Teens on the Tenth – a monthly post dedicated to everything teenage themed! This month we have an awesome post from guest blogger Vanessa. She brings up some really important points about the complexities of communicating with parents. Please give it a read and leave some feedback about your experiences communicating with parents. I think this discussion will help give us all some direction and ideas!
Everyday of teaching, is another day of realizations of just how much more I need to learn. There are so many aspects of our job, that I begin to feel like a jack of all trades but a master of none. One of the areas that I struggle most with is finding ways to communicate with parents. It’s not that I don’t want to talk with them, it’s just that what I have to say is often difficult and experience has shown me that my own skills are called into judgement when I brooch “sensitive” topics. One of the many “sensitive” topics that I find difficult to approach at the high school level is sexuality. I am sure we have all seen it and have tried every which way to Sunday to teach “public” versus “private” behavior, but we are often not allowed by constraintsby school districts to elaborate on that. In comes the discussion with the parents, “Hi Mr. and Mrs. SoandSo, your son/daughter touches his/her genitals frequently throughout the day. Have you had the birds and the bees talk? In my 5 years of teaching, I have only had one parent who was willing to talk about the changes his sons body was going through as a teenager and was willing to work at home with his son to reinforce that certain behaviors are for private. I am not sure why there is a disconnect or why it is hard for us all to address the obvious, but I would love to know what other people have done to address budding sexuality in our high school students, especially our students who are considered cognitively low functioning.
My other struggle when reaching out to parents is handling unrealistic expectations of what I am capable of doing in the classroom. Each year we conduct assessments and based on those assessments design learning activities to move each student to the next skill level. I often hear “well, my son can do that. You just tried that with him on a bad day.” Prior to teaching I was a Vocational Assessment Specialist. I would conduct 3 weeks of assessments to gauge a suitable placement, whether it be
supported employment or training, for persons with disabilities. I had to learn to deal some hard blows about people’s sons and daughters current level of functioning. But for some reason, as a teacher I find it hard to tell families that according to the assessments, their son/daughter is on a Pre-K level. Help?
Yet another issue that I find myself struggling with is calling a parent to tell themthat their son/daughter has physically harmed myself, another staff member, or a student. Now this is high school. Most of our students are boys, and they are big. Injury is not stranger. Yet still, I dread that phone call home because I know that no parent wants to hear that their child has hurt someone else. I have found that more often than not a parent will say “someone must have provoked him” or they won’t respond at all. I don’t know about you all, but coming to work the day after being kicked by a 6’2” 20-year old is difficult when I do not feel like I have the support of the family.
This leads me to what has been the most difficult aspect of communicating with the families of my students. I simply cannot get a hold of them. I try all methods but itseems as our guys age, parental involvement wanes. Not being a parent of a child with special needs I am looking to lay no blame, but am asking if anyone has found a way to involve our families more in addressing their childs needs?
I was hoping this would be more of an advice piece but as I was writing it, I realized that I was the one in desperate need of advice.
Thanks Vanessa! I completely agree. I struggle with a lot of these same issues. Thoughts???