Today our incoming 7th graders found out which teachers they will have. I hope they are happy. I hope they are excited. I hope they have heard wonderful things about our team. I know we can’t wait. Today was also the day that Thea, my now 1st grader, found out her teacher, a moment that was exciting yet filled with questions as well. Will her teacher “get” her? Will she love school? Will this be another incredible school year for her? What will my role be as a parent of a 1st grader?
For years I have tried to create a welcoming environment for all the people that are attached to our classroom. For years I have tried, along with my team, to create spaces where parents/guardians can feel like they have a voice, are welcome, and also can engage in tough dialogue with us when needed. It is something that we pride ourselves on because it has not just happened, we have had to work at it knowing that parent/guardian relationship is vital to a child’s success. So I was dumbfounded when I came across an article titled “Ten Types of Parents that Teachers Secretly Hate.” I read it (I won’t link it here because I don’t feel like giving it traffic) and I was so disappointed in it. Is this really what we as educators want to tell parents? That we secretly hate them when they are involved in their child’s education? That if they don’t follow our rules for engagement then we will complain about them behind their backs? Is this even what we want to be told as parents? That teachers secretly label us and hate some of us?
Yet, it wasn’t just the labeling of the various types of parents that upset me, it was the complete disregard for the cause behind this behavior. There was no discussion of why a parent might be over-involved, might be absent, might be going straight to the principal rather than us. There was no acknowledgement of what can lead to these types of parental behavior that we “secretly hate.” No discussion of what a poor school experience can do to future relationships.
I have worked alongside many types of parents and guardians. Some have been wonderful interactions, others have been tough. Some led me to tears while others led to great moments of joy. I am thankful for every single interaction I have had, even if it was a hard one, because each one has made me grow as a teacher. And sometimes the hardest ones have been the ones I have grown the most from.
So before we assume that parents are a certain way to annoy us, to discount us, to somehow make our workdays harder, how about we assume that all parents/guardians want what is best for their child? How about we assume that the reason they approach us in a certain way is because that is what they have had to do in the past? How about we assume that they may be absent because circumstance is keeping them from our schools, not choices? How about we afford them the benefit of the doubt and try to get o know them before we label them as being a certain way.
Much like we try to uncover the past of our students to find out how it affects them now, we should also be trying to uncover the pasts of the adults attached to them. I am sure I will meet many of the archetypes of parents listed in the article in the coming year, but what I won’t do is assume that I know why. What I won’t do is hate them. What good will ever come from that?
We all know relationships matter most when it comes to a successful school year, so why not actively build a relationship with adults as well? It starts now, not when something comes up, not when it is too late. What will you do to reach out to them before they reach out to you?
PS: I posted my welcome parent survey today, I cannot wait to read their answers.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) comes out September 22nd from Routledge.