Read the first page.
Parent-Teacher Communication – Three Tips
3) Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
In Hebrews 13:3 we learn, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
I laughed when I found this verse as an example of empathy in the Bible. Schools aren’t exactly prison—though I’m sure some students disagree! But if we are to work through difficult situations, it is really important that we try to understand where the other party is coming from. Parents are not in the classroom, so usually the only information they receive is filtered through their child’s perception. Teachers get to know students, but not at the same level as parents. So we don’t always understand the fullness of a student’s personality.
I try to avoid making blanket statements, but for the most part, teachers really care about students. Nearly all teachers would readily put their lives on the line to save each and every one of the children in their classroom. Few adults, other than family members, can make the same claim. We would die for your child to protect his or her life. In light of this, it is hurtful to be accused of not liking a student or of discriminating against them. We care about our students and want what is best for them.
At the same time, teachers have an enormous amount of work. Between paperwork for the school, grading homework, preparing lessons, attending school functions, teaching, interacting with students, doling out appropriate discipline, and dealing with the unexpected, we are exceedingly busy. Some of us in secondary education see around 200 students a day! However, parents are busy too. And I’m not particularly excited when my child brings home a project no matter what the subject is. In fact, I have a particular distaste for science projects, and I hold a teaching degree in science! Homework can be stressful. Our children are busy, and when instructions from a teacher are not clear, I get very frustrated. But before I approach any teacher, I try to get as complete a story as possible from my child. Though, I like to believe I have very honest children, more often than not certain pieces of information are often conveniently left out. I also understand that certain times of the year are more stressful for teachers than other times. A few days before grades are due, lots of phone calls come flooding in, students suddenly realize they have missing assignments, and stress rises! Because of this, knowing the end of marking periods and semesters is exceedingly helpful to me as a parent. I check my child’s grades weekly and have a working knowledge of missing or poorly done assignments. Making up an assignment a few days after it was due, is completely different than leaving it to the last minute and expecting a teacher to stay after school to help cram it all in. I empathize with both the role of a parent and a teacher in education and understand that neither is easy nor always fully informed.
Perhaps what I have learned the most as a teacher and parent is that children are not always the best conduits for information. I remember hearing one elementary teacher say, “I promise not to believe everything your child says about you, if you promise not to believe everything she says about me!” How true that is! Children are not miniature adults. They are children and they have a lot of learning to do—even at the age of 17. Issues will undoubtedly crop up over a child’s school career, but I am a firm believer that if parents and teachers follow these three principles, we will be setting good examples for our children. I wish all of our problems ended when we graduated from high school, but problems will continue to poke at us for the rest of our lives. Modeling positive conflict resolution not only is beneficial to us as parents and teachers, but also to our children. After all, they are always watching and learning.
Sarah and her husband have six children under the age of 12, 2 dogs, and way too much laundry! When they aren't busy with school, sports, and church, Sarah enjoys exploring northern Michigan and camping with her family.