Teach & Serve III, No. 12
Parents Are Partners
October 25, 2017
…more parents than not are like my mother. They are advocates, appropriately. They are supportive – of their kids and of their kids’ schools. They are loving.
Today is my mother’s birthday and, no, I will not mention her age.
Looking back on a quarter century of work in education and with the experience of being a parent myself for over 20 years, I can say with certainty that I am very lucky to have Mom by my mom. When I was growing up, Mom was incredibly supportive of me. She was helpful. She was kind. She gave me all that she had (likely more than she should have) and was my strongest and best advocate.
She encouraged my interests. She came to my events. She cheered me on.
She loved me.
Yet she also allowed me to make choices. She allowed me to fail. She allowed me to learn on our own.
When I had challenges at school – and I had some of these all the way into my college career – she listened, she empathized, she told me, in the first instance, to handle things on my own. If I could not, she would, appropriately, step in and advocate for me. If she felt my “side” was worthy, she would advocate for me, tirelessly.
You would have to ask my sisters if they remember our childhoods and Mom’s support of us in the same manner. I bet they do. We had good childhoods with great parents.
I am aware that not every student with whom I have worked can say the same. That is a reality I learned early in my career and it still causes me great sadness. Not every parent parents like my mom did and not every kid feels as loved as I did.
Still, more parents than not are like my mother. They are advocates, appropriately. They are supportive – of their kids and of their kids’ schools. They are loving.
And, critically, they are our partners.
It is far too easy for us as educators to stereotype parents, to resist their questions, to ignore their emails and calls.
In most cases, the parents of our students only want their children to be successful and they trust us to lead their children to that success. When we work together, supporting the student from both school and home, we have a greater chance to make a positive difference in the lives of those students. When we work with parents, our students will, likely, have a better experience.
If you are an educator of any length of service, you can think of times you have crossed proverbial swords with parents. You may even be able to remember times you took stands with parents that you later questioned. What good comes of this? Who wins?
The real question, when we fight with parents, is who loses?
In almost every case, it is the student who loses.
We are educators and our primary focus must be on the students we serve but, if we forget to first view their parents as our partners until the parents prove otherwise, then we have done our students a great disservice.
Parents are our partners and what better partners could we have than someone who loves our students more than we do?