School is Never Fine.

The three-legged stool is often used as a metaphor for the parent/student/teacher relationship. All three legs are necessary for a balanced educational experience. Here is the truth: the legs are almost always out of sync.   How can three emotion-filled entities stay frozen in a perfect symbiotic balance?

Because the education system in America is never equally distributed from one state to another, or really, one side of town to another, shouldn’t we expect the legs to need a hand? Hang on, I am not getting my body parts confused.

You know, that feeling when you are at a restaurant and the table rocks because one leg is too short? At just the right moment when you try to put your chili cheese dog in your mouth, the table shakes and the chili is up your nose? That is what students, parents and teachers feel most of the time. We can never strike that perfect balance without food on our faces.

My own interactions with parents range from ludicrous to typical. A mother came to my room after school one day to find out why her son’s grade was a D. After showing her all of the zeros in the grade book for missing assignments, she stood up and yelled that it was because her son was spending too much time having intercourse with his girlfriend. Actually, she used different verbiage, but I understood.

Another mother came on parent conference day and discovered her son was not doing the reading necessary for the class. She walked out of my classroom, went to the store where her son worked, grabbed him by the ear and pulled him out to the car while yelling, “He will be back once he understands that his education means more than **** shoes!” I like that lady.

These are extreme examples that could be avoided. Consider these:

  1. Go to the school’s back-to-school night. Shake hands with the teachers and let them know you are invested in your child’s education.
  2. Email or write them the next day and thank them for their dedication to your student’s success. If you heard something they said that you really liked, tell them. Give them telephone numbers where you can be reached. Let them know it is the best time to call you.   Also, let them know if there is another parent who could be notified.
  3. Ask the teachers if they have a webpage with a calendar of assignments. Most school districts provide teachers with a platform to do this.
  4. When you ask your children what they did in school today, make them answer. Be specific, “Tell me one thing you learned today.” If they tell you it was “fine,” ask in a different way. School is never, ever “fine.” There is always a story or some drama to share.
  5. Be proactive. Teachers like to hear if the student is learning. Let the teachers know if what they are doing resonates with your child. Is your child learning with the hands on projects? Is your child enjoying the group work? Let the teachers know you support them. The teacher should be doing the same with you.
  6. Don’t be fooled by anyone. There is almost always a bit of truth in the story your child is telling you about school. However, the teacher is almost always documenting what is happening in the room. The administrators require teachers to provide evidence of learning. Teachers are accustomed to providing data. Ask for it.
  7. Finally, don’t stop. Even if your child is a senior in high school, stay in touch with the teachers. If your school provides a way for you to see your child’s grades online, look at it every week. If the grades drop, find out why. Be an advocate for your child but be willing to hear some possible tough answers.

I promise: Teachers want you to be involved. We need you. We will listen to you. Talk to us. Work with us. Let’s toss that old three-legged stool out. Pull up a chair and let’s work together.