It’s hard to go very long these days without seeing a story – locally or nationally – about parents and schools being at odds over one or more issues. And often teachers are caught in the middle – especially if they’re both teachers and parents!
Like other parent-educators, I’ve been on both sides of these debates. I’ve been the strongly-concerned (and outspoken) parent who thought the schools were missing the forest for the trees on an issue that concerned one or more of my children. And I’ve been the educator who’s been of favor of things that often get parental resistance (appropriate usage of calculators in the elementary classroom, for example) and wondered why the parents couldn’t see the big picture as the education process struggles to keep up with changing times.
Obviously, this parents-versus-schools issue is another arena with no easy answers (which is always part of my point, of course) and obviously, it’s an arena that requires good honest communication with and among all parties. Perhaps a good starting point would be with a perspective check that’s probably just as obvious, but is one I haven’t seen mentioned a lot in all the letters, commentaries and media reports.
Perhaps it would help to continually remind ourselves that regardless of all else, parents, educators and administrators are in fact always on the same side. They/we all want, in the long run, what’s best for our children, our students, our learners, our future adults. They/we always want our children to become good thinkers, good problem solvers, good communicators, good citizens. Clearly, then, the disagreements come over the issue of how to secure that goal. And, in that light, the disagreements can get less intense.
Because, somehow, at least for me, it seems easier to get to that “honest discussion” stage with someone if we’re both remembering (and acknowledging) that we basically want the same thing. That doesn’t make the original concern go away, of course, but at least it changes the focus: we’re starting from a place of general agreement and moving from there to the (often difficult) question of how to reach that common goal on a more narrow issue.
Another thought struck me as I wrote about having been on both sides of these situations. As I tried to look at myself objectively, I couldn’t help but notice the issue of ownership creeping into the picture. I wonder: Would the issue at hand be quite so crucial if it weren’t my child that was being affected? Would it be easier to see the truth on both sides if it weren’t my idea/position/belief that was being questioned by a parent?
It’s certainly fine to be invested in one’s ideas or opinions, but it’s amazing how far a little detachment can go (in most situations!) toward providing some perspective, and getting both sides to a win/win quicker! (Would that politicians could remember this, eh?)
As long as there are parents and schools, there will be differences of opinion about educational issues. This is probably as it should be – it shows caring for our students on all sides and from a variety of perspectives. But when those disagreements arise, does it have to be parents versus schools? Why can’t it be parents and schools working as a team toward their common goal?