After last night’s #ecosys conversation my head was spinning with thoughts and ideas and even more questions. The basis of our great conversation was around the role of parents in education. With that in mind I went back and looked over the tweets and wanted to expand some of my thoughts into a post on what I think a parent’s role should be. Before I get into that understand that I am both a parent and a teacher so I do sit on both sides of the fence. With that being said, these are simply my thoughts and not a policy I have implemented or one present in my school. As a teacher I adhere to the things I have list and as a parent I follow these items myself.
Putting together a list of expectations or guidelines for parents is especially difficult because all families are different and therefore should not be treated with a wholesale approach. Here are things that I feel are expectations that I would like to have and I feel are not too specific to create hurdles for any families.
• Read to/with your child every day. I encourage you to go behind just the Dr. Seuss books (even though I love them!) and create a variety of reading opportunities for your child. If you don’t have access to many books at home borrow or lend of libraries or friends.
• Ask your child every single day about how school was and don’t accept “fine” or “ok” as acceptable answers.
• Lie to them if you need to. This may seem like a bad one but hear me out. In school you might have hated math with a burning passion. If you tell your child that, they will inevitably hate math as well. Personally, I hate black olives and made the mistake of making a comment about this one night when ordering pizza. Ever since that day my oldest son will not eat them even though he used to like them. He just wants to be like dad and most kids do. So, don’t crush your child’s love for learning because of your personal experiences.
• Get your child to school every single day on time. If they ride a bus, make sure they get there. If you drive them, then get them there on time.
• Attend open houses and parent-teacher conferences. Show your child that you care and want to learn how they are doing and want to see their work. My son loves it when my wife or I come into his class to read or play with him.
• Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions. If you are not sure about a grade, activity, or assignment please email or call the teacher immediately. As a parent it is your right to understand what your child is doing and being asked to do.
• Trust, honor, and truly believe that teachers want the best for your child. When you have a question or concern, have this idea in the back of your head.
In making this short list I also thought it necessary to put some guideline for teachers when working with parents. It seemed only fair! Here is a list of teacher expectations when working with parents.
• Treat parents as teammates and not adversaries. We are all on the same team with the goal of student learning.
• Call or email parents regularly if nothing else to tell them their child is doing well.
• Be aware that every family dynamic is different and therefore should be treated differently. Don’t make assumptions based on your personal experiences or stereotypes.
• Make yourself available to parents so they see you as an approachable person. If you see a parent at the mall talk to them…not about their child! Attend an after school event like a sporting event or music concert. Let parents see you as a person and not just a teacher.
• Communication, communication, communication. Be crystal clear in your expectations for student behavior, work, and grades. Parents want to know what you expect of their child in every aspect of class so be overt about this. Don’t force them to guess.
At the end of the day most parents don’t view teachers as approachable and most teachers see parents as an unavoidable part of the job. This is unfortunate and unacceptable when thinking about the child involved. Parents and teachers need to work together to use every possible resource to help a child succeed. Key to all of this is to open lines of communicate and have a relationship beyond the twice a year parent teacher conferences you’re required to do.