We have just completed another round of 3-way conferences and in some cases teachers are still meeting with a few parents who needed rescheduled times. As I was leaving the school on Wednesday evening when conferences were finished, reflecting on how things had gone, and feeling very weary, I must admit, I also felt lucky to have a teaching staff that always has what is best for students in mind and lucky to have the parents that try to advocate for their children.
Even though the process requires very long hours of preparation and dedication, the importance of the relationship building and communication are priceless.
I have had quite a few conversations with parents lately who have called me with concerns, or in some cases I have had to contact them due to behavior issues. The one thing I tell those parents, and wish I could tell all of our parents, is how grateful I am when they are strong advocates for their children. I wish all of our students had strong advocates.
I am always grateful when parents come to me with a concern or question and appreciate the effort they are putting in on behalf of their children. We may not always understand the motivation behind their concerns, but, in that moment they are reaching out to forge a relationship that will benefit their child.
Relationships take time, effort and determination. As a parent myself I can be confused by what my son’s teachers expect from me. Do they want me to be involved, even if it comes on my terms and in my way? Would they rather I left decisions regarding my son’s education up to them and did not interfere? or are we both seeking a balance?
I think we are not always very clear about our expectations for our parents. It is easy to become discouraged when we reach out and they are not responsive. Before making quick judgments, take a moment to remember we do not always know what our parents are dealing with and what they are bringing to the table. What we interpret to be lack of interest or caring or criticism for the things we are trying to do, can in fact be something totally different.
I have been lucky to forge very critical relationships with teachers and principals as I have followed and supported my three children through school. My youngest son is now in grade 10 and I continue to seek out ways to communicate and be an advocate for him. I have met teachers who were not interested in relationships and found this disappointing and discouraging. However, the majority of teachers I work with, and reach out to, are working hard to find ways to create a positive learning team.
I just finished reading the book “Beyond the Bake Sale,” by Henderson, Mapp, Johnson and Davies. The basic premise of the book is about creating better relationships with our parents and not just relying on superficial things like bake sales and fundraising. It is one of my goals to create a culture in our school where parents feel welcome in the building and truly feel an important part of our team.
One of the things stood out for me in the book was “…we know that parents are more motivated to support their children’s learning when they receive clear invitations and support from teachers and other school staff to be engaged, are confident about their ability to help their children and are clear about what they should do to support their child’s learning.”
I was having a conversation with my staff this week after we attended a division professional development day where all the schools in our school division shared the math action research projects we have been working on this year. Many of the presentations we listened to had a portion about connections and relationships. This made me feel very positive about the direction we are moving in our school division and especially in our individuals schools.
If we continue to make an effort to welcome, honor and connect with our families, I believe our parents will respond by becoming loyal members of our school community and will take every opportunity they are able, to participate in their children’s education in ways we never thought possible.
Sound like a win-win situation to me!