This week, I was "that parent".Okay, not truly a parent, but I was there with the family of one of the kiddos I help with (his family doesn't speak much English, so I often help in a parental role with the school stuff).
I was the one in the principal's office, called in because of his behavior. We needed to have a conference RIGHT AWAY, because he was on the verge of losing the chance to go on the end-of-year, overnight field trip due to his defiance in class. On one side of me was his teacher, his assistant principal, and the school counselor. On the other side sat his cousin, his aunt, and him.
I've been in these meetings before, but mostly in my role as a teacher. Or a principal. It is different being on the opposite side.
I have to say that the school did a great job of facilitating the discussion. They were supportive, but clear about what is and is not acceptable. They did a nice job of bringing data & specific instances to the table to guide our conversation. They helped form a plan going forward that included positive supports and ways to ask for help before things escalated.
I still walked away with a heavy heart.
It is sad to see a kid struggling. It is hard to see how his behavior is affecting others, and ultimately, himself. It's heartbreaking to see him open up about where the pain is coming from, a big reason why he is acting out, and be able to do so little about it. I felt helpless. And I felt bad that "my" kid was one of the ones that probably kept the teacher up at night.
This made me reflect on previous meetings I have had with parents, when I was the teacher at the table. Did parents leave feeling judged? Like it was their fault? Upset with their student? Upset with the school? Feeling like partners in education? Feeling like they were told what to do? Feeling supported? Feeling grateful for the help?
All of these things flashed through my mind, at least momentarily.
While these meetings are never fun, what helped me stay positive in this moment was a prior relationship with the school staff. I knew them, and I trusted them. I trusted that they wanted what was best for this student, and the whole class. I trusted that they wanted to help in any way that they could.
It is so important for us, as educators, to be building positive relationships with families. If the only time they ever get a phone call or see the inside of the school is for something negative, it is hard to feel like true partners in education. I know it's not easy. I know that not everyone responds right away. But we can't stop reaching out. We can't stop being creative in how we connect with families. Often, those who are the hardest to connect with need it the most.