As a mother and a teacher, I know how difficult it is to receive news from your child’s teacher that you weren’t expecting. Especially when your child is under the age of 6. You arrive at your parent/teacher feedback meeting to hear about how your child is doing at school and let’s face it, what you’re expecting to hear is how your child’s teacher sees all the wonder in your precious child and that she recognises the amazing qualities that you see.
Believe me, delivering that news is not as easy as you think. As a teacher, you know it is your responsibility to share with that parent the concerns you have about their child. You also know that this may be the first time that a parent is hearing about any challenges their child is experiencing. As a mother, you know how hard it is to hear that news.
Recently, as I delivered such a report to a mom, she looked at me as if I had betrayed her and told me that she had never received bad news about her child before. The news was not bad news, it was only that the child needed some support to deal with some postural control difficulties as the child tended to roll around on the mat and was unable to sit upright at the tables. The following day she told me that she cried all the way home and, although shared in a compassionate way, the news was very hard to swallow. She also told me that in her eyes her child was perfect and she was disappointed that I found a deficit in her amazing child.
As educators, we should recognise that this journey is as much about working with parents as it is about educating their children. Our work is about building the relationships with parents as well as children, and the strength of the relationship helps us bridge the divide when difficult news is shared. In fact, it took the whole term for that mom to request another meeting, and to share with me that she herself noticed similar difficulties in her child at home. Her child was unable to sit at the dinner table and often would take a bite and then leave her seat until the next bite. She would watch TV hanging off the back of the couch or she would play on her tablet while doing handstands on the floor. It took months for the parents to reach the point where they were ready to look at putting support in place to help their child, but they got there.
Let’s not forget that some recommendations are more difficult to deliver than others, and in all we do, we need to be kind and compassionate to the parents who will walk the journey with their children, while we hold them for a year at a time.