This past week while on winter break, I visited a place that was significant in my formative years from infancy through college. As I anticipated the visit, my heart changed, a calmness spread and I could not help but smile. When my family and I arrived and stepped off the plane, I was overcome by the familiar even though I had not visited this place for fifteen years. The smells, the sights, the streets, I remembered it all as I piloted the rental car without any maps (of course my phone with Google maps was there if needed). As I navigated my way to drive by childhood landmarks my eyes teared up as memories showered down on me. I suddenly realized that it was not the place that held the significance, it was the relationships I had built there that caused the feelings I was experiencing. Some of the relationships were with people and some of the relationships were with the environment, but the relationship was the key. As the week progressed my relationship with the place changed. When I arrived my heart was melancholy thinking of the people who have passed and the fact that aging has occurred. As the week progressed the calmness came back as did the smile on my face. There were new relationships forged and when I left I wasn't longing for the past as I had when I arrived.
Of course this made me think of school and my classroom - even on vacation (I know, pathetic!) I have written in other posts about the importance of building relationships with kids in our classes. I began thinking about the kiddos that struggle and/or are willful non-performers. Which caused me to immediately jump to these kiddos as adults. When they become parents, how are their attitudes towards school going to affect their children?
A few weeks ago I attended a Classroom 2.0 Live Saturday webinar that featured Joe Mazza a principal who is known for parent involvement. Since listening to him and following him on twitter, I have been thinking about parent participation and getting parents on my side. This week made me think about the parents who avoid school as a place because of the relationships they had while in school.
I have complained about parents not showing up for conferences, yet did I stop to think about why these parents may be avoiding coming back to school. Just as my place had extremely positive memories flooding in, school for some has very negative feelings tied to it. If a parent has these negative memories, could those feelings be passed on to their child who is in your class and struggling? How do we get these parents to not let the place of school interfere with building new, positive relationships with the adults who educate their children? If I think about it, these parents are usually contacted by school in regards to their child getting in some sort of trouble which perpetuates the negative relationship with school as a place. How do we change that?
Just as struggling students need an advocate, school phobic parents need advocates who can build a positive relationship and help them to see school as a partner rather than an adversary. I know I need to change my interactions with these parents and look for positive interactions. How do we pull these parents in when they are masters of avoidance? I will be pondering all of this for a while! I would love ideas and suggestions!