Talking to parents can be hard for educators. Over the years, I developed a plan to create open lines of communication with parents. When I talk with parents in a conference, one on one, or when checking in I usually start with a question. It is the same question every time or a version of the same question. “How are (child’s name) doing at home, school, and here in our program?” This open-ended question seems to invite parents into a conversation.
This made me wonder, why can it be so hard to talk to parents?
A Mind/Shift article by Katrina Schwartz says; “from a child’s perspective school, extracurricular activities, and home are part of the continuous experience of life”. The article goes on to say that, “from the perspective of teachers, coaches and parents those experiences may seem more differentiated and are thus treated separately”.
I started the practice of asking the question to help parents relax, be open, honest and comfortable. As it turned out, the question opened doors into the world of children, inside and outside the hours in our program.
The conversations that followed the question were forthcoming and helped parents and educators to collaborate and assist in the growth of the children. The question provided a platform for parents and educators to get to know each other and develop deeper connections.
Often parents are approached with specific problems that need to be solved. So, the question builds a bridge because is not about the immediate, rather it is about building trust and working together to create a better experience for everyone involved. The question sees education as holistic, collaborative, and community based. It sees development as an on going process not a destination.
The question asks how can we help, be of service, and assist in the challenging job of parenting. Many structures in the school environment and the world are about the needs of adults. The Mind/Shift article says; “too often, structures and practices are at odds with the developmental states of the children they are meant to serve. Schools and parents are often more oriented towards the needs of the adult than towards what works for kids”. Did rules, results, tests and structure steal our reason for being?
The question is about the needs of children, caring, and how educators can help children get to where they want to go. The question helps parents when children struggle as they master new life skills. It helps families grow and feel welcome in our school community. The question wants to nurture the greater good, so it can ripple though our community and help us all.