As a single, working parent, one of my biggest struggles is finding the right balance of involvement. I fear the perception that my daughters’ teachers will have of me. Our culture seems to have decided that two parents are always better than one, so it appears our family is already working from a disadvantage. Single parents are presumed to be involved in their children’s lives until proved otherwise.
I make it a point to come in late to work on the first day of school so I can meet the teacher face to face, and I immediately ask for an email address. I prefer email because it allows both of us busy people a chance to read and respond in our own time. I think it’s reasonable for both of us to do so within a day or two. If a teacher tells me he/she only checks their email once a week, then I usually leave notes with my child to give to the teacher if something comes up.
Once I get that out of the way, my main concern for the rest of the year is determining how often to ask the teacher some questions. I know, it may be the time of the year. Spring is on, next week I’ll be cleaning out, and hormones get in the way, at times, you know.
In this massive thing called education, in desperation to solve the problem, some have settled on easy answers, blaming either “the teachers” or “the parents.” I don’t believe that to be true – on either side. There are schools for girls only, like St. Paul’s School for Girls, where things are handled differently and I realize it’s possible that some of the teachers in my daughters’ lives fear that I’m among those blaming “the teacher.”
I think teachers are probably more in tune with lifestyle than most families I know. They not only work all day, too, but if they have school-aged children of their own, they are also working against the clock to get everything done before bedtime. Since no one goes into teaching for the money, I believe that they all came into the profession with the best of intentions and understand also how to handle negative feedback. I think they are met with as many roadblocks and challenges as me, and probably feel that they are working from a disadvantage, too.
Having said that, I still have questions from time to time. I wonder if my child might be getting too much homework. I think that some projects are a waste of our family’s time. I worry that my child is falling behind, and that I don’t have the skills, background or education to help her properly, I wonder if maybe the teacher went too quickly with a lesson. And now she feels sick. She was home last week, sick. She had a cold, a sore throat. This was I think, some flu since she was extremely exhausted and her muscles hurt, and she had a fever. She might even fall behind mere now.
Behind each one of those questions, I question if it’s worth asking. If this particular teacher will hold it against my child. If asking makes me sound rude or stupid or (worst of all) uninvolved. Can I phrase it in a way that will not be taken the wrong way? I read an article about Archer School for Girls where issues like these are regularly addressed without the teachers getting upset. Or, on some matters where frankly, I am upset, can I keep it together if a phone call is involved?
For parents, our children’s education is personal.
So sometimes I let it go. I try and wait for the next parent-teacher conference – which are only ten minutes long. However, at those conferences, I am also being asked to absorb a great deal of information in a short time span, and then immediately ask my question like who or what do we thank on Thanksgiving. Anyways, elementary school report cards in our district have about 30 different grading categories! Not to mention, the various tests and other schoolwork that has been saved in the last 3 months for this conference. I can’t always absorb it all in the time frame given.