When a child comes home from school and expresses their concern for something that has happened during the day, the parent has a few responses from which they may choose in dealing with their child’s concern. If the parent believes what their child has said is 100% accurate and factual, AND they are not happy about that, then the parent has some options.
The first option might be to ring, email or contact the school staff and “explode”. Not preferable but not uncommon. This will not build a relationship between the school and the parents. In fact it will break down the relationship.
The second option is for the parents to say to the child “Thanks very much I believe your story but toughen up, grow up and be more resilient”. This in effect is brushing the child aside. They’re not giving them the support and empowerment that they need and deserve.
The third option is for the parents to listen to the child cautiously and then choose one of 3 responses, one of three questions which they can ask the school staff.
The first question
The first question is simply to say to the school staff when they have the opportunity – “What happened at school?” regarding this particular matter. They would report what their child has said about the incident and they then give the school staff the opportunity to respond. This simply allows the staff to reflect on their knowledge of the internet without getting defensive. They are simply sharing information with the parents. At that point the parents will reflect as to the accuracy of both stories so that they can move forward and in supporting their child .
The second question
The second question the parents may choose to use is – “What is the schools policy or protocols or procedures regarding…… (whatever)?” For example if a child comes home with an injury and the parents were not notified before the child got home and that caused distress for the parents, they may simply contact the school and ask very politely and calmly what is the schools policy and protocols and procedures for notifying parents regarding injuries? With that information they are in a position to judge whether or not the school followed the process and protocols or whether or not the school has let them down.
The third question
The third question at the parents may choose to use is “What can we as parents and teachers do in working together for my child’s education?” This highlights the need for collaboration. It highlights the importance of the parents and teachers working together and providing a common vision of education for the children.
So if parents choose one of those three questions in the right context, these are the only 3 questions they need to ask. These questions will build a culture of TRUST, COLLABORATION between the parents and the teachers. This means that teaches don’t have to get defensive, they simply have to share information. Once again if parents choose the right question to ask in the right context that will help build a culture of trust and collaboration and the child will be the beneficiary of a good relationship between the parents and the teachers.
Contributor: Andrew Oberthur
Andrew Oberthur is the father of two teenagers and a primary school principal with over 30 years experience teaching and leading primary schools in Brisbane.
In 2018 he published his first book “Are You Ready for Primary School This Year? which is about building a culture of trust, collaboration and enquiry between parents and teachers. His book is available from his website www.creativecollaborativesolutions.net
He has been on ABC Brisbane radio a few times this year, as well as doing podcasts for PakMag.