Friday, February 09, 2007

The Parent Connection.....

It's inevitable; "teacher talk" will turn to parent responsibility and participation, and how too much or too little affects the quality of our teaching lives. Studies reveal the value of positive parental participation, especially with regard to student achievement. However, we all know that when parents come to us with distrust and a dislike for school as an institution, our communications are generally unpleasant. Such unpleasantness can be burdonsome.... and goodness knows we teachers don't need anything to make our job harder.

So with this in mind, I share the following:

1. I invite parents to class and school functions with genuine hopefulness and an open heart.

2. I send reminders because I know it’s so easy to forget. I’m a parent, too, so I know how kooky schedules can be.

3. I phone, leave messages, email and otherwise keep open the lines of communication.

4. I try not to call only for the negative stuff.

5. I do not hold my breath when parents are meant to call back, send papers back, email back or otherwise respond to communication from the school.

6. I never hold kids accountable for their parents lack of participation in school functions. I try, as much as possible, never to say anything about their folks not participating. This can be a very humiliating thing for kids. They know when their parents can’t or won’t make connections with school. No need to give the kids a reason to build defensiveness. After all, the real relationship that needs to be maintained is that between me and the child.

Not only does this save face with the child, it saves time, AND prevents a lot of hand wringing and useless declarations about the sad state of parenthood in this country!

Over the years, I have learned the importance of focusing on what it is I CAN control. I control my decision to continue to keep open the door to my kids’ parents. I hope for the best, but prepare for non-participation. That’s my reality, and to accept it leaves me the energy to really work with my students. Them, I have for 6 hours a day. I choose to concentrate on that.


IMC Guy said...

Well done! We just had parent teacher conferences at my school and the level of participation is usually low. I know it's frustrating, but it worth it to keep trying and perhaps reach one more family!

Dree said...

Well said. I'm not a parent, so I don't know how difficult it is to juggle all the schedules and responsibilities that come with that job. But as a teacher, it's hard not to get frustrated at the low level of parent involvement.

At our school, we only require the parents to come to 3 events: Back to School night, and 2 report card conferences. For conferences, we send a letter asking parents for a time that is most convenient for them. Then we schedule them for the time they requested and we send them a reminder. Despite that, we still only get about 50% of parents who show up at conferences.

I'd be less frustrated about the number of parents who fail to show up for the optional events (like open house, family mass and holiday shows) if they took the time to come to the important things, like conferences and back to school night.