Appreciative relationships in schools.

I’m writing this post with a few reservations.

My intent is not stir up the vast majority of parents (I am one too) for I feel they (or should I say we) generally have good relationships with our child’s teachers and the school and have our child’s interests at heart.

BUT some things have happened lately that me feel somewhere in-between  as Dylan Thomas wrote “Do not go gentle into the night – Rage Rage against the dying of the light” and  Peter Finch speech in Network “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more” (all be it a little dramatic).

I’ve just read Dave Sherman’s blog account of an angry “mom’s” telephone message. Dave, a principal in Chicago, lamented I suppose the lack of a partnership in the call about her child’s grade slipping from a A- to a B+. While some points and comments make some sense it’s his next post “What teachers really want to say to parents” written by a teacher of the year in the US, Ron Clarke, that struck a chord. In the article he talked about lawyers attending parent teacher meetings in a bid to defend or provide excuses for their children (parents as prosecutors rather than partners) and  teachers walking around on eggshells for fear of losing their jobs over complaints. Ron finished the article making a plea “Lift us up and make us feel appreciated, and we will work even harder to give your child the best education possible.”

Recently some younger teachers told me how they hadn’t slept the night (well) before parent teacher meetings. Now I know about high parent expectations creating some anxiety but this wasn’t healthy (by the way the meetings for the most part turned out well). One teacher did feel harassed and anxiety crossed over into distress (thankfully a concerned parent alerted me). I was just coming out of one of those “tricky” meetings where I needed to support both teacher and parent in seeing the way forward. The worst part for me was when I was informed that this incident occurred in front of the child. What was the parent thinking!

Well I had to make a call (like Dave Sherman got one) this time however it was not in anger but in disappointment that the parent hadn’t seen the opportunity  to lift up the teacher. My hope is that the child doesn’t see the parent behavior as a green light to act in a similar manner – a relationship breaker. The parent will now have a school leader present for all future meetings.

We as a community have a responsibility to support and lift up our teachers, particularly our young ones (lots are leaving after 5 years) if we want to offer the best education to our young people now and for future generations. We need to attract, keep and sustain our teachers and hopefully they can all sleep well before future meetings.

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