I came across this article from the New Yorker which you really should go and read, now. As a teacher it expresses a lot of opinions that I’ve often worried about when it comes to decoding the dynamic between the student, the teacher and the parent.
I say “decoding” because that’s what it is; three people trying to reach a common ground but each using their own language and their own filters. This is nothing new; we do it daily and with many different players. We hit the wall however when we have to do it with our students and their parents…and this is sad, because the stakes are high.
Parents have a set of expectations and so do the teachers. The parents are the heart (usually) but the teachers are the brain (sometimes). And you don’t need to look far to find that those two are often in constant contention.
The article quotes Madeline Levine, a psychologist who gives a snapshot of the modern parenting outlook:
“Most parents today were brought up in a culture that put a strong emphasis on being special,” she observes. “Being special takes hard work and can’t be trusted to children. Hence the exhausting cycle of constantly monitoring their work and performance, which in turn makes children feel less competent and confident, so that they need even more oversight.”
“Special” is a heart response. The brain knows that the truth path lies in failure, learning, compromise, effort, practise and then, after a long time, mastery. But the heart will reject this and tell you that “special” is something that just comes naturally. “Come naturally” is the enemy of the the brain, and in essence, learning.
But we need the heart, because we need passion and fire — two things the brain is terrible at.
So the next time you are at a loss decoding the relationship between the teacher, parent and student remember that each person has an equally vital role in developing the best possible learner.