Our function as role models for our students may seem like a logical extension of our mandate as teachers to many of us. Being positive role models for students relates to using our inevitable power as adult authority figures in a positive way. Understanding this concept in relation to our contact with parents and caregivers requires more consideration.
When interacting with parents and caregivers, we seek to do so in deep respect and recognition of the expertise and knowledge they bring stemming from their relationship with their children. We also acknowledge the specific bundle of skills and experience they carry as competent adults. We hope and expect that parents and guardians will approach us in a similar vein, respecting and acknowledging our skills and expertise as teachers. In this sense, we strive for an interaction based on an exchange of knowledge, skills and insight.
At the same time, we are at all times and in all interactions ambassadors for our school’s values, as well as our own. Most, if not all, of us have reflected upon our approach to teaching and the values underlying it. We can be transparent with parents and caregivers by explaining our approach, for example, by expressing in some way:
“I believe in your child. These are my values and this is what I think is important.”
In addition to verbally sharing our perspectives with parents and caregivers, we need to be cognizant of the fact that we are also showing them our own and our school’s values and approach. Our behaviour speaks volumes when we model the responsible use of our power as teachers through power sharing, including constructive, healthy assertiveness when appropriate. This can at times include acknowledging our lack of information and accepting responsibility for errors.
As social creatures, all human beings have something to learn from each other. Sharing a community, including a school community, we observe and learn from each other constantly. Sometimes, parents and caregivers are struggling, either due to systemic barriers, or simply because childrearing is an extremely difficult job. Sometimes, we ourselves are struggling with a seemingly intransigent situation.
We can leave ourselves open to the possibility of learning from parents and caregivers, while being mindful of our potential influence as teachers and ambassadors of our school’s values and approach.
- What equitable and inclusive values do I seek to express through my work?
- What equitable and inclusive values has my school adopted?
- How do I try to manifest those values when I interact with my students’ parents and caregivers?