A while back, Kay Siders wrote an article entitled, Can You Describe the Perfect Teacher? I wanted to respond then but never found the time. As a part-time substitute teacher and a mother of four school-aged children, I wanted to add my two cents, so here goes:

There are no perfect teachers, and I don’t think parents expect perfection. Personally, I expect teachers to stick to academics and leave social issues to parents (unless those issues are an integral part of the curriculum, which would then allow the parent the opportunity to opt out). I don’t think a teacher has any right to discuss sex in English class, religion in math class, or political objections to Iraq in phys ed.

Teachers are in positions of authority and I think it is imperative that they take care not to influence children in their own worldviews or agendas. As a new substitute, I try to be very careful not to inject my personal beliefs, issues, or politics into classroom discussion, although I admit it’s difficult not to at times.

When I hear kids say they hate the president, I ask why. I’ve yet to hear a personal reason for hating the man. I disagree with him in more than one area, but hate? The kids usually get around to giving some variation of, “But, my fourth period teacher said…”

I don’t want teachers pushing their political leanings on my kids, so I don’t do it to other people’s kids. If a student asks a political question, I suggest they discuss it at home and review different sources of information to form their own opinions.

Kay also mentioned a Master’s Degree. I’ve known great teachers who don’t have one and poor teachers who do. I care more about the teacher’s ability to engage kids and teach academic concepts and facts in ways that will stay with children.

I believe a teacher should be allowed to use reasonable disciplinary methods but I don’t believe in punishing an entire class for the actions of one or two students, which seems to be common practice in many schools these days. Doing so does not hold the child who misbehaves accountable, nor does it motivate other children to behave well, if they are only going to be punished anyway for someone else’s actions.

Homework? Yes, if necessary and not extreme. Also, if it’s not homework for the parents, such as forcing the parents to grade the work without benefit of an answer key. Parents don’t have time to work every problem and read every chapter when many have their own studies or work to do, and this is simply not fair or professional. I’d be fine with teachers who genuinely need help asking parents to volunteer to grade papers, and I’d even sign up.

What do you think?

Related: Home and Family: Homework Help