Perspective Matters: Part I by Conlee Ricketts
This week I will put on my AccepTeen hat. I call myself a “Parenting Cheerleader” because I believe that each of our parenting styles is a deeply personal piece of who we are in the world. It is not my goal to tell anyone how to parent. No two families are the same; no two people will react the same to any event, and we each do the best we can with the information we have at the moment. It’s important to me that I lay that out before I listen to anyone asking for information, insights, or ideas about how they navigate their relationship with their own children.
Working with parents is something I have done for 25 years but I have the gift of three different perspectives:
A teacher without children/ 15 years
A teacher with a child/8 years
A stay at home mom/3 years
Each perspective is undeniably valuable to me but not necessary to be a good teacher or a good parent. They each are simply reminders for me about how different we each are and how different we can each see a situation.
I’ve been asked to guest lecturer next month at The Ohio State University to a group of soon to be teachers. My topic: Working With Parents. I would like to share with you two of my main points and then perhaps two more next week if you are up for it. It is all still very rough but I can see the end in mind.
1. You don’t have to be a parent to be a great teacher. Unfortunately this is a popular unspoken belief some days. I felt it at times during those first 15 years. You may not have children of your own, but that only means you have a different perspective, so share it—sometimes you’re right because you have a different insight into the children you see in your classroom, and sometimes you need to consider a shift. As an example from my own life I will share a moment about Halloween. Sitting in my team meeting on the day of Trick or Treat a fellow teammate (with kids) suggested that I consider going easy on the homework, or possibly give no homework at all. At the time I had no children and thought, “Oh c’mon. Really? What is wrong with 15 math problems, surely they can do that?” I laugh out loud now at my naïveté. NO! They can not do 15 math problems. In middle school Trick or Treat is very important if you celebrate it. To top it off the trick or treat hours are so early in order to start before sun down (or storms as in my case this past Halloween) that by the time kids get home from school wired with excitement to get dressed and then actually get dressed there really isn’t time for homework. After trick or treating isn’t that realistic either—think about it.
2. Every child in the class is a Very Special Person to someone else! It doesn’t matter how you might perceive how a parent/child relationship exists at home—how a parent feels about their child has the same depth of love I feel about mine, so be careful when discussing difficult topics. I once informed a father that his son asked one of my guest speakers if my guest smoked pot. I was embarrassed and shocked by this random question in the middle of our Q & A. I wasn’t a parent yet and assumed the father would be equally shocked, but he said to me “Well, maybe that was what he was curious about at the moment.” I learned to pre-screen questions on note cards in middle school. Another fun event that occurred recently was when the gifted and talented teacher at my daughter’s new school was trying to tell me and my ex-husband that “while your daughter may have been gifted at her old school, she’s not identified as gifted at our school yet, because we have different standards.” My ex and I burst out laughing when we got in the car because I understood what she was trying to say to us, but that is only because I used to be a teacher. If she had used those words with another set of parents she may have been setting herself up for a serious conflict. No one wants that.
Next week I plan to share my thoughts about how great it is to work with parents as the expert on their child because they are, and how important it is to call home and get insights. I will also share why those lockers are so darn important to 10-14 year olds! I hope you come back for more.