Things I Know 69 of 365: Parents count

Parents are the bones on which children cut their teeth.

– Peter Ustinov

SLA’s Home and School Association hosted their second annual auction tonight. I missed last year’s because of an improv show.

Though dead tired from the week, I made it this year.

I’m glad I did.

Even if every faculty member at SLA had shown up tonight, we would have been in the minority. We were swimming in a sea of parents. It was a great thing.

As much as they carry the genetic and social makeup of their parents with them when they enter the classroom, it’s almost too easy to forget the students I teach are tied to the history of where and whom the come from.

Even with our above-average parent involvement this is true. I’m left to imagine the mindfulness of teachers toward the parents and guardians who raised the students they get to teach in schools around the district.

I think of this, and I worry.

A few weeks ago, I went to a rally focused on calling on Philly’s district office to stop intimidating teachers, make transparent its process for changing school structures and welcoming all stakeholders to the table when thinking about improving education.

Participation was a no-brainer.

Still, when a parent was welcomed to the microphone, I wondered how many parents were in attendance. When the rally concluded and all parents were called on to cheer in support, the noise was less than deafening.

We could be doing more.

Last year, when working with a group of second-year teachers, I suggested the idea of committing to making one positive phone call home before each of them left their schools at the end of the day.

Though one of the teachers thought the idea might have merit, everyone else in the room thought it was too much work.

I was sad.

“I’m not going to look for things just to call home and say a kid did something good,” one teacher said.

I was dumbfounded.

The core of my belief in the classroom is that I should be looking for the good in every student each period of the day. Because of life, this isn’t always possible. Still, it remains a goal. If you look for it, you’ll begin to note the contribution each student makes to every class. If you commit to calling home each night for one student, you’ll look for it.

Looking for the good is what led to me calling Eric’s mom when Eric was in eighth grade.

“He said something in class today that made many of the other students think and ask questions,” I said, “It really shows what kind of thoughtful student he is.”

Eric’s mom began to cry.

After nine years of public education, she was receiving her first positive phone call from a teacher. It made me proud. It made me sad.

I’m certified 6-12; I should never be the first phone positive phone call home for a kid. I shouldn’t be the second or third either.

Though it’s incredibly easy to see my students as separate from their parents, the best educations come from the connecting of parents and teachers in the efforts to help students be more.

The parents see all of who the kids were; the teachers work to see who the kids could be. Together, we form a more solid understanding of who the kids are.

Tonight was excellent. We met as people. This will prove ever-important as we help our students decide on the people they will become.
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