Figure It Out

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by Davide Restivo

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.

4 thoughts on “Figure It Out

  1. What a great topic for reflection! I have been on both sides of this fence,well I guess all three sides of it…

    1. I have been in the meetings with parents when I did not have kids (as a teacher).
    2. I have had meetings with parents while being one.
    3. Now I meet the teachers of my own kids.

    Perhaps I am taking a little stretch on this, but Gladwell touches on this in a way in ‘Tipping Point’ when he gets into the whole topic of us analysing each others connections within the larger group dynamic while we are in the one-to-one conversations. Essentially it is the way that we figure out just where we stand with each other. I do not blame parents for thinking to themselves ‘what does this Dueck guy know anyway about teenagers, his kids are 4 and 7.’ They are attempting to figure out their own position at that moment.

    Ok, then precisely – that is the point. Whether one has kids or not, your vantage point is what it is and there are benefits to it. That is where the reflection comes in that you speak of. In a recent session we had as an admin group, ‘Difficult Conversations’, the leader of the session suggested we lead with empathy, as it is the great diarmament tool. Acknowledge the frustration the parent has, empathize, let them know they were heard. After that perhaps it is all about your profession al experiences with young people that is critical, not your own family dynamic. It is the fact that you have spent your career with young people that is critical and valuable at that point. Owning your position in the conversation, reflecting onit and growing – you’re onto it.

    • Myron,

      Thanks for your comment. I had the pleasure of work with an amazing mentor who helped me a great deal with these conversations. He always reminded me that parents love their kids, and because of that they will do anything to help them, but also will sometimes not see the whole picture clearly. I have not yet read “Tipping Point” and look forward to it, especially now. Thanks again for offering your input.

  2. Very good points! I taught high school for 20 years and while I was younger, I had more of that ‘you don’t understand ’cause you don’t have teenagers’ problem than I did during the later part of my career. But I wonder how much of the changes toward the last 5-10 years had to do with the fact I was the parents’ age or older and they just trusted me more?…. I know now in my tutoring business they take everything I tell them like it’s the Gospel… so I think my age does a lot to give them the perception of ‘wisdom’.

    Of course who really knows! But I definitely think our confidence level makes the existing situation better or worse depending on how we handle it. That was always the point I tried to drive home with my student teachers and it seems to have worked well for them!

  3. you are improving. you dont need to be a parent to understand. you need to take the time to listen. perspective gives you understanding and insight. you need to get some perspective and i believe that once you take time you get close enough you get it. you are getting it. dont rush things. its not an event , its a process. i have enjoyed creeping đŸ™‚ it has given me perspective. thank you.

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