Keeping parent-school communication open is essential for children’s success
“The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.”
“I love this night!” I heard this many times last Thursday night and last night at Keystone’s annual Back to School Nights. Parents traveled through their children’s schedules, learned about their classes, and saw their classrooms. Hopefully, they also found out that their children’s days are more than “fine” and in fact, our students actually do something, rather than “nothing,” during their time at school. I saw some parents attempt the same experiments that their children do in class, and I heard children the next day asking how their parents did. All in all, it was a wonderful couple of nights.
These nights serve another purpose beyond exposing parents to the lives their children lead after morning drop off. Perhaps one of the most important benefits of these evenings is the way they begin a dialogue between parents and teachers. The importance of opening and maintaining this line of communication is often crucial to a child’s success. All too often as children grow up, parents recede further and further back; in the process, we leave our children in charge of the communication. As a result, we may miss out on important information we need to know.
Now, some of this transition in the way that teachers and parents communicate is developmentally appropriate and crucial to our children’s maturation process. One can imagine a spectrum of parent-teacher-student communication over the course of a child’s life: at one end when a child is young, parents and teachers tend to dominate the conversation around a child’s school experience. At the other end when there are high schoolers in the house, students and teachers converse and often parents feel left out. The middle school years may see the greatest movement on this spectrum as students vacillate between acting like elementary kids one day and young adults another.
Of course, things are never this cut and dry. Although the student may be starting her school journey, we want her to learn how to speak with her teachers on her own so she can learn how to advocate for herself. While an adolescent may feel he’s completely independent, we are still his parents and we want to know how he’s doing not only in his classes but in general. One of the perhaps frightening elements when our children go to college is the metaphorical black hole of information that faces parents as their children move away and are on their own.
At Keystone, we want you to be involved in your children’s lives in a manner that supports their development. Being too involved can prevent a child from developing a sense of agency and independence; the phrase “snowplow parents” offers a picture of adults who clear every obstacle out of a child’s way and never allows her to experience an obstacle that could teach resilience. With the best of intentions, we teach children learned helplessness. A lack of participation, on the other hand, prevents a child from having the benefit of his parents’ wisdom and guidance. In addition, in our desire to help our children grow up, we may unintentionally send them the message that we don’t care. Like so much in life, it’s a matter of striking a balance.
Parents can best support their children’s development when they, their students, and teachers are in dialogue with one another. The image of a three-legged stool that falls when any individual leg is missing provides a good analogy. As your children’s teachers, we thank you for coming to Back to School Night and we look forward to the conversation we will have with you this year.