Friday, September 19, 2014

Year 5: Week 3 - Parent To Parent

Carolyn has always been a quiet girl.

In the first year I taught her when she was in sixth grade, she barely spoke a word to me that entire school year. Carolyn was always compliant, and never complained. She was the best flute player and one of the best musicians in the band, but she never let that go to her head.

When I taught Carolyn again last year as a eighth grader, she had loosened up a little. I would catch her giggling with other girls and goofing around a little but in class she was still all business. At times through the year, I would make jabs at her together to react and she would give me a sarcastic expression or roll her eyes at me. Towards the end of the year, she got even more confident with herself in class and would playfully make a joke at my expense, which we all enjoyed. I always knew that Carolyn took her work seriously and it was nice to see her have a little bit more fun in class.

In the process of high school registration, Carolyn was having difficulties getting all the classes she wanted into her schedule. As the music department chair, I had the ability to help her out with her situation. I reached out to Carolyn's father to explain what was going on from our side and to see if there were any insights he could provide.

Carolyn's dad explained that she has never been a kid who demanded much, so when she really wanted to take certain classes, he wanted to do everything he could to help Carolyn. I told him that I agreed with his observations from what I had observed in the classroom.

I almost stopped there, but then I went a step further.

I told Carolyn's dad that my son, was just getting to the age that he actually asks for things that he likes. I explained how earlier that week he put a specific book in my hand to read to him and when I out down the book after finishing it, he would pick it up and try to put it in my hands again. This was the first time that he actually asked for something from me and that excitement alone made me feel excited to comply to his request.  This led to me reading this book to him five times in a row.

I immediately felt silly using this story to relate to Carolyn's dad. I started saying how it's different with a baby, but he interrupted me and told me that it was exactly the same feeling. When your child asks for something that will enrich their lives whether it is a teenager asking for a class or a baby asking for a book, you want to make it happen.

We talked some more about Carolyn and the issues with her schedule! I promised to see what I could do to help Carolyn out and he ended the conversation graciously.

One of the most important things to do when you talk to parents is to validate and understand their feelings. In the past this has been difficult because sometimes as much as I try, I don't really understand what they were going through without having a kid myself.

Just because I'm a dad, doesn't mean that I instantly understand everything my parents are talking about, but it helps. I understand my students' parents a lot more now than before Ollie was in my life.
I don't think I'm going to constantly pull out stories about my own son in every conversation with a parent, but I will at times.

It's a new feeling talking being able to talk "parent to parent" and not just talk "teacher to parent."  It reminds me how much I have to learn from my students' parents and that my students are more than just my kids, they are someone's children.

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