Last Thursday was Curriculum Night; parents were invited to come to the school sans their children at 5pm to hear from teachers about what is happening in the classrooms and why. Powerpoints were standard, and logistics were thoroughly covered.
To add a bit of zest, of gusto, of oomph to my Curriculum Night conversation, I filmed each of my students sharing something they wanted to learn this year. I started the evening with the parents by emphasizing that this year was about their children learning to learn and learning to love learning, that I wanted each of their children to feel curious, engaged, and empowered. Then I showed the video.
Here’s the audio:
There were a lot of chuckles, a decent amount of “I could’ve predicted that!”s, and a lot of “What? Really? I didn’t know he was interested in that?”s. Getting into the mind of your child was the evening’s continuing theme as I had parents try to identify their child’s “Who Am I?” riddle based on each child’s description of self. There was a lot of misidentification: “Since when does he play soccer?” “He thinks his family is big?!” “I would have never found [my daughter's] because she wrote that her skin was dark! It’s not dark!”
A real highlight for me was talking about conflict resolution. I hear a lot of reports back from parents that go something like this: “My son came home and said someone’s been touching his shoes,” or “My daughter came home and said someone hit her.” These are frustrating conversations because yes, I do my absolute best to make sure your child is happy, safe, and productive in school, but yes, conflicts arise. On Curriculum Night, I emphasized that every parent in the room is working very hard to raise their child as someone who is kind, caring, helpful, and safe, and yet, none of our children will always behave exactly as we hoped. I said that every child in our class will undoubtedly be on both the giving and receiving side of several conflicts throughout the year, and that I use those as opportunities to learn and grow. I spoke about the goal being resolution, not punishment. That even after a lot of anger and frustration, we all have to continue to live and get along in the classroom, so we all need to be able to move forward with fresh starts. I gave some suggestions for ways that parents can empower their children to solve problems productively, and ways for parents to speak with their child about moving on after a conflict has been resolved. I hope hope hope that all of the families in the room heard me, understood me, and will hang in their with me on this one.
We ended the night by sharing goals–this time it was the parents speaking about what they hoped their children would get out of the year. The standard was “I want my child to be better at math, reading, and writing.” Then there was “I want my child to be a great speller,” and “I want my child to have good handwriting.” Those are examples of things I honestly don’t care much about, but that’s ok, they weren’t my goals. Some other interesting ideas were, “I want my child to know when to play and when not to play, like to be able to use his on/off switch,” and “I want my child to know when not to follow the crowd and to be ok with that,” and “I want my child to be comfortable speaking with adults,” and “I want my child to love coming to school everyday.” It’s powerful for parents to hear other parents share these goals, and I love hearing them too.
After all, we’re all on the same team here. Team get better at lots of things, including being friends and collaborators. Team get the most possible out of our year.