A lot of it centers on their child of course-did the teaching style meet the child's needs? Did the child make good friendships? Did the child grow emotionally? Sometimes it is about the parents themselves...Did the parents learn more about their child? Did they learn new strategies? Did they agree with us?
Another time, a parent wrote me a looong email. "I objected strongly to my child being placed in your classroom, not because of anything against you but because ... The administration over ruled me! It is the end of the year and boy, am I glad they did! I realized that for my child, allowing her stay on the sidelines without participating in an activity actually increases her anxiety. I saw that having expectations, even if it is only to stand up and hold the book while a peer did the talking has helped her grow more confident..." The parent's objection was news to me but it did bring to my attention that parents come with a lot of anxiety at the beginning of the year...as much as the students. So I learned to make extra time for a phone call or a chat to alleviate anxiety. Tackling the parent's anxiety helped me in the classroom--because the child was more at ease.
Some time back I wrote about another student of mine and her parent.( Oh You have Saya in this class? ) Every year the new classroom teacher was prepared for the mom's advocacy with the line..."Just be prepared. She'll tell you when something works. It is a lot of work but you feel like going that extra mile because she appreciates it." And yes, it was a lot of work because this mom did her research and knew what her child needed—and had no qualms holding us to her expectations. Teachers who had this child always felt good about their work—because they got feedback on what did or didn't work. It made us feel that our efforts were appreciated and understood.
These schools functioned within a clearly defined set of rules—how, when, where to express concerns about a child, who has the final say in educating a child, and how to challenge the other party. In a place like India where we don't have these rules in place yet, what can you as a parent do?
- What was just right for your child in that classroom?
- What would have made a difference?
- Was there any particular incidence which really stood out in your mind, where you felt the teacher did a great job?
- Keeping in mind the constraints of our education system, what would you recommend the teacher do differently for the next year?
- Let her/him know any one opinion/view of yours which changed because of the teacher's strategy or teaching style.
What do you achieve with this feedback? You make that person think about your point of view and consider your suggestions for the next year. Isn't that what we want teachers to do? During staffroom discussions this teacher will point out, "This parent pays attention to what goes on in class and is appreciative of our work on behalf of the students." It is a great motivator for the next year's teacher.