No, that title doesn't mean that parents are "loco" or crazy in Spanish. In Latin, that term means "in the place of the parent." Most often, that term is applied to administrators and teachers in schools who care for children during the day.

Actually, the phrase implies that any good teacher will care for your child as a good parent would. Teachers meet all of your child's needs during school hours. Think about everything that a teacher does for your child: making sure he gets to eat a nutritious lunch, getting him to the bathroom regularly, taking him to the nurse when he is ill, insuring his safety, being available to listen to problems and concerns, insisting he pay attention to his studies, requiring that he doesn't endanger himself or others, and getting him on the right bus for the ride home.

Remember the main reason that teachers exist? They are on this earth to increase a student's knowledge. That's their number one job. But, no matter whether the student is a five-year-old kindergarten pupil or an eighteen-year-old senior, good teachers always do much more for them than teach.

When a five-year-old goes to kindergarten, his teacher is really a replacement 'mommy." Wipe his nose (and sometimes his bottom). Zip his jacket. Tie his shoes. Dry his tears. Pack up his belongings. Pull on his boots. Open his milk carton. Much time is spent by the kindergarten teacher on caring for each student's welfare.

Although the eighteen-year-old senior doesn't need much of the same kind of care, he does require a special kind of handling, also. Teachers of seniors lend an ear to problems, discuss dreams and goals, act as a sounding board for ideas, give advice, share successes, help deal with failures, challenge the student to set high goals, and help find a worthy future.

Ask someone "Who was your favorite teacher?" Most people don't have a problem answering that question. But if you ask them WHY that teacher was so memorable, chances are that the words won't come as easily. Sometimes it's hard to describe why a certain teacher stood out.

I can honestly say that my favorite teacher was the one who acted most like a caring parent. She was my second mother. She wouldn't tolerate less than my best. She kept a good balance between discipline and fun. Every time she disciplined me, I knew it because she cared for me.

My favorite teacher influenced me to become a teacher, too. She made teaching seem like the most important, most wonderful, most challenging job in the world. She came into the classroom every day with a smile, proving that she absolutely loved her work and her students.

In 2011, "in loco parentis" is risky business. Teachers have learned that, even though they may care for their students as a good parent would, some parents may not want this.

In this day and age of excessive lawsuits, teachers have often been targets because they have tried to play the parent role. Sometimes parents don't want anyone to interfere in their family's life, even though that situation may be a negative one.

Some teachers have responded to this modern phenomenon by acting like teaching machines instead of human beings. They come to school as the bell is ringing, teach the subject matter all day, don't allow any extra discussion, never spend any extra time with their students, and leave on the bell. Their attitude is one of self-defense. They think that if they don't get involved with the kids, nothing they do can be interpreted wrongly.

I would prefer a television set teaching my child than a teacher who doesn't make a human connection. When the day comes that teachers are afraid to hug a child or give a real pat on the back or stay after school to help a pupil, then education will have lost the battle.

Believe me, good teachers take "in loco parentis" very seriously. Most of them treat each child as if he or she was their own. No one can ask more than that.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANOTHER EDUCATION AND FAMILY TOPIC WITH DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM [1] OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.