I use my three different perspectives to filter a great deal of my experiences through. My perspectives again are the following:
A teacher without children/ 15 years
A teacher with a child/8 years
A stay at home mom/3 years
I have no idea if these new young teachers in training are anything like I was, but when I was 23 and fresh in the classroom I was terrified of talking with parents. Instinctively I knew that parents will want to protect their child and how was I, this young “girl”, going to deliver difficult news to them if I had to? Well, of course I was going to have difficult conversations, but I was also going to have fabulous conversations. It’s always a mix. So here are two more points for my future graduates to consider:
3. Parents will support you if you ask them to. Ask them. They are the expert on their own child, but they may not be aware that their child can behave/react differently at home vs. school, especially during middle school. It’s important to know that a child that is smiling, pleasant, and friendly at school may go home and burst into tears. On the other hand, a child upset and crying at school eager to share the drama of their life may go home smiling and calm appearing as if nothing is wrong. Working together the answers usually lie somewhere in between, but if no one asks then the child won’t get any help with the things they may be struggling with. My own daughter holds it together at school and then the moment she crosses the threshold will burst into tears if she had a bad day. It’s no one’s fault; she is just this way. This has only happened once this year, but if I never let her teacher know that she got stressed out about her presentation in science class no one at school would have ever known, and I wouldn’t have been able to get information about how the presentation really went.
4. Don’t be afraid to call or email home with simple reminders—no matter how silly you may think they are. At the start of my third stay-at-home-mom year, I hadn’t realized how clueless I had become about what was going on at school with “my little girl” until I walked down the hallway at conference time and saw her locker. It dawned on me that I had no clue about the condition of my daughter’s locker, and after all those years with middle schoolers and their lockers, shame on me! I knew I was potentially up for a huge scare when I opened that locker door. I am lucky my daughter is organized, but I had completely forgotten about this easy barometer of my daughter’s life. Lockers are very important to 10-14 year olds. They are a statement of who they are and how they feel. If a child struggles with organization their locker will be chaos—I’m thinking an episode of Hoarders—and the only solution is to clear it out over and over again. The locker can be a mirror of where the child needs help. I will tell these future teachers to invite parents in often to take a peek at the locker. Encourage them to not let this space get out of hand, to help their kids organize and toss garbage—every other week if you have to. It’s important to not get angry or to criticize the mess—this too shall pass—but I realized from my stay at home perspective that I had lost touch with something so simple to gauge how my daughter was handling life.
There are times when perspective is used to find fault or place blame. Mistakes happen. Teachers make them, parents make them, our children make them, but rehashing mistakes and taking time to rehash fault and place blame I find to be a huge waste of time, and it takes away from the one thing that really matters—the child. The child is the reason for the parent/teacher collaboration; the child is the reason we adjust plans, make phone calls, and ask questions. These new teachers can ultimately be their most successful selves if they remember that forming positive partnerships will create the best experiences for each child, and that is what really matters.