Sunday, November 20, 2011

Honor thy (students') mother and father

Parents are not the enemy. Parents are not the enemy. Parents are not the enemy.
This is the mantra on which I've been meditating lately. Nestling nicely into my fifth year of teaching, I've learned enough of the ropes to start fine tuning my practice. Now that I've got my ducks in a row, the confidence has come to open up my classroom and really start collaborating with the educational community. (Bring it on, administrator observation and evaluation!)

I've always said that my job would be great were it only the kids and I never had to come into contact with their parents. Yeah, it seems like a pretty cynical statement to make. But, to be fair, the population of kids I work with bring a whole different caliber of parents. When it comes to behavior and emotional disorders, popular psychology suggests that a large portion stem at least partially from nurturing and environment, and after interacting closely with dozens of students and their parents, the old adage, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree" has pretty much become part of my educational philosophy.

But a relatively small percentage of negative experiences with guardians over the last 5 years has caused me to unfairly assume the worst about the whole bunch. The mere sight of the light blinking on my phone, or an e-mail message in my inbox makes my claws come out. And Lord forbid mom and dad feel their child is not getting the support he needs and want me to do something about it. Though I aim to please and always respond and act democratically, there is always this voice in the back of my mind screaming, "Listen, I had four-plus years of higher learning in education! You do your job and I'll do mine!"

The fact of the matter is, I'm a governmental employee and a public servant and my obligations go far beyond my snug, crazy little classroom. Furthermore, as much as I'd love to adopt some of these kids and give them the proper nurture to reverse the damages done, they belong to their parents. I'm not a parent myself, so I acknowledge I can't entirely resonate with the desire to protect and promote a child's happiness at any length. Maturity and experience is teaching me that 99.5% of the time, Mr. and Mrs. Smith aren't on a personal vendetta, aiming to destroy me; more likely, they are so completeld consumed in personal matters (such as caring for their exceptional child) they barely devote two minutes of their day to evaluating my work.

Carving out a space in my classroom and heart for parents is definitely a work in progress on an exceptionally difficult road. In four weeks, my co-workers will be showered with $50 Starbucks giftcards and cute coffee mugs for Christmas. I will be lucky if I hear the words, "Thank you for all you do" by the end of the school year. If my aim is to please in order to receive love and adoration in return, then I'm going to be sorely disappointed with the outcome.

If my aim is to serve and do what is right and just, then I know a reward awaits me. It just probably won't be in the form of 10 free venti lattes.

Your assignment:

Who are your unavoidable "enemies" in the workplace? The boss? The cubicle buddy? Do your darndest to view them through a new pair of glasses. In the name of your job, in the name of saving yourself a tension headache, in the name of (gasp) love. What's the worst that can happen when you cut them a little slack? No, really, I'd like to know what's the worst that happens. Report back here!


  1. haha good post, lesson learned! The worst thing that would happen they could yell at you and call you mean names...

  2. Haha, yes, let's hope that's the worst they could do.