If there was just one thing I was allowed to teach parents, it would not be the importance of reading to children or the importance of playing with them or the importance of making the feel special. I believe parents do the best they can already at all of those things – and if they aren’t, a lesson from me wouldn’t change things anyway.
Instead, I would teach them the importance of realizing that they know their children as their offspring – as an extension of themselves. Few, however, know their children as students in the classroom. I think parents all the way up to the early 80s knew this information thus the teacher was always “right” and his/her authority was seldom questioned. Somewhere along the way though, this small, but important insight got lost and students became more “empowered” than their maturity level could manage.
This semester I have had the relatively unique experience of being my youngest daughter’s teacher because I am the only print journalism teacher in our high school. The school did not want to deny her the opportunity to explore journalism simply because I was her mother. Although I had my reservations, I allowed her to be in the class. It was not a mistake, but I believe I have learned more about the parent/child | teacher/child relationship than she has learned about journalism. For example, no matter how effective a parent is at home, herd mentality truly takes over when students are in the classroom. My daughter is not bad, She’s just not the Valerie I know. She’s a chatty little thing too. I have a greater insight on why she may do well in some classes, but not others, and it has more to do with the students in the class with her than it does with the teacher. Few parents get to see those dynamics play out.
Some parents will argue, and I will agree, that some teachers exacerbate bad behavior in students either by antagonizing them, having too many rules or by forgetting that they are, after all, teaching children. In answer to that argument, I have to remind myself that humans don’t typically see the world as it is; we see it as WE are. I have been on the parent side of the “bad teacher” model. Valerie has had two teachers who should never have gone into the profession. Both took more from her than they ever gave and it took many years and a lot of good teachers to help her recover the things those “teachers” took. Therefore, I completely understand why parents don’t trust all teachers, but when there is a good teacher in the classroom – a teacher whose reputation is that of a caring educator – parents can best help their children succeed both in the classroom and in life if they will sit back and listen to the teacher, the professional and then work as a partner in the child’s education. I do not think I have ever witnessed a situation where a child succeeded when the parents and teacher were adversaries.
If parents and teachers work together, there’s no limit to what the child can learn. This teacher also learned that while it’s not a good situation to have a teacher’s child in his/her class, valuable lessons can be learned and taught. As with all good teachers – some of those lesson have nothing at all to do with the “plan” of the day. So Valerie, thank you for being a good teacher to this parent. I know I’ve learned more from you than I taught, and that was certainly never the plan.