Whose kid is it anyway?
There are several new books on the market purporting to teach educators how to partner with parents. When I look through these books I see a common theme. It is simple We super smart educators know what needs to happen for our school children and you, uninformed parents, need to get on board. Since you evidently are not doing so voluntarily, these books will give educators the skills to trick you into being true believers.
Don’t get me wrong. I think that well-trained educators have much information that will benefit parents in their responsibility to make sure their children get an appropriate education. But you will notice that I believe it is ultimately the parents who make the appropriate decisions regarding their children’s education. Unfortunately, it seems that too often educators think working with parents is the art of keeping them from sticking their noses into things that ARE properly their business.
I am well aware that some parents have not a clue what the best decisions are for their kids. I also realize that a very small minority of parents don’t really care all that much. Certainly in these instances educators can inform parents and in the worst cases even leap into the breech. But on the whole, parents are the people who should be making the final decisions based on information from educational experts and other professionals.
Why is that. First of all, children will belong to their parents until the parents breathe their last. So if the grown children do not succeed in life, it is often the parents who will pick up the pieces or be the people of last support. Secondly, parents probably know their children better than anyone. If they have multiple children, parents can tell you which one is self-motivated and which one not so much. They can tell educators what things each child thinks is a reward. Who would like something special to eat and who would like time to read. Too often, teachers presume that what is rewarding for one child is also rewarding for another. They can also inform teachers about stressors in the child's life. Thirdly, teachers will only be responsible for this child for a year or so. Parents are responsible forever. I think of educators as part-time employers while parents are full time almost forever.
Educators will sometime use the grammar of power in speaking to parents. They will predict a dire future for the child if the parent does not follow the educator’s lead. And then there is the fact that educators keep changing their minds. One year it is test scores; the next year it is phonics. Whatever the current metric is, parents are led to believe there will significant consequences if the child is not successful in the current calculus. It is like repeatedly crying fire in a crowded room.
So what should parents and educators do? Parents need to lean in. Get themselves educated about just what their child’s capabilities are, not what they had dreamed they would be. Next, find out what possible options there are for future careers, knowing full well that many of the jobs today's kids will have as adults don’t even exist right now. Do as much investigating and research as you would do if you were buying a new flat screen or automobile.
Educators need to prepare similarly. But educators need to prepare as advisors to the decision makers. Educators should not see themselves in the role of decision maker. They are not putting down their hard-earned money for that flat screen; that investment belongs to the parents.
On a good day, educators know a lot of some very important stuff when it comes to a child’s education. Parents know a lot of other stuff about that child as well. Smart educators try to learn as much as they can from parents, because the more the educator knows the better job he or she can do. Parental information can make rock stars of teachers.
Oh, and one more thing educators, stop being so patronizing, it is not becoming.