As a classroom teacher, a Learning Support Teacher and even as a Vice-Principal, I’ve heard this countless time, as I am sure most educators have as well.
What have you thought when a parent tells you this? How have you responded?
Your reaction may have been something like, “Yah, ummmm sure!”. Those words were muttered only in your head, of course, I hope. Yes, I’ve muttered those same words to myself on a number of occasions.
Being a parent though, has really opened my mind in so many ways.
I understand parents and children so much different now that I have my own children.
Take my 4-year-old son as an example.
He is having difficulty with his speech. He has difficulty making certain sounds and is on a wait list for individual speech therapy. In the meantime, we have activities to do at home with him which have really been helping.
We were invited to a Summer Speech Camp, taking place once a week for 5 weeks. We go to class for 1 1/2 hours to work on s-blends (i.e. spot, spider, stop, snake, etc…).
At the beginning of the Summer Speech Camp, my son couldn’t even make the /s/ sound. Not at all. It was a real struggle and I had a real challenging time helping him. We didn’t argue about it or anything like that, I just wasn’t sure how to help. I wasn’t sure what to do. My suggestions just weren’t working.
But, after completing 3 weeks of the 5-week Speech Camp, he was making the sound so much better….
Well, I thought he was.
At home he was saying…. “ssssssnake”, ”ssssssnow”, “sssssspace” (this is very hard because of the two /s/ sounds), “ssssspot”, “sssssssoup”…. and on and on. I was so impressed with his effort and progress (which I told him multiple times each day).
Then we went to the 4th week session of the Speech Camp.
We walk in and I was so proud of my son. I couldn’t wait for him to show off what he was now able to do.
Hmmmmmm…. I guess that expectation was my first mistake.
When it came time for us to play our games with each other, Pauli just couldn’t seem to make the /s/ sound at all. Just couldn’t do it. He was too excited about the game. He wasn’t really focusing on the sounds, but rather, he was focusing on ‘winning’ the game. Poor little guy. Of course, he wasn’t bothered in the least. He was confident and he just kept persevering. As the speech therapist was watching, I almost heard myself say to her, “But, he made the /s/ sound at home all week.”
I didn’t say it. Instead, I continued to encourage and tell my son what great effort he was putting forth and for him to keep trying. In turn, I reflected upon what this was teaching me – as a parent and as an educator. I would like to share the following tidbits:
- It is important not to put too much pressure on your child(ren)/student(s).
- Continue to be patient and understanding, knowing that your child (student) is trying their best and that he/she wants to please and would do anything to please.
- Continue to encourage, both your students and their parents.
- If a parent says, “But, he does it at home,” please do not judge. Please do not think that the parent is making this up. Trust and believe that the parent is telling the truth.
- Know that it takes time to develop skills. As parents and educators, we must demonstrate patience and understanding.
- Know that regardless how comfortable you make your classroom and your school, many students will feel most comfortable at home and, as a result, may actually demonstrate certain skills where they feel the most comfortable first. This does not mean that they won’t demonstrate these skills in their classroom, it may just take a little more time.
- As an educator, you may think you know your students quite well, and you likely do, but remember, the child’s parent will always know their child better. Our student’s parents are their first, and most important, teachers.
- Acknowledge the parent, let them know that yes, they may be able to do this skill at home, where they feel most comfortable, but, in time, they will demonstrate the same skill at school.
I hope that you will consider some of these points when dealing with your students and their families this year. I know I will.
I want to thank my son for teaching me another important lesson.