Another article on “Shady Oak Best Practices,” our favorite approaches to education and why they work. If friends ask why you send your kids to Shady Oak instead of a “regular” school, refer them to this series—and the science backing us up—for starters.
The idea of encouraging parents to get involved at your school may make you shudder if your experience is limited to fending off “helicopter parents.” But family involvement can bring a number of advantages:
Here are a few hints for teachers who want to encourage parents to get involved:
In other words, don’t go into parent–teacher conferences with an attitude of, “Our way of doing education is the right way, and I’m here to make sure these people know that.” “These people” presumably have more experience with their children’s temperaments and interests than you do, so listen to parents as much as you talk to them. Understand they have special concerns for their children’s and family’s well-being. Consider their point of view at all times.
Rather than focusing on points of disagreement, pinpoint shared goals: maximizing children’s well-being and self-respect, helping everyone in every classroom acquire useful knowledge, running an efficient classroom without making anyone feel alienated. Remember that you, the parents, and the children are all on the same team working to achieve those goals.
This means both to their faces and behind their backs. And if parent or child complains to you about the other, don’t take sides: ask, “Have you discussed that with them? How might you help them understand how you feel?”
Occasionally, you may run up against a parent who refuses to listen to reason, who is all high-volume demands, who takes their kid’s side no matter what. Or you may have cause to suspect the parent is using drugs or abusing the child.
Report suspicions of genuine abuse to the proper authorities. With parents who are merely unreasonable and obnoxious, your best bet is to remain calm until they run out of steam, and, if that doesn’t work, dismiss them firmly but not angrily. Above all, don’t let the occasional jerk ruin your cooperative attitude. Most parents are on your side, willing to work with the school to ensure the best for their children and others.
At Shady Oak, we emphasize family involvement because it helps parents understand the school’s goals and improves the all-around effectiveness of children’s education.
Science Backs Us Up! Further Resources on the Topic