I have tweeted and blogged a lot lately about working to listen more deeply to my colleagues, students and their families. It has been a tremendous help in building relationships and becoming a part of the new school community where I am teaching this year. As parent-guardian-teacher conference season draws to a close, the following story feels important to share.
Last week in “Teaching with my Mom Googles on,” I blogged about how I am more thoughtful and reflective this year when calling parents about a child whose behavior I am concerned about. My perspective changed after my son’s teacher last year called me constantly about his poor behavior. And how I quickly I became a parent who wouldn’t call her back and who kept asking her what she was planning to do to improve his behavior. While I have always been a teacher who knows the value of balancing positive news home with concerns (heck, I even have custom post cards for sending home good news), I never felt it as deeply as when my son’s teacher constantly called with complaints about him and expected me and his dad to fix in through a strict talking-to or by taking away something fun at home.
In response to that blog post, Marian Dingle posed a question on Twitter which gave me pause:
Honesty, I see every family-teacher communication differently because of my experience with my son last year. Could my thinking have been pushed without this personal experience? Yes, if someone had shared their own personal experience with me. It didn’t have to be my own son, but if a friend, colleague, pissed off parent of a student of mine, had the courage to be honest with me and trust I would listen, then yes. But I’m not sure that a PD where we read a case study or my principal reminding me of the value of positive calls home would have made as big of an impact.
I will forever think differently about building relationships with families and phone calls home because of my personal experience with my son and his teacher.
If you were not at Twitter Math Camp 2018 last summer in Cleveland, I urge you to carve out time to listen to Marian’s keynote address. What so deeply moved me was her willingness to share such personal stories as both a parent and an educator. Her speech was such a gift because like my friend trusting me to listen to the perspective of a foster child and reconsider a routine September homework assignment, Marian trusts us with some of her life experiences so that we have more perspectives to draw on as educators. While we most certainly do not need to experience something ourselves in order to have empathy and be motivated for change, we do need to be willing to listen deeply to those who take the time to share their perspective with us.
You can read the entire keynote address by clicking here or you can watch it below.