As parents, all of us want our children to have the best educational experience possible. We are our children's greatest supporter, and biggest fan.
Nurturing them into independence, snipping those apron strings and maneuvering them into the world having gained confidence and good self esteem is our most important job.
Years ago, when our daughters were entering kindergarten, a friend said to me, "I don't care if the other kids like my daughter, I just want to make sure the teacher likes her". I questioned her concern with this, and a discussion ensued about the importance of teachers liking children and how they treat them. As a preschool teacher, my belief was that it was important for the other children to like my child, and that she learn the social roles and values necessary to get along with others. It was without question to me that the teacher would like her, and treat her equally as well as the others in her class. I have since observed, through my own experience, and through discussion with other teachers, both in the elementary system and preschools, that a parent can be someone who causes you grief, rather than a partner in the child's education.
When a parent confronts a teacher about situations or events related to the classroom or the playground, their communication skills often take a vacation. Some parents can become like a mother bear protecting her cub from danger, and the teacher can feel intimidated by a parent's anger. If your child is experiencing frustration in their classroom, or any other teaching environment, certainly it is your job as a parent to advocate for them. But knowing when to step aside, and help the child to learn the skills they need to solve their own issues is important. If we come crashing into the situation, we may be attempting to fix something that isn't broken.
A telephone call to a teacher requesting clarification of an issue should be the first step. Children will often not tell parents the whole story, usually to protect themselves! Like any other issues that we face in our adult world, communication skills are important when dealing with your child's teacher or caregivers as well. Using active listening techniques, and non-threatening language will take you further towards solving a problem than WWF tactics will. And parents need to understand that except in very rare circumstances, teachers always like the kids! They chose their profession because they like children, and knowing that each one is unique and special in their own way. An upset parent can damage a child's relationship with their teacher if they make comments such as, "I won't let her get away with treating you like that", "He's not allowed to do that in class" or, "I'm going to talk to the principal!" You have effectively discounted the importance of the teacher to the child, showing that respect isn't important if we're angry.
Teachers will tell you they have heard it all, and they will also tell you that the most difficult part of their job is dealing with parents. It is important that your children understand that you are partners with their teacher, and that both of you are committed to their education. Respect is taught by our example, and children hear every word and comment, and see every gesture you make - particularly when you are angry.
The teachable moments are when we model respectful behavior in front of our children. If you do lose control, an apology is always a good option for bringing back the peace. If parents work towards forming a partnership with the teacher, communicating regularly and respectfully, only positive results can occur. If you do have an issue that isn't resolved through positive attempts, consider speaking with the director or principal. They can act as a mediator to improve the communication and ensure that the issue at hand is dealt with in a way that ensures positive results.
Laura is the Past President of the Calgary Preschool Teachers Association, and the owner of Childsplace Learning Centres Ltd. She can be reached at 241-6232.
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