As many parents and teachers know, Back-To-School-Nights provide a wealth of information in hopes of starting the school year off right. They are a great opportunity for parents to learn about their child’s new teacher, see the classroom and quite simply just get back into the swing of things. A few years ago, at my Back-to-School-Night, a parent shared a “philosophy” on communication with me that he stood by, and, in turn, I have stood by, and quoted, ever since.
I was nearing the end of my standard presentation, and I had already covered the basics: curriculum, expectations/rules, and homework. Before concluding, I always made sure to mention my strong desire for open and honest communication. I tried to make it very clear that I valued open lines of communication among all of us: parents, students, and teachers. To further reinforce this idea, and exactly what I meant by it, I always share a few examples of situations when a lack of communication caused some unnecessary friction/confusion that could have otherwise been avoided. In addition, I like to mention a few examples of times when effective communication helped to dodge misunderstandings. The beauty of this conversation was always that parents typically had their own funny stories to share and not only did it build comfort and rapport between myself and parents, but it also further reinforced how much we all valued, and could benefit from, this type of communication.
The Simple Yet Powerful Communication Philosophy
A father of four, sitting in the back, who hadn’t said much throughout the presentation up to this point, quietly raised his hand. The youngest of his four children was going to be in my class. He smiled and said he wanted to share something that a teacher of his oldest sons had shared with them at a Back-to-School-Night, ten years before.
His quote goes as follows: “I promise to believe half of everything my child says to me about you/school if you promise to believe half of what my child says to you about me/home.”
He then shared that he adopted this outlook immediately, and had found that it made each school year, situation and potential time of conflict or confusion, so much easier to manage and think through clearly. We all paused for a minute as we processed the simple, yet deep meaning of this outlook. The entire room agreed with a head nod and a chuckle, and we all shared situations how this could have been applied, both in school and personal lives!
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This simple philosophy on communication seemed to help both myself and parents, as it reminded us that kids will be kids, and of course we need to listen to them, hear them and support them, yet at the same time we also need to keep in mind their perspective on situations may not always be 100% accurate.
At times throughout the year (including ESY), when speaking with parents about situations, I found myself quoting this simple phrase again. In doing so, I learned that this helped us both keep our emotions in check, and deal with what was potentially emotionally driven conversations from a neutral ground. To this day, this philosophy has helped me keep an open mind when parents wanted to talk about “something my kid said” and allowed me to more effectively communicate with parents.
As a parent or educator, do you have any philosophies surrounding the vast topic of communication? Please share in the comments below!