I thought I was doing the right thing. Yet, my efforts led to a full frontal assault by mom. I ducked. She weaved. I ran.
Of course I am talking about a mother starling that had taken exception to my teaching her flightless child. I’m not sure how the adolescent bird made it to the middle of the large lawn, but I was trying to lead it towards the woods. My approach was to slowly walk behind it as it hopped its way across the lawn. I was sure that if I left it be, then the two roving puppies at the party we were all attending would eventually find him and use him as a chew toy. Wrapped up in my thoughts I hadn’t noticed mother starling jumping and screeching on the stone wall at the edge of the trees.
Then she had enough. She came after me with all of the fury a mother protecting her baby can muster. Despite my best efforts with her child, I had made the mistake of not paying attention and I was in for it. I ran.
And isn’t my mistake with the starling family the same mistake we often make with our students and their families at school? We often think we know what is best for our students, and ignore the expertise families have about their own children.
Drop your child off at school and then we’ll do the rest. The higher up in grade you go, the more prominent this attitude tends to be. We fail to invite our families into the learning process, and we fail to listen when concerns and questions are raised about the strategies we take with students. Finally when parents have had enough of schools taking the wrong approach with their children, we are surprised that we are attacked. To protect our egos we ask, “What do they know about education?”
The fact is that most parents are experts on the topic of their own children. Knowing our students well means that we seek out parent input when making decisions about school programs and pedagogical approaches for particular students. Likewise we teachers need to offer our suggestions on how parents might support their child’s learning at home, based on our observations of the student at school and our understanding of the student’s specific developmental needs. Communication between school and home needs to be regular and respectful, and not just reactive when mother starling is jumping in the hallway outside our classrooms and offices.
The attack on me this afternoon came at an opportune time to make this connection to families and schooling. Recently I have been reading Caution Ahead – Parent Guide to Navigating the Pitfalls of Parent Involvement, a four-part post by Delvin Vick (@Delvin_Vick) on his blog New Principal’s Post. Involving families in student learning is a topic I have worked on for many years, but Mr. Vick’s treatment of the subject has been interesting and I have appreciated the discussion with him via Twitter. I recommend the read.