Granny Smith Apples

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Friday, 31 May 2013

I'm Not The Expert. You, The Parents, Know Your Child Best!

It's confession time on this blog.  I don't purposely mean to do this but every school year I just fall into it.  Each school year, I start off not knowing much about each student in my classroom.  But then I spend 8 hours a day with each student and each day I learn what they like, what they don't like, how they learn and how they react to a variety of situations.  I can anticipate reactions as the school year progresses.  By Christmas, there is very little that will surprise me regarding a student.  I mean by Christmas I have spent over 500 hours with each student and there is more to come.  So parents please forgive me my indiscretion. 
I confess I fall into thinking I know your child best.    
Please forgive me for disregarding the many years you have already invested in raising your child.

I was most embarassingly reminded of my pride and wrong thinking during a parent teacher interview.  I was meeting with the parents of one of my special education students from my high school science class.  She was a 14 years old girl with a learning disability who had mostly given up on herself.  She knew her limitations and had yet to find a way to overcome them.  She was starting to own her "I'm stupid and I can't learn anything" attitude and I was concerned.  I began the conversation with her mother by sharing some of her strengths.  I shared how she used her social skills to find help among her peers.  I shared how she was respectful and conscientious during lectures even when she didn't fully understand the material.  I shared how she still took risks to answer questions during class even though she was often incorrect.  Her mother sat quietly listening without making much comment.  Then I began to speak about my concerns regarding her learning.  After the first report cards had gone out, I knew she had been grounded until her grades improved.  I started with this mentioning how I had seen a definite improvement in her learning during those few weeks.  But then I expressed how despite this momentary success she seemed to have no long term recall of the material and could not move from memorization to application.  I asked if she observed this about her daughter in her daily home routines.  Her mother responded by saying,
I know this.  She's always been this way.  It's what her teachers have always said about her.  
I had to stop.  I wasn't sure how to respond to the simplicity of the statement.  I wasn't giving her new information nor was I offering new solutions.  As a mother, she knew her child.  It wasn't that she didn't want more for her child.  She just didn't what else to do and felt like she had tried everything.  She had accepted her daughter.  I'm not sure why in my then sixth year of teaching I had never considered how parents know their children intimately.  I could not believe I was so presumptuous to think I knew the child better than the parent.  I may be an educational expert but I am not the expert of your child.  

So once again I apologize to you, the parents, for not giving you your due credit.  You, the parents, have spent endless hours taking care of your child's basic and emotional needs.  You have a plethora of information regarding your child's learning.  You are doing the best for your child with what you know and are able to do.  You know your child the best and you are the best parent for your child.

Here are some final thoughts from my epiphany.

Teachers....our parents are a hidden wealth of information.  We need to be doing a better job unleashing this knowledge.  If we show we believe they know their child best, we can better teach their children.  
Parents...don't under estimate your abiliites to be a powerful partner in your child's education.  You are the only person who has seen your child as an infant to where they are now.  You do know how your child learns best and what their weaknesses are.  You have seen strategies work and fail.  Please share with us, your teachers.  

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