By Author Mary Johnson
” The 21st Century Parent Multicultural Parent Strategies Handbook”
1. Happy parents make happy teachers.
Keeping parents happy is an extra assignment for teachers that do come with consequences. Unhappy parents can be barriers to teachers because of lack of communication and dialogue around students’ academic progress. Parents of urban students have various resources and experiences with schools. Some teachers have positive and some have negative experiences as students them self or engaging with school staffs. The need to please parents should be reflected constantly in every teacher’s thinking. We as parents know that teachers are not and cannot be perfect. But they can work very hard and collaboratively to continually get better.
2. Teachers are not perfect.
Parents have to cross their fingers wishing their child wouldn’t get the veteran teacher that hasn’t updated his/her skills to engage students with 21st Century teaching/learning methods. As a parent I felt nervous the night before my school year began, hoping and praying that my child would get a teacher that was prepared to take them to a new level of learning. I just wanted a teacher newbie or veteran teacher that could create an environment where students would be happy and inspire them to learn. It was never important to me how long they were a teacher but how they could inspire and motivate learning. All teachers, newbie or veteran, must earn parents’ and community’s trust. We as parents don’t just give people the benefit of the doubt, “you must earn it.”
3. Old ways of learning vs. new ways of teaching.
Many Students in the 21st Century are taught differently from how their parents were taught. Many parents think like teachers, that is, “It worked for me and I learned and am uncomfortable with changes.” We as parents and teachers are always comparing how it was when we were students attending school. Parents wish teachers would stay to the status quo more and less with the changes. Sometimes it’s hard for teacher to understand we need to gradually changing environment, this allow us to adjust and see the bigger picture for our students.
4. It’s okay for kids to fail.
Parents don’t want kids to fail, because they believe it is a reflection on them as parents. Yet we know that if our child doesn’t try, he/she has already failed. Every parent prays before seeing his/her child’s report card that there are no Fs. Society may think as parents you must not have helped your child enough or supported them in their learning, that something went wrong at home and not in the classroom. We don’t want teachers to have pity for our children but rather to hold them to high expectations and push them to all they can be, and if they fail they will get up and do it again. It is like riding a bike. In the beginning you fall but you keep on trying and after a while you eventually ride without falling down. We as parents want teachers to know that we want our children to earn the grades they get, and that grades must not be a result of sympathy for the children.
5. Be a good listener.
It can be hard for teachers to hear that their child is having a social or academic problem, because they don’t know the challenges and barriers of the community they are teaching in. I urge teachers to get to know the people in their school community. Know that every child and adult, myself as well, has life challenges that will impact the student’s learning. It should never come down to thinking that ‘it’s teachers against parents’. Many times it becomes a battle and the only loser is the student. We must work together to benefit the child’s academic success.
6. Our child’s homework reinforces what is learned.
We wish that teachers understand that they’re no more “Leave It To Beaver” families in certain communities, where the mother stays home and fathers go to work. Homework is something that a child did in school and came home to reinforce learning. That is not how it is playing out at home in inner city schools. Most children come home with no understanding of the assignment and the parents have to take hours to reteach some things that the child should have already have knowledge of. It is not an excuse that parents who might be working two jobs just to make ends meet can’t or don’t have the time to reteach something that should have been learned within that school day. It is not good modeling or good acceptance of responsibility to hear teachers pass the blame to parents as to why their child didn’t do their homework
7. Stay engaged and involved after school hours.
Teachers want to schedule back-to-school night on teachers’ times and at times not convenient for parents. Most back-to-school nights in my community run from 3pm to 5pm. Other school events are scheduled around when the is teacher available, not the parents. The word night should be the key word to engage parents. Parents work to make a living and most individuals don’t get off work until 5pm or later. The meeting should be scheduled in the evening from 6pm to 7:30 pm if you really want to engage parents. I always wonder what if the meeting were held on Saturday, who would attend. I would put my money on parents and a limited number of teachers. If meetings are tailored to when the community is available and that is most likely well after school hours you will get a greater turnout. You must meet the parents and community half way. I urge teachers to meet or call parents before progress report or report card time.