Like any other parent, I was nervous going in and talking to teachers about homework, parent/teacher conferences and parent/teacher alliances.
However, with my oldest child I knew had to dig deep, grab hold of my confidence and the fact that I had thought about my views on all these subjects, had talked to experts in the field and felt sure that if I followed my inner compass, I could support all my children through their academic experience.
I made an appointment with the teacher early on in the year. I took the time to show appreciation for the teacher at the first meeting. I told her how much confidence I had in her as a teacher and was looking forward to the year ahead. I asked if she had any questions for me and of course, she did not. I think she thought that was an unusual request.
I shared with her my views on the following subjects:
- I let her know that it was my intention to raise a thinking child and in my short experience with children, I knew that a thinking child is often a messy child. I told her that since she was in the teaching professional I was guessing that she was trying to raise a thinking student. This was my first step in creating an alliance.
- I told her that I would be a very hands off parent. For several reasons. The first was that if I was overly involved in “helping” my child at home, in other words, doing more teaching, that she, the real teacher wouldn’t get a proper understanding of my child. I indicated that she would have a much clearer sense of how my child was doing academically if I stayed out of the way. And because I had confidence in her ability as an educator, I wasn’t worried that my child might have difficulty in reading, or math. If my child had difficulty in a particular subject, I was sure the teacher would want to know that so that she could find the proper teaching method for my child. My second reason for staying out of the way was because I would be focusing on the other areas of my child’s education – social skills, relationship development, conflict resolution, becoming independent and responsible. These were my primary jobs I explained and I would be focused on them while my child was with me.
- I indicated, that if my child asked for my help with an assignment or a project or with reading, I would be available to them. But I was also clear that I would in no way be involved with daily homework and that if my child waited until the 11th hour to inform me he needed glue sticks for the project due tomorrow, I would not be driving out to find a Ben Franklin that was open.
- I indicated that I would not be signing homework logs or reading logs and that I would be giving my child permission to sign my name. And then I told the teacher why. And I was clear about this. I went back to my original statement – I am raising a thinking child and I have no intention of interfering with their thinking by lecturing, nagging, reminding, scolding, bribing or saving them from their first chance at investing in their own educational success. Homework I stated was between the teacher and my child and if there were consequences for not turning in homework I expected the teacher to dole them out to my child. I would support the teacher unless humiliation was involved in the consequence.
- I shared my thoughts on the double education that is happening for kids – there are math facts and there are organization skills, there are spelling tests to study for and time management skills being developed. The more I stayed out of the way, the quicker and easier a time my child would have at learning both sets of skills.
And then I wrapped it up. I thanked the teacher again, looked forward to an inspiring year and ended by saying – I encourage my children to get sent to the principals office or to time out or where ever it is you send children when they make mistakes – at least once a year. I told her that I encouraged my children to do this for 2 reasons: The first is so they would know the principal, and would not be afraid of making mistakes and second, so they would develop empathy and compassion for the children who found themselves in trouble more often then not.
And then I left. By the time my oldest was in the 3rd grade, word spread about my role in my child’s academic experience. I had very little difficulty getting along with all my children’s teachers, coaches or anyone else who dealt with my kids. I set my posture. I was respectful, I was committed and I was serious. Everyone knew it. And, as a result, my kids had a fairly stress free educational experience. – Vicki