As a teacher, getting on the same wavelength with all of my students can be challenging. Getting on the same wavelength with all of their parents: unarguably vital, incredibly relieving in moments of success, and strikingly arduous in moments of struggle.
Building strong parent relationships is a pillar of my teaching. There are so many shaky moments in the life of a classroom– having parents I can rely on and who trust me makes a huge difference in managing all sorts of things. Then, when I stumble, or their child stumbles, or they stumble, we can have an honest conversation. Or at least, that’s the hope.
Two rather arduous moments of the day:
1) This morning, a parent came in very early (per typical), and quite agitated (not typical). I greeted him good morning (per typical), and he responded with, “You know, we need to sit down and talk.” Quickly noticing his tone, I probed him further, and he insisted he didn’t have much time in the moment. But then he said, “I just get this feeling you’re giving up on my child.”
I was able to convince him to stick around and come sit down in the classroom to talk. It’s still not exactly clear to me what happened, but apparently, about a week ago, I said something that set him off and it’s been festering within him since then. I tried to be a listener, as non-defensive as I could appropriately be, and the conversation calmed way down. After a while he said, “Well, really, it was just that one comment. We’re good otherwise.” I said, “Then, I have to ask you to give me the benefit of the doubt that what you heard isn’t what I intended, and you have to trust me that no one, not me or anyone else in this school, has any plan of giving up on your son.” Thankfully, this wasn’t our first conversation; our relationship allowed him to say yes to my request.
2) Tonight was Author’s Night. Families were invited to come and hear each student read a story that they wrote in class. We had a great turn-out, and the event had a wonderful feel. The kids stood proud and read as best as they could. Immediately afterwards, my principal pulled me aside to tell me that a grandmother was outside the room yelling at her kindergarten daughter for the quality of her writing. “This is crap. These aren’t even real words. You can write nicer than this.”
I was in the midst of another conversation, so the principal decided to intervene. I don’t yet know all of the details of what ensued, but it quickly became clear that there was also tension between the grandmother and mother (the student lives with both of them). When asked directly, the mother said her daughter’s writing was “good to her.” The grandmother kept repeating, “Well, I expect more.” This conversation is to be continued. I have to hold tight to my relationship with the mother, gain enough trust from the grandmother, and also make sure that my student’s work is respected for the effort, growth, and achievement that it shows.
Oh, you know, just another typical daily task.