As a couple of my last posts have shown, I am spending a great deal of my time thinking about growth. How to plan for it, how to make it happen, how to best use my time and get the most out of what I put into it. I have identified a specific area of weakness in my practice that I want to improve: parent communication & involvement. I think that it is natural to pick out an area of growth and then start to plan how you would like to improve in that area. I wonder if a question we need to ask BEFORE we start to plan for that improvement is WHY? Why is this an area of growth for me? Why is this particular component of my practice not as strong? Why does this piece cause me grief?
For me, I think this is crucial to do before I start to plan on my improvement. If all I did was look for great articles on parent involvement and parent communication because this was my target area for improvement, I might be missing the real information I need to gain understanding and create the change I am looking for. By sitting and reflecting on the why rather than jumping into fixing the issue, I realized that my biggest problem with parent communication and parent involvement is my lack of confidence when it comes to one very key issue: Parenting.
I am not a parent, and while I hope that will change in the near future, I always feel uncomfortable when the conversations with parents venture into the raising and parenting of their children. I feel like the parents don’t take me seriously because I don’t have children, and that I couldn’t possibly understand where they are coming from. The truth is, they could very well feel this way, and I would understand why they would. Its tough to talk to people about walking the path when you haven’t even taken the first step yourself.
It was very important that I realized the root of my discomfort in this area, because a great deal of what I need to work on isn’t about parent involvement and communication but rather my confidence in knowing that I do understand my students. I have worked with so many young people, from all different backgrounds, with different family lives and different upbringings. I have assisted young people in crisis and shared in the joy of my students’ successes. When it comes to young people in school, I know them very well. I need to remember that, and focus on that experience in my conversations with parents. I can definitely improve the communication and the work to involve parents in my students’ educations, but the entire process will be a lot easier to work through now that I have worked through what it is that seems to be my biggest hurdle.
What ever it is you want to improve in your teaching practice, be it classroom management, assessment, or lesson planning, I think it is important to reflect on why this is an area of weakness before you start planning on how to fix it. Is your lesson planning a difficulty because you have issues with time management? Is your management an area of growth because you are too reactive? Before you can work on improving you need to know what you have to overcome.
Reflection will always be key to your improvement, but maybe reflection as part of the planning process needs to be the first step to figuring it out.