Each year schools all over the nation provide an opportunity for parents and teachers to meet together at the completion of the first quarter. In order for these quarterly meetings to be well-attended, insightful, and productive for parents and teachers alike, preparation is essential. To that end, certain characteristics should be considered and practiced all year for the most effective use of these set apart times.
The Latin term in loco parentis refers to a school or teacher being responsible for the children in place of the parent. By no means does this suggest the teacher replaces the parent but rather the teacher fills the role as educator,disciplinarian, and nurturer during the school day. Students who understand this concept and witness the trust between teachers and parents as a team are much more easily steered in the right direction. Just as parents must present a united front, so should families in support of the school and in particular the teacher. Scripture makes it clear ... a house divided against itself will not stand. If conflicts should arise, parents and teachers should talk the issues through, mediate, get to the root of the problem, and move forward as successful teams do. This process is a powerful witness to our onlooking children.
Have you ever heard the saying, over-communication leads to success, and under communication just leads to a mess? Surprise announcements at conference time after weeks of silence can be frustrating for teachers. Likewise, it is painfully toxic for parents to receive a less than desirable report when they believed all was well. Knowing when to make contact can be a balancing act when determining timing because we often hope a problematic situation will work itself out with time. Be that as it may, preemptive measures may head off some ineffectual practices; therefore, I would err on the side of early intervention so that at the first sign of concerns parents and teachers are communicating.
A good friend of mine often advised me to remember that students are not always the most reliable historians. Case in point, just ask a group of students to report on any incident during the school day, and you will get a variety of accounts. Parents and teachers should remember that perceptions do not always match reality. Additionally, wise teachers will lend an ear of caution when students report comical or questionable reports from home. I still laugh when I think of the time I apologized to my students because I believed my speech had been harsh and sarcastic. One young man piped up, “No problem, Mrs. Dearing. That’s nothing. You should hear my mom!” Always seek first hand information from the parties actually involved before acting on ambiguous second hand information.
Both parents and teachers want to see students not only reaching for academic success but growing in their faith and discipline. We have to always keep before us the fact that we do not raise virtuous children instantly. In fact, many classroom bad habits can be directly attributed to immaturity or complacency which takes time to correct. On the other hand, when students are struggling in the classroom, parents are eager for immediate solutions. Therefore, the aforementioned team can work together for the best plan moving forward. This plan is best implemented when documented with clear expectations that both parties agree are manageable and possible. Experienced educators can provide a wealth of information and tried and true applications for improvement.
Without reservation, prayer and scripture endure as the greatest resources we have for our schools and our children. Even though we may fail in discernment, judgment, and planning, we have confidence that God is lovingly pursuing His children and knows them intimately. After all, we are His masterpieces. When families and teachers are praying for each other, not just at conference time, but the entire year, an eternal bond is created which keeps our expectations realistic, fosters peace and love, and assists us in seeing the classroom through our Creator’s eyes.