A facebook post by fellow Green Lacer, Donna Rossi, got me thinking. She shared her observation that posts that she makes about education go unnoticed by her friends, but a picture of her dog will get 20 likes in a minute. I have also made this observation, and have shared Donna’s frustration. I have been troubled by the apathy of my friends. I have even said to myself, “They are just like some of my students! They don’t care about anything!” Then I realized something. They are just like some of my students. One thing that I have learned from years in the classroom is that many times, students that appear not to care are actually interested, but ill equipped to participate. It is easier to say “I don’t care,” or nothing at all, than to say, “I don’t understand this.” This is especially true when the rest of the class appears knowledgeable and is fully engaged in a lively discussion. Some of our parent friends must feel the same way.
Sometimes we interpret the “silence” about posts to indicate apathy, but perhaps we need to be more sensitive to the differing experiences among parents, much like we do for our students. I loved everything about elementary school. I loved the adventure of learning and I was motivated by the energy and support of my teachers to continue to try and take risks. As these risks led to more success, I became a fearless learner that craved a challenge. I want the same experience for my children. The thought of that being taken from them led me to this movement. Had my experience in elementary school been different, my perception of the threat facing my children would probably be different.
Just as important as the perception of the learning experience is the perception of the players involved. The only interaction I ever had with the principal as a student was to get an award. The only reason I was sent to the office was to do my teacher a favor. I didn’t even know where detention was. As a teacher, I know many administrators and feel very comfortable sharing my opinions with them. My experience as a student, my college degree and my experience as a teacher give me confidence that I will be heard and respected, even if they disagree with what I am saying. Not everyone sees teachers and administrators the way that I do. To some, they are still the intimidating tyrants of their childhood and conversations with them promise to be tense. They may be afraid that they will not be heard or respected. They may fear that their own performance in school will diminish the validity of their concerns for their children. They may even doubt their concerns themselves.
We need all parents to join us in the fight to protect our kids, which means we need to empower all parents. If what works with students that have “shut down” applies to adults, which I’m sure it does, then we need to give them the background and support necessary to make them feel safe and welcome in the conversation. We need to address their reluctance to become involved and remind them that children have no better advocates than their own parents. We then need to smile, give them a pair of green laces, and welcome them to the ranks of proud and determined parents that have had enough and will take no more.