“But how do parents react?”
Just this morning, I was asked again as my latest post about getting rid of homework was circulated. I get the question a lot, I think we all do. I think it marks a great educator when we ask, when we value what parents think. And yet…often our assumptions about what parents will think of a change we implement are just that; assumptions. Not based on actuality, not further pursued. Not questioned, but instead assumed as true, because, perhaps, it happened to someone we know. Or because there was that one time where it happened, so now it must be true for every time.
I think the fear of parent reaction holds us back as much as our own fear of change. We assume they will protest. We assume they will be upset. We assume they will rebel against the changes we make because parents always want school to be like it was for them. But it is not true, at least not always. How do I know? Because for the last seven years I have asked.
When I got rid of homework, most parents cheered. They told me that they wanted their child to pursue other things outside of school and now could. They told me how tired their child was after school, how much homework was a struggle between them, how it became one more point of contention in their relationship. How they did not mind the learning, but the tediousness, the worksheets, the assignments that made little sense did nothing for their child. Those who disagreed asked for resources and I gladly handed them to them, a list on a website sufficed.
When I got rid of rewards, parents told me that they were happy their child was not coming home with trinkets, That their child did not need any more stickers, or pizza, or other things that had nothing to do with their accomplishment. That they wanted them to feel proud of their learning, not to be handed anything.
When I got rid of behavior charts, parents told me of their relief, how their child had been anxious, how their child had not cared whether they moved their stick because they already knew they were a “bad” kid and the stick was just more proof of that. They are still telling me in the comments on posts about Class Dojo and behavior charts.
When I changed the focus from letter grades to personal development, parents were still happy as long as they knew how their child was doing. As long as it still made sense to them so they could understand their child’s journey, understand how to support. Understand where they were still developing and where they had succeeded.
So if I have learned anything in these years of trying to be a better teacher, in trying to create more student-centered classrooms, it is that we should not assume how a parent will react. That we should not assume they will hate what we do because it is different, or new, or even a seemingly crazy idea. They care that their child is happy. They care that their child is challenged. They care that their child is supported. That that their child is accepted. They care that their child likes school and does well. It seems we perpetuate our own myths and create the barriers ourselves.
So when I asked parents how I could be a better teacher for their child, they told me when they had ideas, and I tried to act on it as best as I could, because it turns out that when we ask parents; they have a lot of great things to say. They are not as set in their ways as we may think, they do not hate everything we propose. So jump in, stop assuming, and start asking. It will change the way you teach.
If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released. I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.