Rethink Your Parent Meetings if You Want More Parental Engagement
An overwhelming majority of the parent meetings I have witnessed, been party to, have generally involved a phalanx of educational staff, lined up to explain, sympathetically, that this student is just not doing well and the parent needs to fix something. Invariably, this scenario does not go well. I have seen parents get defensive, shut down, and weep. I have even seen a situation where the parent turned their back to the staff because they were being disrespectful to him.
There are two fundamental problems with the basic nature of these meetings. One, this is not behavior we engage in when we want someone as a partner. Second, and more fundamentally, no one knows that student better than the parent, and no one has more influence over the student than the parent. As educators, we would be much better served by putting the parent at the head of the table and asking them to teach us about their child.
When we describe the problems we are having with their child, we are assuming that the student is the one who is broken and not our system. This might be difficult for many educators to accept, but we need to acknowledge that our system is intended to meet the needs of a wide variety of children, not just the peak of the bell curve. When a child is not fitting our structures, we have to assume that the problem is that we don’t know enough yet — and who better to educate us than the person who has been educating this student far longer than us?
Try a very different parent meeting. Treat the parent as the expert and genuinely learn from them about their child and what they need from you and your classroom. You will find that you not only have a more successful student, but also a strong ally in a parent.
No matter how good you think you are as a leader, my goodness, the people around you will have all kinds of ideas for how you can get better. So for me, the most fundamental thing about leadership is to have the humility to continue to get feedback and to try to get better — because your job is to try to help everybody else get better.
– Jim Yong Kim