“I know my children well — as well as any mother could — but I do not know them in the way that their teachers do. I do not see them when they are out in the world, away from me. At school, they are able to stretch their wings, and practice being the person they are to become, in a way that they cannot do under the watchful eye of their father and me. I want to know this person. Who is he? What do his teachers see that I don’t? How is my child changing and growing, struggling and improving?
Tell me about that person, I will want to say. Not the test scores and the reading charts and the spelling tests. Tell me about the little person that is my child, the one who is growing up and out and away from me, as all children do. Tell me about the person that my child is becoming. Tell me about the person that my child is. Because that little person — my child — is the one I love, the one I really want to know.
These are the things that go through my head, the questions I really want to ask. But 20 minutes is short, and my questions get jumbled in my head or caught in my throat.
But sometimes, if I’m really lucky, the teacher will answer these questions without my asking.
And I will sit in a tiny chair at a tiny table in front of my son’s teacher, and I will cry with humility and the most profound gratitude.”
–Christine Organ, from “What I Really Want to Ask at All Those Parent-Teacher Conferences”
Parents are as different as our students. They come from different places and perspectives. They want and need different things. But, because it is hard to always know where our students’ parents are coming from, it is difficult to always meet their needs. Of course, in part, it really just boils down to a numbers game. Most of us at the secondary level have 150 kids, which means we have a 150 pairs of parents, too–often times more, in the case of divorced families, where now we may have two pairs of parents per kid. As such, the numbers could be overwhelming. But beyond the numbers, lies another critical factor that makes it even more difficult to know what parents want, a lack of real communication between parents and teachers, especially at the high school level. Oh, I don’t blame parents. Nor do I blame teachers. In fact, I don’t know who to blame, so I won’t. I will just simply state that is unfortunate that better lines of communication don’t exist between parents and teachers. It is odd on some level to think that in my twenty years of teaching–if I had to guess–I have communicated with, much less met, fewer than 5% of my students’ parents. I’m not sure that’s okay, and I wonder if things changed in this area of education, if we couldn’t make significant strides towards improving everyone’s experience.
I was recently asked how I thought parents would respond to my plan for next year. I supposed and suggested that they would initially balk, but that they would come around eventually, seeing that I had their kids’ best interests in mind. But the truth is, I don’t know. How will they respond? And this leads me to the bigger question. When it comes to their children’s education, what do parents want, really want?
Let’s try to find out. Parents–all parents (young, old, kids in school, kids out of school)–what do you want? What would you really like to ask your kid’s teachers? If your child were in my class next year, what would you want to know at those critical checkpoints–or sooner? Please help us better understand and partner with you in this most important time in your child’s life. Join the conversation. No, really, join the conversation. I will do my best to make sure you are heard. Promise.
Happy Thursday, all.