Teaching Profession Opinion

Parent Educators, When Is the Right Time to Intervene in a Schooling Dilemma?

By Starr Sackstein — December 05, 2017 3 min read
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An angry email can easily escalate into a hostile phone call you don’t want to make. The older students get, the harder it is to know how often to communicate with teachers on your own children’s behalf. We want our kids to learn how to handle situations on their own and we’d also like the school to intervene where necessary too.

But when is the right time?

Since my son began school I’ve had a laissez-faire approach to intermingling with his teachers. As a professional courtesy, I’ve trusted their judgment and stayed out of the mix as much as possible, but the older he is getting, the harder it is to not get involved.

Yes, when “real” issues occurred that pertained to my son’s learning, I was there wearing my parent hat, not my teacher hat. Listening with an open mind, I advocate and serve my son’s needs which, is sometimes challenging when I have a different educational philosophy than the school my son attends or the teacher he is working with ascribes to. My son’s dad is not an educator and we don’t always agree how to handle matters either.

In elementary school, we seldom had issues which reduced the challenges that many educators face. I mean, who wants to be “that” parent? You know the kind I’m talking about... too involved, pushy and teetering on the edge of assertive but not in a good way. As an educator, working with these kinds of parents was near impossible and often counterproductive. They had perspectives that were often not in line with what was happening in class or had a very skewed perception of the reality of their child.

I’m not one of those parents. I know my child, for better or for worse, so I’ve learned to not step in unless I felt there was a serious situation that warranted me showing up at school unannounced to be heard.

Now that my son is in middle school, I struggle with when to bite my tongue. His teachers are theoretically my colleagues, with the same teaching certifications in the same age group. I know what learning can and (dare I say), should look like. So I’m deeply dismayed by some of the stories that come home. Knowing my son as I do, first I wonder how much of it is the truth and how much is exaggerated?

Once I get through the preliminary rounds of questioning and I talk to his dad to see if the story matches, we decide together how best to proceed. Our son has special needs as a divergent thinker who has been classified as gifted. This is a mixed bag as many educators don’t know how to work with or differentiate for gifted children. He’s very smart, but sometimes that gets him in trouble. He has a sharp wit and is highly expressive about his malcontent and I think I may have created a monster on the education side.

You see, my son knows my philosophy about education and what I do. He also knows when his teachers don’t adhere to my beliefs and how easily I get upset when I hear of some of the more traditional practices; so I’m admitting here, he knows my buttons.

My inclination is to let things play out a little more instead of reacting and if the issue persists, I’m inclined to write an email to the teacher asking for some clarification. Always wanting to know the whole picture first, I want to hear both sides to have a more educated understanding of the situation.

But it is hard and emotional when it is your own child....

So I struggle with if or when to intervene as an advocate at this point. The teacher hasn’t reached out to me directly, but I’m not pleased with what I’m hearing at home.

Not wanting to be that parent is bad enough, but add into the equation that I’m me, I’m afraid of a number of unintended consequences.

How can do we help our home districts move into this modern learning environment without being offensive? Please share your suggestions.

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.