Saturday, October 02, 2010

Controlling the educator within

I am the proud mother of Mason. Mason started kindergarten this August. Although I am a big fan of change, I have dreaded this fall for years. Why? Because I have been in education for the past 16 years. In that time, I have been fortunate to experience several roles in schools and school districts including classroom teacher (K/1), technology teacher, technology facilitator, lead teacher for curriculum, and director of instructional technology. These roles provide different context or lenses with which I see schools, teachers, leaders, and districts.

As a teacher, I had one particular student whose mother worked in our district office. Susan Wells, now principal at Culbreth Middle in Chapel-Hill, NC, was a kind and knowledgeable parent who expected the best for her son and was not afraid to offer her advice. In thinking of Mason attending public schools, I aspired to be an educator-parent like Susan. The problem is how?

I read a blog post from Will Richardson about A Parent 2.0's Back to School Dilemna, in which he struggles with the same issue. He offers a few solutions:
1. Introduce you and your child to the teacher.
2. Co-school when you can.
3. Opt out when you can.
4. Occasionally send resources and copy the principal.

And although I agree (and will try) many of these strategies, I find myself wondering if my expectations are too high. Now don't get me wrong...I believe in high expectations. This was something modeled by my parents when I was in school. My parents were present at every event and in any way they could be involved. They believed that a B was OK but why didn't I get that A? A C was just unacceptable. And although Mason is only in the first quarter of kindergarten, we are raising him the same way. He told his Grammie the other night on Skype, "Green is good but white is unacceptable." (Behavior management program in his class is green, white, yellow, orange, and red) Where I am struggling though is with my expectations of the school but even more so with what the school's expectations are for Mason. That is a question that has not been addressed in any parent meeting so far. We have our first curriculum night this week and I have a few questions already forming:
  1. What should he know by now?
  2. What is he doing in class?
  3. What differentiation methods are being used?
  4. Where do you want him by the end of the year? (because I want to keep the end in mind)
  5. How is he interacting with other students and teachers?
  6. What does he show interest in and can that be tapped into for greater engagement?
  7. What are his strengths and weaknesses (both in academics and in social interaction)?
Even as I write this, I know there will be more. And I already know some of what I am asking but I want to see if they answer the same way. Unfortunately, these may not be questions to present in a large group. So how do I facilitate this conversation with the staff at Mason's school without being "that parent?" I am starting to believe that I need to come to grips with the fact that I am "that parent." Why? Because I believe in the best for my child. Because I work with schools everyday and see great examples of fabulous schools and teachers but I also see the opposite. Because my legacy as a parent will be what my child will be both inside and out. So as much as I am trying to control that educator within, I am learning that it might be OK to let it out when it is in the best interest of my child. After all, I am his best advocate.


Anonymous said...

I think the thing to keep in mind to help you from becoming "that parent" is not to ask questions that you already have an answer to OR that you already have an expected answer to.
Don't set the teacher up.
Eg. Where do you want him to be at the end of the year.
YOU already have access to curriculum expectations for Kindergarten students so you knowwhat they should know. What would be the purpose of asking the teacher that question? To check that SHE knows? To see ocher expectations are lower or higher than necessary in your mind?
Sounds like you already know that you might be"that parent" and now you're just looking to see if admitting it will make you less offensively confrontational. Possibly. If you go in admitting this is who I am and I can't help it, you might be able to downgrade from "that parent" to "one of the ones who care a LOT".

Emory said...

I enjoyed the post and I've had these same discussions with my wife concerning the education we'd like to see for our kids. It's tough because we want to support our child's school and teacher. And we'd like to prompt discussions about how our school will address our child's strengths, weaknesses, interests and growth throughout the year.
Your posts reminds me of the questions in Darcy Moore's "10 questions for your child’s teacher" post earlier this year . It's worth reading if you haven't seen it.

Sabena said...

Oh Marlo...thank you for this. I can tell you as E is in first grade that the question list only gets longer. :-) And please continue being "that parent" because just think--if we all become one--what even more amazing things our children will do and become.

All the best,

Marlo Gaddis said...

Thank you for your thoughts. You are correct that I have access to the curriculum; however, it is my experience that each teacher, school, and district seem to interpret the curriculum and student expectations differently. Mason has 6 friends who are all the same age and all in different schools in the same district. None of the parents have been told similar things about kindergarten, the curriculum, or expectations. So although I know what the standards are, I also understand that they are not always "standard." By talking to the teacher about expectations and curriculum, I hope to better support the teacher and my son.

Marlo Gaddis said...

Emory- what great questions to ask a teacher! Thanks for sharing the post.

Sabena- thanks for your encouragement!