18 Jul Parent Teacher Meetings, a day of one-sided communication.
Piyush’s* father took out time from his business and reached school at 09:00 am to meet his teachers, who are in school on a Saturday to meet parents.
Parent-Teacher Meetings, usually held three to four times in an academic year, as a day dedicated for communication between primary caregivers of a child i.e. Parents and Teachers.
I do understand the motivation to assign these days in an academic calendar; however, I do not think it is as effective as it could be.
Based on reasonable observations in schools, first as a Student and now as a Counsellor, I think of PTMs more as a grievance exchange forum.
Piyush’s father sits patiently waiting for their turn to meet the class teacher. The class teacher seems eager to meet him too. Piyush, on the other hand, looks sad. Slouching and quiet, unlike of the chirpy Piyush I see in class talking to his friends, running in corridors and also shouting game suggestions.
The teacher calls them and I grab a chair to observe this particular meeting. The teacher begins with a recent event where Piyush’s behavior made a teacher feel insulted in front of an external school vendor. Father listens, looks at Piyush and listens again, the teacher continues her list and suggests to meet other subject teachers too.
The father does not look surprised, this is not new information.
This continues for some more time and then I intervened. I asked both of them “What do you think is causing Piyush to behave like this? ’’
Both quiet, think and answered they don’t know.
They know what he is doing which is unacceptable for teachers, classmates, parents but no is focussing on what is making him behave so.
This is what makes a parent-teacher meeting ineffective. Two parties of interest meeting to discuss what is happening and ending at that. It’s either what is working for a child (praise for good grades, discipline) or what is not working (critique for a poor grade, in-discipline), a conversation with no effective action plan.
Often centered around what is not working, PTMs is an exchange between parent and teachers, dragging the child even further from his/her development.
Why does this happen?
Communication, as we all know, is an exchange of information between two or more people. Both have to take roles of speaker and listener, interchangeably. In this case, the parties of interest often stay in the role of speaker leaving out the role of a listener.
When the primary caregivers only talk:
1. They focus on what is wrong
All efforts are put into talking about what a child is doing wrong than figuring out the motive for doing so. If a child disturbs the class and draws attention to himself, what do you think the child wants to direct attention to? what is it that is not being attended to about him?
2. They try to find whom to blame
When a child does not behave as per expectations (misbehaves), people find out a possible source or person to blame than focussing on solving the issue. If you think your child is disrespectful towards elders than scolding him think if you spoke ill about those people in front of him.
3. They categorize children
Naughty, shy, reserved, disturbing element, slow child, shabby, fat boy, thin girl, short girl are some terms people use to describe and discuss children. These are categories, which influence your behavior with children. Watch what you say about them to others and them.
4. They fail to make an action plan
Only talk no discussion on what makes kids do what they do is a failed communication. The interest is to protect children from harm and promote their development, so plan than just talking.
5. They punish children
Whether physical, verbal or a combination of them, children are punished by their caregivers somehow. Punishment considered as a method to correct behavior further damages children, most of which leaves a scar, forever.
6. They question their effectiveness
Good behavior of children is considered the result of hard work done by teachers, parents and opposite as a sign of failure as teachers and parents.
Behavior good or bad is a choice, of the child, irrespective of efforts put in by people around him. Your role is to help children make choices good for them, not consider is as a sense of accomplishment for yourself.
Children are impressionable and trusting.
Their self-concept is dependent on you, the primary caregivers and introducers to the world.
How you see them is how they would start seeing themselves. Also, whether you see them or not influences if they would or would not see themselves.
So what you do or don’t equally impact children.
How you should look after their well-being:
1. Find a medium other than parent/ teacher to vent out your grievances
The other caregiver should not be your point of contact to vent out and complain. It’s your source to create and action plan to improve child’s performance, remove inhibitions and help them.
2. Accept the child as he is
If you think a zebra should only be colored as black and white then you are wrong. Children are not born with these blocks of societal norms, you give it to them and inhibit their natural talents.
Children are born creative, unless someone blocks it by putting blocks on it.
3. Find out what your child needs
Focus on solving a problem as it needs than as you think it should be. Figure out what distracts your child, what or who bothers him, if he does not talk then what did he try to tell you that you did not listen to.
4. Fix your own self-image
Parenting or teaching is a not a game of success or failure. It’s a role you have taken amongst other roles as a spouse, sister, brother, husband, wife, sibling, neighbor. A child cannot be a source of your self-worth, that’s unrealistic, unrequited and wrong for the child to keep up with.
5. Undesired behavior is temporary…
Time does not stay the same, people do not stay the same. Similarly, a child usually will not behave the same way unless your actions cause him to repeat it.
6. Listen to what other caregivers say, with caution.
Be open and listen to what they have to say and evaluate if it’s a rant or a suggestion. Focus on what can be done than why it happened. Also, avoid sharing your own set of list.
Your children will definitely grow up to be successful adults, with jobs, happy relationships, etc. Unless something or someone interferes with it.
If you desire the best for your children, you would get out of their way.
If you wish to share your thoughts on this, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org