Dear Teachers & Parents: Let’s Walk the Talk

For Teachers & Parents: Perhaps we could all be a little more humble.IMG_20141010_092243

International Kindness Week has just passed and parent-teacher interviews are upon us. Is it just a coincidence that they occur around the same time of year? Perhaps whoever picked the date was trying to send a message to the most influential people in our children’s lives…What a perfect opportunity to remind ourselves that we should be kind to our fellow human beings, especially our child’s teacher, or alternatively, or students’ parents.


Why so many conflicts?


There are plenty of reasons why parents and teachers get stressed out during interviews, but I believe we can boil it down to one thing: fear of failure. I truly think it’s that simple. It may be the parents who are worried they aren’t doing a good enough job at home, or the teacher who is worried she isn’t effectively getting through to the child despite her various attempts. Perhaps the parents fear the teacher is not a good fit for their child, or the teacher fears the parents are not doing enough to support their child. One thing is for certain: the moment someone starts playing the blame game, fear is involved, and unless the presence of fear is used wisely, it will be destructive.


Being aware of our fears is healthy and essential for our survival. Fear calls us to action. The challenge lies in getting all the adults involved to implement empathy, compassion and kindness in order to best serve the child.


What does being humble do for me?


The choice to be humble is the singular, most powerful discovery I have made in recent years as a teacher and a parent. It suddenly dawned on me that I did not need to have all of the answers. I realized that after years of trying to please everyone that I was actually setting myself up to fail. Today my approach is more simple. I humbly acknowledge that we all have different views on the best way of doing things. And thank goodness for that! How boring and rigid this world would be if we all had one singular perspective on how things should be done. Approaching teacher-parent meetings with a humble mind has been an exceptionally liberating experience for me and I wish everyone could discover it for themselves, if they haven’t already.


What does being humble and kind sound like during a parent-teacher interview?


It sounds like…


  • Parents and teachers agreeing to the fact that they both have a challenging yet beautifully rewarding responsibility: that of guiding children to be their best.


  • Teachers acknowledging the fact that nobody knows the child better than the parent. (The last thing you want to do as a teacher is is to try to sound like an expert on the child when you have had him in your class for all of 10 weeks!)


  • Parents and teachers reminding each other that kids will be kids and no matter how much we love them, they can and will bend the truth at times to get what they want (and avoid getting in trouble). Therefore, the adults agree to politely ask the right questions to better understand a troubling situation before taking the word of a child over that of an adult. Which leads us to…


  • Parents asking for insight into what the teacher has observed in class and accepting the information as truth because they understand that it does not serve a teacher to invent stories. (While the perspective can be discussed if doesn’t sound quite right, arguing over details of what an adult has seen is wasted energy. Spending time on trying to understand why the child is behaving in a particular way is far more productive.)


  • Teachers and parents alike being confident enough to admit they do not have all the answers and agreeing to work together to find solutions, all the while recognizing that what works well in the classroom environment may not be appropriate for a home environment, and vice versa.


  • Teachers and parents being willing to try to new techniques and strategies, recognizing that the goal is to better serve the child. (For example, it might be appropriate to let the child stand at his desk.)


  • Teachers listening to parental concerns with an open mind, resisting the urge to defend their practices and instead being willing to entertain the idea that perhaps their approach could be better adapted to the child, given the circumstances. (For instance, some students may not be obliged to write in cursive given their particular difficulties with fine motor skills.)


  • Teachers genuinely asking parents to tell them about what they find works best for their child. (Perhaps music helps their child to focus better while working in which case headphones and a personal device in the classroom could be a great idea.)


  • Parents and teachers alike agreeing to the fact that fair does not mean equal. (This translates to setting goals with children that focus on improving their skills without comparing themselves to others.)


  • Parents and teachers reminding themselves (and perhaps each other) that above all else, it is the adults who must set an example for the child, knowing full-well that a child knows when something is amiss and will use it to their full advantage if given the chance.


And finally, kindness coupled with the art of being humble sounds like… 

  • Parents and teachers thanking one another for their time and their willingness to listen to each other.

 So there you have it! Everything you have ever needed to know about how to engage in a meaningful parent-teacher meeting and leave feeling you have taken something positive from the experience that will serve the child…


Okay, I know I’ve made it sound easy, but here’s the thing…in a way it is. We cannot control what someone else will say or do, but we can absolutely control ourselves. By internalizing these beliefs, you set yourself up with the tools necessary to steer a conversation in the right direction. We must give what we wish to receive.

If you are feeling the least bit nervous or anxious about an upcoming meeting, then by all means go ahead and print this article to have it with you during the interview. If at any point you no longer know how to remain in a state of humbleness or kindness, take out this article and make it a point of discussion. You can even highlight the points that resonate most with you to help get you back on track. Or if you prefer, write yourself notes on how you will address your issues of concern.


Is the voice in your head saying, “No way would I pull out an article or notes during an interview! I would feel so silly.” Ahhhhh…there is that voice of fear, hanging around, wreaking havoc and holding you back from using a strategy that could make the difference between walking out of an interview feeling successful or leaving the meeting feeling discouraged, or worse, angry and frustrated. The practice of putting our pride aside and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable may not be one we are accustomed to, but I assure you, the benefits are immeasurable, especially when we realize the results of these types of interactions will have a direct impact on the child. Personally, when I sense a conversation going off track, I like to drop well-known quotes as a means of defusing a situation and realigning our attention to what matters most. I will leave you with one of my favorites. I believe it sums things up quite succinctly.


The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. – Socrates

8 thoughts on “Dear Teachers & Parents: Let’s Walk the Talk

  1. Each school year, teachers are provided with professional development in one or more academic subject areas, including (but not limited to) literacy, mathematics, science, history, geography, etc. but ARE NOT provided with professional development on important topics such as emotional intelligence or empathy- even though the application of these skills represent the majority of a teacher’s day! Thank-you for your very clear and practical suggestions of ways that teachers can use an empathetic lens to better understand student learning and behaviour, of ways to interact, work with and encourage students so that they achieve academically AND emotionally and of ways to build positive relationships with both students and parents. Well-done!


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