What do parents want from us? Only to ensure their children’s success in life.

When I taught high school, I interacted with the parents of my students pretty regularly: phone calls or emails, Open House/Meet the Teacher nights, sports or fine arts functions, chance meetings in the community. Unfortunately, partnership with parental units was perhaps most often felt in the cases where a student just could not muster the effort to do the work in my class. But English Language Arts class is mandatory for graduation, and failure is just not an option in my book. So, those were the moments when I would link arms with Mom, Dad, Grandma, or whomever cared about the kid, and not let the burgeoning “adult” self-sabotage without a fight.

In contrast, as a middle school administrator, interaction with parents became a much larger component of my daily work. Primarily, parent conferences were responses to negative stimuli: poor choices, failing grades, accidents on campus, or truancy situations. Many of these parents were struggling just to provide stability for their child and hoping that leaving work for their many trips up to the school didn’t cost them their only source of income. As you can imagine, this didn’t foster the most positive correlation with school for those families. We did have opportunities to celebrate with parents about student success, but those with whom I was on a first name basis typically belonged to students who struggle most with success in the traditional classroom setting.

Now that I am with “the littles” in elementary campus leadership, I find that positive interactions with parents compete in number with negative ones. Parents are simply at the school more often: volunteering in classrooms, inquiring about student progress, attending teacher conferences, chaperoning field trips, eating lunch with their students, or attending PTA meetings. We are a Title I (low-income) campus, and perception of parental support can be relative to your former experience… but, coming from a secondary school background, I felt like parents were everywhere this year and that most of my interactions with them were entirely generative.

Did I have the occasional unpleasant conversation? Sure. But for some reason, the root of parental frustration became more apparent to me this year. They just don’t want to mess their children up.

Good news: Neither do I.

One thread permeates the entirety of my work with students’ families, from that of kindergarteners through seniors in high school. Parents actually expect for the school to prepare their children for the future, for success in the real world. Hell, most of them even trust us to do so.

So what does the real world want from our future graduates?

Forbes contends that hiring panels in today’s market want employees who exhibit the following qualities:

  • Cultural fitness for the company/organization
  • Professionalism
  • Confidence
  • Self-monitoring
  • Intellectual-curiosity

This is exactly why I am so passionate about giving students the tools to know about their brain and how to take care of them through mindful practices. The resulting skill sets — self-awareness, self-regulation, and compassion — can equip them to go out and grab the jobs that they want in the future. These three capacities marry nicely with Forbes list of desired traits. Why not offer the real world students who can meet its needs? We are in such need of good PR these days.

Anne Marie Rossi is a teacher who emphasizes mindfulness in her classroom. In the video below she has a hopeful message about the ease and success that accompany these strategies. Take a minute, or fifteen, to hear her Tedx Talk. You’ll be glad you did.

The take away? We can give parents what they want from us.

Explicit instruction of mindful practice will take a little learning on our part, some self discipline and dedication of our time. But we have the opportunity and resources to let students design they life they want, the success their parents’ dream for them. Why would we not do just that?

Not for some students. Not for most students. For all of them.

For those of you who are following my entire series, this is Day Four in My Year of Mindfulness in Education (MY ME). All that means is that I have committed to a daily ritual of mindfulness in my own life in an effort to practice what I preach. Currently, I am witnessing so many residual benefits throughout the day just from starting each of them in stillness and with intentionality. Personal current goal-embracing impatience as part of my hard-wiring. If patience is a virtue, then why am I programmed this way? I expect more grappling with this. It’s a biggie.

Thanks so much to those who are recommending, liking, sharing these posts. Your encouragement goes a long way.

Looking forward to Day Five and all of the learning it brings.

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