Posted in Gifted Education

Parents, Our Strongest Allies

Building a strong relationship with middle school parents isn’t on the priority list for many educators. Considering North Carolina’s teacher pay is ranked #35 in the nation,  who would want to carve out extra hours calling parents to introduce themselves and give positive feedback for every child? For that matter,  most conferences for the gifted children have been done around angry parents, Individual Education Plan(IEP), behavioral issues, or failing grades. What we end up doing is we keep empathy out and use hard data to justify that we are doing the best we can to do our job as educators.

And I’m tired of this fight of advocating for the children and parents of the gifted.

We as teachers forget that parents are not our foes. Parents don’t get to hear much about how gifted services are delivered in classrooms because most of my time is spent on managing neglect and lack of differentiation in classrooms. They want to know more but by the time they want to know more, it’s around the mid-year. The phones start ringing at both ends of school and home when something goes wrong.

As these children enter into the season of autonomy and communities of their own, parents and teachers are the ones to closely communicate with each other to hold our children accountable. It’s a must for adults to communicate to each other. 

So here’s my suggestion. First, I start early. Pick out a week to call the parents after school to introduce myself. There are many ways to introduce ourselves through digital means, but nothing is as productive and meaningful as phone calls or personalized emails. What this does is it opens doors for transparency and communications. 100 students is a lot to email but when we think about it, spending 1 week to make phone calls and emails isn’t too bad to set the tone for the entire year.

Secondly, listening to parents’ concern, struggles, and celebration is like gathering data on their children’s lives and all other areas I cannot otherwise observe in their classrooms. Through the mouths and eyes of the parents, I have access to their children’s private lives. Parents, too, need teacher support.

Thirdly, find ways to engage our parents as part of our classroom culture. Often times, they will have access to community resources that they bring to enrich our experiences.

In my tiny quarter in the 7th grade hallway,  I delight in engaging with the parents who care about their children. Our conversation ranges from what to do for their new-to-district child to how the child is doing in their classes. Surprisingly, I hear so much positive feedback on how our teachers are doing a great job recognizing the needs of their children. I don’t think we allow our parents to speak the truth about their children.

Parents are not aliens; they are our allies.

Author:

Benna Haas works as a Gifted Education Specialist at Philips Middle School in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools since 2016. She has been an educator since 2008 and taught a wide range of English classes for gifted and talented learners in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Cabarrus County Schools, Durham Public Schools, and Union County Schools. Some of the classes she enjoyed teaching include Advanced Placement Composition and Language, Honors English II, III, and IV, ESL, and self-contained Middle Grades AIG English and Language Arts. As a Third Culture Kid(TCK) who grew up in South Korea, Israel, Brazil, and Ivory Coast including seven random cities in the United States, she has lived her life as a nomad where her idea of home is never concrete. When forced to define it, she will say home is an infinite sum of fleeting moments. Her favorite authors are Raymond Carver, Vladimir Nabokov, Toni Morrison, and Jhumpa Lahiri. Her favorite numbers are 3 and 7. After she graduated Oberlin College with a degree in English, she has worked tirelessly for 15+ years to build space for teens of all shades, colors, and streaks. She has been a strong advocate for the misfits, outliers, and all others in between. She earned her M.Ed. in Literacy at UNC-Chapel Hill completing her research on teacher motivation associated with gifted learners. She will be starting her Ph.D. in Fall 2019 in the area of Educational Psychology focusing on gifted and talented. She now lives with her husband Young and her 8-year-old daughter Pearl in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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