I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to send a child — your child — to school each and every day. I can’t imagine because I am not yet a parent, and it’s very likely that I will not be for quite some time. And for that reason, this becomes one of the most complex pieces of our job, in my opinion: working with the people who take the risk to trust us with their children every day — the parents.
But why does it have to be so complex? What makes working with families so delicate?
It’s easy to lose sight of this the longer you are a teacher. After all, you see students filter into your classroom, day in and day out, and to you, it’s just business as usual. Kids come in, they fail, they succeed, and, for the most part, they take baby steps towards long-term goals each and every day. And within those experiences, and only those experience, lies the educator’s perspective — the educator’s truth.
What we forget, however, is that does not lie within parents’ realm of experiences each and every day. Instead, the parent watches their child — their baby, their little miracle — get on the bus, walk out the front door, or get out of the car each morning and walk into a place over which they have very little control. That same child comes home every afternoon, and upon being poked and prodded for information about the school day, many parents get an apathetic “I didn’t do anything” or “It was fine” from their children.
Of course, we know our kids aren’t “doing nothing.” In fact, we know quite the opposite. We know that our kids are doing a whole lot of something. But it’s unreasonable to expect parents to simply know and trust this, and it’s wholly unrealistic to expect young children to be able to communicate all of the day’s happenings in a succinct and clear manner.
And I can only begin to imagine what this must be like.
As a bona fide, certified control freak, I pity the poor soul who teaches my child some day, because I know that I will be freaking out with every lesson and every moment that passes by in the classroom, because in my mind, every moment is precious, every moment is a moment of that child’s life that we hold delicately in our hands, and every moment is another moment that a parent is missing out on each day.
We have a unique superpower, as our students’ teachers, and this power we possess allows us to see significant pieces of these children’s lives that the parents don’t get to see. They, in essence, are loaning their children to us for the better part of a year (or more), trusting that we’ll do good by them, and that we’ll do everything in our power to nurture them just as they, their parents, would. As a result, it’s just as much our job to make parents feel safe, supported, and seen, as it is to make the children in our rooms feel safe, supported, and seen, as well.
And I think with a little empathy — with a little perspective-taking — teachers can realize that most parents are not trying to judge teachers, and at the end of a week, all parents just want to know their kids are getting the best experience possible. They want to know their children are seen and heard in the classroom, and they want to know that these little people — the little people into whom they’ve invested so much of their time and energy — are safe and happy.
And I think if I was a parent, I’d want that, too.
So make the phone calls, be proactive, and treat relationships with parents in the same delicate manner you’d treat your relationships with children. It’s part of the nature of what we do, and it’s what’s going to make our children the most successful.