Practicing self-awareness can enable us to more clearly and honestly perceive our students’ parents and caregivers. Identifying our assumptions about individuals and families is an outcome of increased awareness of our own identity and privileges. For example, I can be aware of assumptions I may have about:
- What is a “normal” family? Who are its members? What is its composition?
- What is a “good” family? How or where do its members live? How do its members behave? What do its members look like?
- What are ‘’good’’ parents? How do they act?
We all make assumptions all the time, and they may surface anytime, such as when we are surprised or encountering a situation we did not expect. When we take a moment to notice our inner thoughts and emotions, we are more likely to catch ourselves when we make judgments or label parents and caregivers based on our assumptions. It can be helpful at that point to remember the complex systemic power imbalances that may influence parents’ and caregivers’ contact and interaction with the school system.
Over the coming school week, try to observe your thought processes and your emotional reactions to various situations and people you encounter. Make a mental note of the various assumptions you make about people and their stories.
The school is holding parent-teacher interviews, and you are nearing the end of the evening. You glance down at your list and take note of a particular family that did not attend. You catch yourself forming conclusions about why they did not attend, assuming that they “just don’t care”. You take a moment to re-construct your thinking, leaving room for other possibilities. You remember that the family does not have a car, and that one of the parents has two jobs.