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Respecting Parents

Susan Notes: This observation, quoted with permission from an NCTE list, makes me feel good to identify myself as "teacher." The good news is that in the midst of accountability pressures driving teachers to blame parents, teachers still stand up for what's important.

Some of the parents of my students [at Rochester Off-Campus Charter High School] have lives entirely out of control and are a big part of the students' problems. So, I can approach them as obstacles to their childrens' success, or as other human beings struggling mightily with life (and sometimes losing) who are the parents of these children whom they love, even though they may not always act in the kids' best interest. Assuming the latter, I then work on communicating my concerns, appreciation, etc., and take an interest also in their concerns. I have no adversarial relationships with parents, and realize that this is partly luck. But even with difficult parents, I try to listen to where they're coming from. This makes everything so much easier, because for one thing, then I DO know where they're coming from, and secondly, it is much easier to enlist their cooperation when it is needed. I take the same stance with parents that I do with kids--no matter where they put themselves in relation to me, I try always to
stand beside them before I respond (metaphorically, of course).

This year my students have created a school website, and the parents are proud. During the coming year I'll have student work on the web pages. I call parents with both concerns about and kudos for their children. Our school has the attitude that parents are partners, and we work hard always to act as if this is true, which usually it is. In the rare cases when it doesn't work, we just deal with it. But I think the key is establishing respectful relationships with parents when times are good.

This year two parents asked if they could come to our prom, because they hadn't been able to go to theirs. We said sure, and they danced and had a great time. Flexibility is good.

— Mary Tigner-Rasanen


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