I just finished reading Aviva Dunsiger's Post on Do Parents know what is happening in the classroom and of course I love what she has to say. So much so that I thought writing a post in response would be the better option. In fact, I have been meaning to write about this for a while just have to find the time.
I want to start off with being a Parent is one of the hardest things that I have ever done (I sense and hear the smirks from all the parents reading this as I know you know what I mean). And to be honest I knew that before being a parent but I didn't really know that if you know what I mean.
To be honest I don't think that I really have thought about my connection to parents before until I was a parent with a child in school. Sure I knew that it was important. I knew that we were a partnership. I knew that we needed regular communication. Before having Izzy go to school I would have regular communications, I would write newsletters and then blogs and thought that I was doing a great job of telling them what I was doing in the classroom.
Then my daughter went to Kindergarten for the very first time and everything changed. For the first time, I understood why my student's parents said, "How is my kid doing?" I wanted to know what she was doing and how she was behaving.
Because of this I have learned many things:
1) Plenty of communication:
Though I thought I was doing this before I realized that I wasn't. If I still had parents asking me how is my child doing then I wasn't doing a good enough job. If I as a parent wanted to know what was happening then I was sure my parents were too. So know I do more tweets of the day. I collect those tweets in small weekly blog posts of what we did (Aviva does a much better job of this) with questions that we have been exploring and how parents can extend the conversation at home. Being in an older grade I have my students write monthly report card to their parents (when I taught 2 I did these) outlining what they are doing well, what they're struggling in, what their goals are and what they can do at home to help. This doesn't have to be long but I find that if parents know what is happening; 1) they are a lot happier and 2) they don't ask a lot of questions. I also invite my parents in whenever they can but we also try to do 3 sharing summits of their students work. These are during the day but we invite parents to come in and have their kids show them what they have been working on and how they have been progressing.
As a parent being able to ask my daughter, when you did ______ activity did you learn about _____? instead of what did you do today? has been the best gift ever. We talk about her learning, instead of me getting "fine." At the same time, if she is already at 6 telling me fine what will that look like as she gets older?
Now that I am a parent I think the more communication I do the better. I shouldn't wonder or even have to ask my kids what they did at school because I already know or have places to check and see what they did. I know this means a lot more work but the connections that you can make and the partnerships that you can develop is really amazing.
2) Kids want to feel connected to you as a Teacher:
Again, this is not something profound but I don't think that this really sunk home until Izzy was in school. I also don't think this is an area of strength for me. I mean I always tried to connect with the kids on their level, played sports with them, joked and had fun but was I really building a relationship. If they had a concern did I listen to them and tried to sympathize. My daughter has a lot of issues with self-regulation, I know she is only 6 but this is a big area of need for her. However, a lot of the problems in school surround her feeling lonely and not listened too. We cannot entertain all of the ideas that kids have but I think a lot of our so-called "behaviours" can be calmed and worked through with listening and making students feelings valid. Once they feel like you care, a lot more rationalizing and teaching can happen.
3) Life is extremely Chaotic at home:
This is something that I have been struggling with a lot as a teacher. I know what my house is like with two kids (soon to be three), what is home like for my students? When I assign a piece of homework, what is that doing to the dynamics? The stress? Is it meaningful? I have been very lucky that Izzy hasn't gotten a lot if any homework but I know it will come. What will that do to her anxiety, stress our home dynamics? I am still debating this but something to contemplate why and what we do after school. Is this something that we have a right to do? Is it something that we should/ need to do?
As I said before being a parent is one of the hardest things if not the hardest thing anyone can do. Our parents send the best thing that they have and they do the best job that they can possibly do with the tools they have. What do we do to help them? What do we to help with that stress?
Love to hear your thoughts