Thursday, October 28, 2010

Being a Mom and a Teacher - The purpose of this blog

Being a parent of a school-aged child can be frustrating. Being the parent of a school-aged child and someone who trains teachers can be more than frustrating. I frequently find myself walking the fine line between being a concerned involved parent and the parent from h--. The problem is that I know what should be happening in the classroom and how I would manage it. I keep up with the latest strategies, and I network with other educators and researchers to know what works with kids and what doesn't. When I don't see this happening in my own child's classroom, I have to admit that I can get a little hot under the collar.

You see, every teacher has a different style and methods for teaching. There are a plethora of research-based teaching strategies available to use with students. Why? Because there are a plethora of human beings of all ages sitting in the classrooms, each with their own personality, learning style, abilities, and potential. One size definitely doesn't fit all. The same goes for teachers. Each teacher must use strategies that fit with his or her personality style, ability level, and set of students. Additionally, each group of students has its own unique personality, or group dynamics as the business gurus like to say. Teachers adapt different strategies depending on the students in the classroom. For middle school and high school teachers, this may mean that a first period Chemistry class will have the same basic curriculum and lesson plan as the fourth period Chemistry class, but with a few added twists to meet the specific needs and group dynamics of that particular set of kiddos. Talk about complicated, right?

The teacher in me recognizes that my child's teachers may be very effective even though they don't use the strategies near and dear to my own heart. The mom in me wants the very best for my child. Since I know how he thinks and learns best, then I know what he should be getting in the classroom to best meet his needs, right? That is often my mentality. However, what I have come to learn as a parent is that my son is growing and maturing even more because of the diverse teachers he encounters. He has learned how to communicate his needs better. He has learned how to deal with disappointment and frustrations. He has also learned what it feels like to be completely understood by a kindred spirit and nurtured by a caring soul. The combination of these experiences with different teachers, different management styles, and different teaching styles has actually helped my son develop the skills he'll need to be successful navigating the journey of life.

Does this mean that my input as a parent isn't necessary? Absolutely not. I believe whole-heartedly that parents need to talk to their child's teacher and share those quirky attributes that only we know about. The more information a teacher has about a specific child, the better he or she will be able to motivate and find strategies to fit that child. This information helps with the teacher-student relationship as well.

Information sharing is important for both teachers and parents. Many parents want to be involved in their child's school life and want to help out at home, but don't understand the new terminology and new research behind teaching and learning. Schools and teaching methods have changed drastically since we were last in the elementary, middle, or high school. New research about how people learn has been uncovered and applied to the classroom. This can be confusing to parents who feel that they received a good education through drills, worksheets, and strict teachers. Now they are faced with a child having open-ended projects, "weird" assignments, and what looks like "feel-good" management strategies. Additionally, teachers tend to use specific language about strategies and methods that are unfamiliar to many parents, leaving them confused at the end of meetings and other parent-teacher conversations.

The purpose of this blog is to provide information about specific strategies used in the classroom and the reasoning behind them. If you are reading this blog for the first time, I encourage you to share your questions with me. I'll do my best to answer them through blog posts or refer you to someone who can help. My hope is that you will learn some new vocabulary, understand a little better why your teacher may be doing something "weird," and give you the ability to talk knowledgeably to your child's teacher about the strategies being used in the classroom.

I sincerely hope you find this blog to be helpful as you and your child navigate through school.