Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Grishaver + Epstein = ?

So, from Grishaver we understand that many Jewish parents carry "baggage" with them when they bring their children to our religious school. Some of that baggage they (and we) are aware of -- some of it is more subtle, perhaps not even named.

From Epstein, we learn that there are a variety of ways in which parents can (and should) be involved and that parental involvement is key to student success. Most of us already knew that, but she provides the research data which validate our instinctive knowledge.

How to combine the two - that's the question.

Here's what I know about parents, born out by years and years of experience:
  • Parents have choices today. They CHOOSE to send their children to our school specifically. Their reasons for choosing our school may - or may not - be nuanced. But they could chose NOT to affiliate.
  • Before parents can hear what I have to say about their child, I may need to hear what they have to say.
  • People only share "stuff" (about themselves, their children, their circumstances) if they believe it is safe to share.

We know that we need to meet learners where they're at before we can bring them along to where we want them to go. Same thing with parents.

We need to listen (without thinking about our response while they talk).

We need to acknowledge that we understand how they feel, even if we don't agree.

We need to value their children. They are bringing us the very best children they have -- we're not getting the dregs -- but the best they have.

We need to value the trust that they have in us to do the right thing by their children.

We need to understand that any relationship is a two-way street. At the same time, because of the "baggage," we may need to model for them how that relationship should be conducted.

We need to convey that we know they are making the best choices they can for their family. Those choices may not be the ones we would make for our family, but they are charged with the responsibility for making all the pieces fit together for their family.

Not easy, is it? But then, if it was - everyone would be doing it and there'd be no need to grapple with the issue.

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