I was an educator for 33 years in the public school system in Ontario. As I think back to my experiences over that time, I know that I had occasions of being called on the carpet by school administrators whenever I did not ‘tow the company line’. This was especially my experience with the principal who hired me at the school at which I taught. He told me that it was not appropriate to joke with my students, that I should never apologize to them if I made a mistake, that I should never acknowledge their ideas even when these made sense. It was all ‘inappropriate’ I was told. And he wanted to know what I was basing my practice on – who was the outside authority I looked to [as if my experience was not sufficient authority to ground my work]. I suggested that the principal read Inviting School Success by William Purkey. Then we would each have an understanding of the platform which grounded my teaching.
I came across Teacher Lore by Schubert and Ayers as I was researching my doctoral thesis. It is a book which I believe would benefit every teacher to read no matter where they are in the timeline of their career. In that book was a chapter dealing with parents and teachers and how they could work together to help students learn and grow. It was profoundly moving.
I know that we often defer to people who have education and credentials when we seek out explanations for the events in our lives. It may be that we are mesmerized by the alphabet after the name. We look to doctors and specialists to diagnose our ills and prescribe treatment plans. We forget that we know our bodies intimately and that that gives us power in looking after our health.
In education, we tend to defer to teachers and administrators – those who have specific training in teaching specific subjects. Further, we all have memories both good and not fantastic of our experience in school and this colours our reactions to education as a whole. As well, I know from my own experience, that teachers tend to respond to parent’s inquiries with their hackles up. Some teachers may believe that parents have no right to question curriculum and teaching methodology. After all, the teachers have the specific training and the parents don’t. And some teachers, and I was one of these, have been accosted verbally by parents so much that their immediate response to parent questions is defensive. It all devolves into a form of adversarial contact.
As a retired educator who was, I know, a WEL-Systems® based teacher even though I did not know of the Institute or the process, I’m sending the following to all parents – those who are members of the Institute and those who are not. At the beginning of each school year, take the time to arrange to meet with your child’s teacher. You know your child better than the teacher ever can. Talk to the teacher about how your child learns best, how your child responds to structured lessons, how your child reacts to assessment activities. Let the teacher know who your child is – what lights him or her up, what he or she is interested in. Share your experience. Bring the whole of your child to life for the teacher. And let the teacher know how best to contact you. You are both part of team – the two strongest collectives to which any child belongs. If your child has one experience at home where he or she is encouraged to speak his or her truth and ask for clarification and is encouraged to make his or her own choices and then has a totally different experience at school where order and management are expected by the school administration, then there it is very unlikely that both the educational system and the family system can work in tandem to support each child as he or she grows. That’s the advice Schubert and Ayers gave in their book. And I took it to heart as a teacher.
If we are all going to support the evolution of our world and of the people in it, we all need to take ownership of the education of our children who will have the most impact on what the future will look like. We need to work together and know that we are all part of a larger ‘team’.