The Overly Honest Teacher, by former teacher and administrator Meredith Essalat, M.Ed., is an urgent, intelligent book about forging sound parent-teacher relationships. Aiming to “strengthen and improve advocacy” for today’s children, Essalat tackles the tough stuff, almost as Judge Judy cuts through the chaff to get straight to the points that matter. She writes from the point of view of someone who has spent time in the trenches–in this case, about young people from elementary school to college level classes.
A teacher for nine years and principal for four, Essalat says that “educating children is what energizes me and gives me hope for the world.” But first, the reader will note, there is much work to be done and it cannot be done solely at school. Parents must learn to work more effectively with teachers, who after all, in middle and high school, often see over one hundred “clients” per day. As much as some readers might flinch at being told how and when to interact with their child’s teacher, the author’s advice is solid, praiseworthy, and honest.
The book is organized into nineteen chapters, with titles like “Keeping it Classy.” There, among other pieces of advice, the author shares her favorite strategy for negative name calling. The offender must write twenty-five positive adjectives about the person insulted and hand it to them.
Or “Get. A. Hobby” where Essalat suggests that no one parent be the same parent to show up for all events. There’s also “Boring is the New Black,” “Yes, Virginia, There are Losers,” and my favorite, “I Repeat, The Football was in the Toilet!” (Having taught in middle school myself, I chuckled over this resonantly middle school story.)
Parents today struggle with balancing parenting and work. Counselors wring their hands and insist that technology will be their undoing for all the issues it creates for their students. Teachers see it all and roughly seventeen percent burn out after just five years. That statistic used to be much higher, but thanks to measures put in place, such as mentors and higher salaries, today’s teachers fare a little better.
Throughout, Essalat keeps the best interest of the children at heart. She suggests that you, as a parent, establish, oversee, and limit screen time at home and keep one step ahead of your child on social media. She addresses one of the most upsetting trends among our kids today: cutting. Cutting is the use of razor blades or sharp objects to cut into skin in order to bleed as a coping mechanism. Sadly, she says, “our children are screaming at the tops of their lungs for us to listen to their plights, to take notice of their stress, anxiety, and social failings.” She implores parents to model and guide the thoughts, impressions, and manners of their children instead of leaving their education to Snapchat or Instagram where mixed and risky messages may be emerging.
This book is a brilliant guide to show parents how to move into being the number one influencers of their children, while cooperating fully with their teachers, who know a thing or two about kids. Its chapters could very well serve for parent-group discussions led by school counselors wishing to talk frankly with parents about all topics school related. Highly recommended for personal and library collections.