Tag Archives: parents

The Human Factor

It’s just about a full month into the new school year and already the voicemail is alight with parent calls, the email box is pinging, and questions and comments arise in spontaneous, face to face conversations.
Not so long ago, I would have looked at my voicemail, or my email and been filled with a sense of dread or impending doom. “Egad! A parent wants to talk to me? I better run and hide so they can’t find me. Why can’t they just leave me alone and let me do my job?” It’s true, ignorance is bliss. But bliss only lasts so long and ignorance comes back to bite you time and time again. Coming out of the classroom and into a leadership role has given me a very different perspective on the relationship between parents and schools.
Parents are an asset to any school. They are our biggest resource, most important partners, best critical friends…the list could go on and on.
Over the years I’ve had some amazing conversations with parents about learning, children, and the world. I’ve also had some challenging conversations that stretched me in ways that made me feel quite uncomfortable. Conversations that forced me to reflect on my practice and caused me to challenge my own assumptions. I also know that as a parent of three children, my own expectations for accountable schools are quite high.
Listening to the parents who bring their children to our schools is a crucial part of a high quality education system. We need to hear them, respond to them, and above all, show them we care. When a parent makes contact they are showing they care, even when they approach us from a frustrated or angry stance, or are looking for someone to blame when something didn’t work out the way they hoped for their child. Those conversations can be hard in the beginning. However, all conversations are crucial and when we approach them with the mindset that everyone at the table, regardless of how they may express their feelings cares, we find we have more in common than not, and can build partnerships rooted in trust.
I call this the “human factor”. The “human factor” trumps everything we do. It trumps learning, it trumps assessment, it trumps planning. It is the one variable educators can’t control, yet we waste so much energy trying to do just that.
I don’t know who might be on the other end of the line, or what the intended tone of an email may or may not be, or who might be waiting to catch me in the hallway. But what I do know is that I have a responsibility to show I care through how respond to the “human factor”. Now, when I see the voicemail I think, do I have the time to really pause, listen to and respond? When I read that email, I ask myself, is this better responded to in person? When I see a parent approaching, I perk up my ears, smile and get ready to listen. I am as much a part of the “human factor” as they are, and I want them to experience the caring variable…and just maybe they will find that refreshing and that will make all the difference in the world.

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