Don’t Should on your Parents

October 27, 2022

I love the start of the new school year. Everything is fresh and clean. It’s a fantastic opportunity to set goals for my classroom and for myself. These goals typically are phrased as comparatives and superlatives, learning from past experiences, and wanting to get it “right.”

It can be easy to be a little too enthusiastic at times.

In my imagination, this is the year the children in my classroom work equally in all areas, the year I have fantastic relationships with all my families, the year the smallest cube from the Pink Tower never goes missing, no chair un-tucked, no cough uncovered.

These goals require a level of self-reflection that, if I’m being honest with myself about my challenging areas, can leave me feeling open and vulnerable. Let me provide you with an example:

When a parent comes in the first week of school and tells me they taught their child to read this summer and could I please guide them away from those Practical Life works and work more on reading with them, I feel deflated, hurt, and maybe even grouchy. What do they think I do all day?! Don’t they know washing tables is important?! Wasn’t that the point of the last parent education?!

It was during one such temper tantrum – excuse me, a moment of reflection – that I became aware of how my passing comments to a parent might feel. In the classroom, I have the benefit and gift of seeing 26 little humans for at least 8 hours every day. When one of them is struggling with math, isn’t very interested in the newest presentation I gave them, or is having a tough time with friends, I know that these things are completely normal, unsurprising, and typical.

Sometimes, when a parent asks how their child’s day was, I mention one of these things without even thinking about it. In that temper-tantrum moment, I realized how critical, judgmental, and punitive this must sound. I can only imagine what this parent might be thinking.

– If it weren’t a big deal, why would she even bring it up?

– Surely my child must be the only child in the history of the world who ever had this issue.

– If this is what she is telling me, how much more must be going on that is even worse???

When a parent makes a passing comment to me about their child’s development and work, I take it very personally. This quality is part of what makes me good at my job. When I make these comments to a parent, it is more than a comment on their job, it’s a comment on their parenting, which is so much bigger.

Parents certainly don’t have 26 children at home, so how would they know this issue is not a big one, barely even a blip on the radar, forgotten as soon as it was mentioned? In the interest of being open and friendly with a parent, I have inadvertently stuck my foot in my mouth, hurt their feelings, and be critical.

One of this year’s goals is to ask me the same questions I ask the children in my class. Is it kind? Is it helpful? I hope I can keep the memory of this vulnerable moment fresh. My goals for this year include one that affects my classroom, but more in the style of an Indirect Preparation: don’t should on your parents. We’re all doing the best we can with the information and abilities we have at the time. Be as gentle with parents as you are with the new children. We are all fragile when it comes to these small people we love so much.

Leave a Comment