A few words. Really just a passing comment. But it was the response that has stayed with me for hours today and inspired me to blog tonight. Here’s my story.
As I was welcoming parents into the school at the end of camp today, I connected with one mom, who asked me about her child’s day. I briefly told her how the day went, but then I said, “I really enjoy working with ________. He always makes me think, and we have some great conversations.” That’s when the mom looked at me and said, “I wish everyone felt that way. This is the first time somebody’s said this about my son.” That’s when my heart broke!
I can’t help but think back to the Faculty of Education, and the reminder from professors that it’s important to distinguish between a child’s behaviour and the actual child. We may not like a child’s choices, but we still like the child. My understanding of behaviour has changed a lot since Teacher’s College — and I think that Shanker‘s Self-Reg has helped me view a lot of behaviour differently — but this “language lesson” has remained an important one for me. Even so, this mother’s comment made me wonder if I always remember the power of words when communicating with parents.
Yes, we want to be honest with parents. If there are problems/concerns, we want to be able to work through them together. But in the midst of pointing out the issues, we also need to highlight the positives … and maybe, as this mom reminded me in her comment today, not make the “issue” our view of the child. Every child wants to be loved, and every parent wants to know that their child is loved.
I’m not a mom, so I can’t speak from a “parent perspective,” but as another mom pointed out to me recently, I’m like a “school mom.” As my teaching partner and I have discussed before, our students are our kids.
- We’ve seen them grow: academically, socially, and emotionally.
- We know what they’re able to do.
- We believe in them.
And at the end of each year, we create classes for the following year, and we make our little wish that the new teacher will see the “wonderful” that we see and make the connections that we’ve made. Likely, those same teachers are wishing the same thing for their groups of students that are also going off to new classes. That’s what love does. Just as we need to hear these positive affirmations from our colleagues, parents need to hear these words from us.
I’m not going to pretend that I always remember to share this message, or that I do so as much as I should, but after today’s conversation, I know that I will be doing so more. When parents know we speak with love, the tone of the discussion changes. How do we let kids know “they matter,” and how do we share this same message with the home? This is a message worth sharing.
Thanks Shawna! It was a discussion that really stuck with me.
I love this! Kids need to know that they matter and sometimes we need to give parents a break too. As teachers we have to remember that the child who struggles in the classroom can also be a challenge at home. Moms like the one you described need our help the most! You have summed up what a lot of us see and experience yearly. I strive to be that teacher who can find a positive to highlight, especially in those students that others find troublesome because of their behaviour. We also have to remember that behaviour is a form of communication. What we do with that communication is really up to us adults. Thank you for this blog post, it really struck a chord.
Thanks for your comment, Pauline! I loved your point about “behaviour.” This is so true. Our responses matter so much: both in how we communicate to students and parents. Everyone deserves to hear a positive — a genuine one — and this conversation today was a great reminder to me that maybe I need to make these kinds of comments a little more frequently.
A great post, Aviva, and a timely one as we begin to shift our attention to the new school year. I always say to my colleagues that I want my students to know that I care about them but I don’t think I’ve done a great job letting parents know that I care. Something to work on for sure this year. Thanks as always for your great insight and honesty.
Thanks for the comment, Chris! As much as I’ve tried to communicate this message to students before, I don’t think I’ve always communicated this to all of the parents … and I do think it’s something they need and deserve to hear. This is something I’ll be trying to do more from now on. I’m glad to hear that you’re going to work on this as well. Enjoy the rest of your break and the start of a new school year!
Aviva: thank you, as always. This is one of the things my husband (therapist guy) really asked me to carry with me on my classroom this past year. I needed, whether or not I covered subject expectation, to create an expectation for myself of being “in relationship” with my students, and as much as possible, being in right relationship with them. I have learned over the years, in elementary at least, that this includes building a relationship with parents. And yes, that means easing the load of an exhausted parent, who knows there are issues, but also knows the remarkable good that exists in her child. On the flip side, I sometimes find it a really difficult job (particularly with intermediates) to tell a parent who may have only heard positives that things may not be all sunshine and roses.
Thanks for your comment, Lisa! Your husband offers excellent advice. Your last point is an important one to consider as well. I wonder if by building these positive relationships first — and the trust that goes with them — having these difficult discussions (which are still difficult to do), may actually go better than expected.
I think that’s the only way to go about those conversations. If there’s no relationship of trust, no feedback is really going to be heard.
I totally agree, Lisa, and again, it speaks to the need to build these relationships first.