of them. Please never under-estimate the power of life-giving words.

    So, dear parent, while this list is by no means the be-all or end-all in teaching or parenting, this might be a good place to start. And the stakes are huge.

    On behalf of all teachers, thank you for letting us play such an important role in your child’s life. We recognize that we might spend more time with him on any given day than you do. That is an honor we do not take lightly.

    Xan Griffith


     (While I wish I could take complete credit for the ideas in this letter, I cannot.  I did personalize it and add or take away several things.  However, itt is adapted from one I saw on Pinterest and had no author.)