When I was a student, the last thing in the whole entire world that I wanted, was for my parents to come to school with me. That would have been a nightmare come true. Thank goodness, in my public school, parents rarely attended classes or visited the classroom other than to drop off cupcakes when it was their child’s birthday. Why was I so dead set against my parents visiting my classes, you ask. Well, the embarrassment factor for one. I didn’t want my mom to say something mom-like in front of my peers. That would have been mortifying. Things were different back in the 1980s and 1990s. Parents were generally hands off when it came to the education of their children. Families trusted the schools to do a good job educating their children. It wasn’t until the twenty-first century that we saw a shift in the other direction. Parents started taking note of what was happening in their children’s school. Parents began visiting classes, frequently contacting teachers, and advocating for their children. This shift in parent involvement in schools around the country made a huge difference in education: Schools and teachers were being held accountable, ineffective schools were being forced to change, charter schools were popping up everywhere, and students were more engaged in their learning than ever before. Because parents began to get involved in the education of their children, students began to take their own education more seriously. This change in how involved parents are in the education of their children has continued into 2018. Parents are showing schools, teachers, and the government just how important education is to them and their children, and it shows as schools are continuing to grow and develop into places for learning and play as teachers are finding new and engaging ways to challenge and support all students.
As an educator, I love this change in parent involvement. While I grew up in a very different time and would have hated if my parents were as involved as many parents are in the education of their children now, I have seen the benefits and positive side of this shift. As I work at a boarding school, it is difficult for parents and families to attend classes or visit the school frequently, and so, I try to bridge this gap by keeping the families of our students constantly connected to what is going on in the sixth grade classroom. I use the Remind application to send out updates on what is happening, daily, in each of our core classes. I also have a class website, which I use to post pictures and weekly newsletters, informing parents of big happenings in the sixth grade and important dates to keep in mind. Even though the families of most of my students are thousands of miles away, I want them to feel as though they are right in the thick of it all with us in the classroom. I want the parents and guardians of my students to feel like members of our extended sixth grade family. From all of the feedback I received over the years from parents and families, they absolutely love this constant communication and do feel closely connected to what is happening in the sixth grade classroom.
Although I do love having the parents and families of my students involved in our sixth grade program, when they come to visit classes during our Family Weekend events that take place three times a year, I find myself getting very anxious and nervous. What if I mess up while parents are observing me? What if I provide their children with false information? What if I can’t remember what to do or say? What if they think my class is boring? Numerous negative thoughts enter my brain as these big weekends approach. While I never have anything to fear because the parents already love how we are supporting and challenging their children, I find it hard to suppress these thoughts.
This past weekend was host to the Winter Family Weekend at my school. Many families and parents descended upon our school Friday morning to attend classes and their sons’ parent/teacher conferences. We had a slew of families visiting the sixth grade classroom Friday morning. Although I had a solid class plan in place and knew exactly what I was going to say, butterflies seemed to fly around my stomach as if it was time to migrate south. Why? I’m an experienced educator and have been observed on numerous occasions by colleagues and parents. Why do I still get so nervous and anxious when other people are in the room while I’m teaching? Who knows, but it really does freak me out. This time around, I tried taking some mindful breaths prior to teaching my class. That seemed to help a bit, but I was still nervous for the entire double-block class. The thing is, the class went great, as they usually do when I’m being observed. The lesson was a big hit. The parents loved what they saw and raved about my teaching and the class during their son’s student-led conference. They feel lucky and honored to have their sons attending a school with such skilled and energized teachers. So, I had and still have nothing to worry about when I’m being observed. I know what effective teaching is, and so, as long as I keep challenging myself to grow and develop as an educator, all will be fine in my sixth grade classroom.