By Kevin Thames
You are standing in the hallway, outside your classroom door, saying goodbye to your students as the school day has come to a close. Your students are on their way to their lockers as parents are entering the school to pick up their children. You happen to see one of your students’ parents. You throw out a, “How are you doing this afternoon?” The parent begins to share with you, and the words as brush strokes create a painting in your mind as you now have greater clarity into the life of that family.
Have you ever had a moment like this? Maybe you have. Maybe your school’s method of dismissal does not allow for this setting to occur. Maybe you can’t remember what school dismissal is due to the changes we are currently experiencing in our world today. I have a feeling, however, that at one point or another we have all experienced something like this.
In that conversation, the parent is opening up to you because you have provided something extremely important for him or her. A person who is willing to bear another’s burdens in love, and someone who is trusted with the details of life that are being shared, would certainly be considered in the “essential” category in my book.
What does it take to be “that” person? You love people, you have a genuine desire to help others, and you want to empower people for the path to success. If this weren’t true of me, I might rethink my calling.
What is the element that stands in the way of taking advantage of opportunities like the one above? If you answered, TIME… then I would wholeheartedly agree with you! With all the grading, creating assignments, lesson planning, etc… who has time for pausing in the hallway long enough to commit to what could be an hour-long conversation?
As classical educators, we stress the importance of in loco parentis. Parents are made aware of this concept typically during the admissions process. Before signing up to put their children in your school, the parents assume a teacher’s willingness to serve, and the trust is already there for cultivating a relationship. The key here is the relationship between the teacher and the parent. If there is to be a true partnership between the teacher and the parent, then time needs to be dedicated to the cultivation of that relationship.
In my time as an educator I have found that “counselor” is built into the title of teacher. Whether we knowingly signed up for it or not, we are seen as the professional and parents look to us as having the keys to setting their children up for success. Because of this, we have an especially unique opportunity. The ball is in our court for taking the initiative and pursuing these relationships. Yet, the issue of time arises again… With all the “opportunities” that face teachers on a regular basis, how can we find time for this important connection that reaps immense benefits when guiding a parent to set their child up for success?
Prioritization is the answer. We have made time in our lives for being frantic and running from one activity to another with no breathing room. Why can’t we make time for the opposite? It is a choice. The same way we set aside time to visit with friends and leave the baggage behind so we can truly and wholeheartedly enjoy that time, we can choose to put money in the savings account of parent relationships. That will reap benefits the next time you have to address a difficult situation concerning a child. Would you rather enter a difficult conversation knowing the parent well enough to relate to them, or perform a cold call without any relationship formed prior to the event? We both know the answer to that question.
Set aside time each week to connect with a parent by asking how they are doing. Sometimes the parent will jump on the opportunity, and you will get an earful about school; but sometimes a parent just needs to know they have someone else in the trenches with them fighting the same battles. Put some money in the “savings account” of relational communication with parents. The payout will be greater than you can imagine.
Kevin Thames is the Director of Academics and a grammar stage teacher at the Classical School of Wichita. He attended Moody Bible Institute where he studied Education. He has over 20 years of experience in education in K-8 and K-12 schools as a teacher and an administrator. During college, Kevin met his wife Susan, who is also a grammar stage educator. They have 3 children who attend the Classical School of Wichita.