Last week, I met with one of the families I work with (relocated refugees) and some of the teachers at their school to discuss one of their students. They would like to move forward with evaluating for an IEP. It was a great meeting - full of sharing (as much as possible across the language barrier) and building trust and understanding on both sides. One moment stuck out to me, though.
After spending a good amount of time talking about this student's (speech) challenges and mutual sharing about how it presents at home and at school, the teacher asked if the parent had any questions. She asked, "Is he nice in class? Does he listen?"
It was such a reminder to me that different cultures value different things. One could take her question as a sign that she didn't understand, or that she was looking for some good news about her kid. Being in the room, though, that was not the spirit of the question. Truly, what she cares most about is if her child is being a good person, a good student, and a good friend.
I heard a principal share something similar this week - after receiving state test scores & growth scores that were less than amazing, and sharing them with a group of parents, he said he didn't get many questions. At other schools, people would have been up in arms, wondering what changes would be implemented to get different results. At this meeting, the parents wanted to know, "Are my kids loved and accepted at school? Are they safe? Are they happy?"
These two conversations have brought cultural differences to light for me in a new way. While we all want our kids to be kind, growing, safe, learning, accepted, and challenged, there is a huge variety in the value we place on all of these constructs. And if we miss that in communicating with families, we are already starting out on different pages. Have you ever asked a question, only to have somebody rattle off an answer for five minutes that didn't exactly relate to what you wanted to know? School-family partnerships can sometimes be like that - we definitely need to pay attention to how the students are learning, but as we work with families and students, let's make sure we listen to what they value. In the end, by layering our values together, we will create an even stronger support system for the students!