Why Do We Ask So Much of Parents?
Jan 28, 2010 Teaching 2974 Views
I was a good teacher, I cared deeply about the students in my care, learned all I could about how to help them, and tried to do my best for every child in my class. I was proud of being a teacher. I still am proud of the way I have helped children learn but I know now that I couldn't have done my job well if it had not been for parents who trusted me and the school system to do the best for their child.
Teaching is a strange and wonderful profession. I know of no other situation where people hand over their most precious possession into the keeping of a group of people they hardly know, with little or no knowledge of what this most precious possession, their child, is going to be asked to do.
Most parents probably know something about the school to which they send their child. It might even be the same school they went to as a child, or be a school system that they think they understand because they feel that they went through the same system.
However, they are wrong, they know very little about what really happens to their child in school. School systems change, teachers change, and teaching methods change. At least these parents feel that they have some understanding of what their children can expect. There is some basis for the trust they need to have before they leave their children in the care of others.
What about the parents who were taught in a different school system or even in a different country? What hope do they have of knowing what their child will be doing in school? They might, and research shows that they do, expect schools to be like the schools in their home country. After all, this is probably the only experience they have of a school system.
I am constantly amazed how parents with little no knowledge of a school or school system leave their child on the school steps each morning and hope and trust that their child will be safe and will learn something. Think of the amount of trust it takes for parents to do that. Think of the responsibility on teachers to live up to that trust.
That is why teaching is so wonderful and so strange. The trust factor is enormous, and needs to be nurtured. Parents need to know that their children are being well taught and prepared for a career that will provide them a good life when they leave school.
And parents do not know this. Parents might assume that their children are being well taught, they might hope that their children are getting the education they need, and they certainly expect their children to benefit from schooling, but they do not know what their child is doing in school, despite report cards and parent/teacher conferences.
But the parents' trust is not nurtured. As a result parents start to question what their child is learning, how their child is being taught, and even whether the school is doing its best for their child. Parents start to wonder why their child never gets homework, or why he gets so much homework. They ask about why their child is not taught how to spell correctly or why children are allowed to 'play' so much in kindergarten. Parents want to know why teachers have days when they do not teach but go to training sessions instead, and why Johnny is not being taught his times tables now he is in Grade 2. Parents start to question the information they are given in report cards because they do not know what the comments mean, and they wonder why their child has been placed in a mixed grade class.
There are probably very good educational reasons for all the things that parents question, but unless they have a way of knowing this they will continue to think that their trust has been betrayed.
And who can blame them?
If schools and education authorities want to foster the goodwill of parents, want to harness the ability of parents to support children's education, then they need to start communicating with parents in a way that nurtures the trust they put in the system.