This year, I entered a completely different relationship with my local school district. I’m a parent of a proud, bubbling kindergartner and I’m loving every minute of watching my little learner grow. Of course, being a parent of a school-age child brings with it a whole new responsibility: parental involvement at school.
Indeed, events that I've participated in countless times as a teacher – Back to School Night, parent-teacher conferences, PTA meetings – I am now attending as a parent. It's strange when you go to a school event and realize you aren't the one in control. It requires you to take a moment and shift your mindset.
Being a parent-teacher is a delicate balance. Here are my takeaways on how to gracefully handle school functions when you're a parent, but also a teacher.
Be the kind of parent you love in your classroom
Think back to the best parents you ever had as a teacher. Sure, we’re not supposed to have favorites, but let’s be honest — you did. Remember the way they made you feel valued as a teacher? Was it a quick note, a gift card or coffee on conference day? Was it how they asked thoughtful questions or backed you up on the recommendations you made to their student? Think about the things these parents did that made your day seem brighter and choose one thing to emulate.
Be present and honest
If you are a parent who is also teaching in the same district, you know all about the latest initiatives, curriculum and policies. Turn off your teacher's brain, open your parent's brain and listen to the information with the lens of your child in mind. Instead of thinking about a class full of student data, the only data you need to concern yourself with in this moment is your child’s, so listen to how that curriculum and those policies are impacting your child’s learning.
Listen to the teacher
It’s easy to get wrapped up in all that you’re doing for your own classroom, but you also have an obligation to your child or children to be the kind of involved parent you want for your own students. Complete that reading the log, get those permission slips turned in on time, ensure homework is getting done and show up to school events. Of course, sometimes we can’t do it all and that’s OK! Be humble and honest about what is going on. Also remember your child’s teacher is likely orchestrating the same work and family balance as you. They get it.
Being a teacher-parent is like being a regular parent, only cooler. You know what’s going on in school differently than other parents. Take the opportunity to be an excellent advocate, colleague and ally to your child’s teacher.