I know this is an old hat topic, but I heard something new about it which changed my thinking about it. It came from a non educationalist, but it really resonated and is something I am going to try to build more explicitly with my parents over the coming months.
This was a new leader talking about vision. The point was that people will always want something different in some areas. The idea is easily translatable to education as we know. Some want more homework, some want less. Some want the school stricter, some think it is too strict. Some want it more academic, some want it more pastoral. In some areas, what we provide will be absolutely aligned with parents want. The problem comes when there is a gap between what they want and what we provide. This happens for a variety of reasons but mainly practical or ideological, but the point the speaker was making was this:
What do people fill the gap with?
Too often the gap is filled with suspicion. We must encourage them to fill it with trust instead. We’ve all seen that the default is suspicion. That’s what causes the sniping on the playground. We’ve seen the suspicion when a child has an issue and parents may come in all guns blazing having only heard their child’s side of the story. They are filling their gaps in understanding with suspicion rather than trust. How can we change this though? We all know that we have thought things through, we all know we have good reasons for doing things, but do we communicate this enough? It frustrates me when parents kick back against a decision we’ve made or a path that we’ve chosen, but maybe some of that is my fault. Have I explained it properly? Have I gone through the rationale for it, at a level they will understand? Have I done enough to make them understand it has been thought through?
I have been working on this so far this year. I am finding I am over explaining things. I have a parent body who will question and probe often, they are used to doing it in their jobs etc, so they apply it to us. It will take time, but already I have had less comeback over the changes I am making – heavily reduced marking in books for example. Not one comeback. Often we think we have been clear, we think we have justified it, but actually to a none educationalist it still doesn’t make sense. It needs to be done until the automatic response is to fill the gap between what they want and what they get with trust. I have already explained the idea to prospective parents for next year – the seed has been sown. I’m not saying there is no trust in my school – but it can feel like that sometimes. A shift in parents’ first response will make life easier for everyone.
This works for parents, but also for children and staff. Are teachers explicit enough in why something is changing or why they have done it one way and not another? If teachers can justify the way they have dealt with an incident and explain it clearly, it is no problem to back them up to parents, and the parents, once they have heard the rationale are fine. That’s why we get in first if there has been an incident during the day Make the phone call, or catch them at the end of the day, explain, give the reasons and be clear, build trust and we have the potential to bring a close community even closer. The first response will be to back us up and know it has been thought through and the best practical option has been taken. Win win.
Trust, it’s magic.