So this year at my school, we have spent a fair amount of time focusing on kindness. Our students and staff have made conscious efforts to treat each other with kindness, always trying to presume the best intentions. So far, people around the school have been energized by this and has led to Guidance and classroom lessons on kindness as well.
School related bullying and meanness has been around for a long time. One of the large differences between that behavior when I was young versus today, is that when kids went home, they could escape the meanness and the discouragement. These days, social media apps such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc, mean that children can’t escape the negativity. They are surrounded by it 24/7. While social media has the capacity for good, such as allowing families and friends to stay connected even if they are separated by great distances, often times, when we find that students have not been kind to each other, social media is at play.
Children are not the only ones that use social media. Many communities, clubs, and towns have websites, Facebook pages, etc. that act as forums for adults to both praise and persecute. Much like we see with children, it is often easier for a person to type negative comments, rather than make the effort to seek out face to face conversation to work out differences. Sadly, I have seen schools and teachers be the targets of such posts all too often. While public education is often a targeted topic for politicians, newspapers, and television, it is the personalization that social media allows that makes it so pervasive. When it comes to education and social media, I encourage folks to “Praise Locally and Criticize Globally”.
You may have seen teachers, family, and friends, referenced negatively in a post. Slandering a teacher’s name or alluding to a specific teacher in a media post does little to solve a problem. While there may be an allure to public venting, an actual conversation with the teacher about a frustration or miscommunication does so much more to resolve the situation. Overall, as an educator, I have had great experiences with parents. Some of whom I have become friends with and most of whom I respect greatly. It is no easy job being a parent. I was always fond of telling those parents who apologized for calling me to “complain/discuss” their child, that they should not apologize for being their child’s advocate, even if they are doing it in an emotional manner. Frankly, I am more concerned with the parents who don’t advocate for their kids, or who are not emotional about their child’s education and well-being. I just wish folks would refrain from posting their concerns online.
Communication works best when it goes both ways. As teachers, we often take for granted that our students are talking to their parents about school, and while we provide constant feedback to our students, the major methods of communication home are often the student agenda books, webpages, progress reports and the report cards that go out every few weeks. Please consider these a strong part of our overall communication. If there is something that is not understood or concerning, email or call, and we can talk about how we can move forward to ensure learning. Most times, this results in teachers, parents, students, and principals being on the same page. It takes time, communication, and understanding so that we all have each other’s best interests at heart but we have to start by assuming best intentions.
Overall, schools work best if we all assume best intentions and increase communication, (and not through Facebook). If I had one thing to offer to parents (and teachers) it is that positive communication, early and often, is key to creating a strong partnership between home and school. Take time to think about all the positives we experience with regard to our children’s education, and then highlight some of them with a note or phone call. I assure you, you’ll make someone’s day, and you’ll be glad you did.