A lot of what was discussed in the previous blog post, An Understanding of the Communication and Collaboration between Parent and Teacher, is applicable from the perspective of the parent to the teacher/Guide as well. In fact, it is really applicable for most interactions. However, when I think of what can be added or helpful here when the roles are reversed, I think about my previous experience and others' experiences that have been shared with me. I ask myself, what can I share that might be helpful for parents themselves or in their communications with Guides and/or administrators of Montessori schools in conjunction with this format and image?
For better or worse and for what it is worth, this is what I have come up with and I hope you find it useful. Ultimately, parents think to themselves, “I want what is best for my child.” One step further is that they know their child has to get an education, one way or another: home school, public, private, charter or alternative. So, obviously we are continuing this communication as the parent who has chosen a path for their child to receive a Montessori education.
(From the perspective of a parent) “As a parent there are so many things I want to know, even if it is not conscious. There are things I do not even know I want to know. There are things that I think should be obvious for my child’s teacher to communicate with me as well as the school administration. I am also too busy to sometimes care, remember, or ask. So, I want my child’s teacher and the school to intuit these things and communicate them. After all, I am paying them a lot of money. I do not want to have to accept to trust even if I say that I can or will. My child and their future is in your hands and I want to know. With all this training and experience, I want you to provide me with easy to access and straightforward information because I am too busy to get anything long winded, whether I am a stay at home parent or a full time working parent. I may not make it to every event or respond to every communication, but I still want to come. Sometimes, I even want you to figure out a convenient time for me to read your communication or attend a school event.”
This is both true for the parent that is more laid back and the “helicopter” or “lawnmower” parent. Why? As adults, we still have an innate desire to evolve and do better. We are former children with needs, desires, characteristics and tendencies that are both tapped and untapped, realized and unrealized. As parents, we need to be inspired just like our children. As a parent this is what we are communicating intentionally and unintentionally. This is what a parent wants to say to their child’s teacher, whether they know it or not; this is just what the Guide should be hearing. “I know you think you were only trained for my child’s education, but you were actually trained to educate us both. The principle of following and inspiring the child also applies to us. My child won’t get the full benefit of a Montessori education without me being on board. This is the paradigm I need you and the school to break through. I am going to place demands on you, spoken and unspoken. Sometimes I’ll say something and mean something completely different."
Now that we got through that, how do we work through it with this model?
Parents need to be given an awareness not only of the goals for their child, which include the general outline for the year and for three years, but also an awareness of the importance of a willingness to collaborate. If a parent is already aware, then they need to communicate with the Guide. A parent should request, or a Guide should make sure they have a meeting with parents to find out what each other’s goals are for their child. Montessori teachers are used to just accepting children and having families trust the process. Parents are used to just sending their child to school. This is essentially what goes on and there is no problem, until there is and there is always a problem.
So, I am writing from the parent’s vertex on the triangle to say, have a meeting with your Guide before school starts or at the very beginning. Go over goals, expectations, and get concrete, at least simplified information about the program you are signing your child up for. The paradigm of an isolated school/home experience must be broken. The unspoken misunderstandings and assumptions between home and school in a Montessori environment need to end. The only way to do that is through active communication and listening, follow through, and follow-up. It is the Guide’s and school's responsibility to find a way to inspire the adult to such communication. Having a more active, conscious and collaborative ongoing communication provides protection for possible future conflicts. Our role is to inspire and figure out how to best role model how we interact with the children, providing congruency for the adult.
In conclusion, for now, let’s recap. Review the previous blog post, because the information there is applicable here for the dialogue and understanding from parent to Guide as well. Adults are people, who have already experienced being a child, who still want to and need to be followed and inspired also, whether conscious of it or not. Parents and Guides should have an understanding that Guides were not just trained to educate the child and that parents don’t want to be “educated,” because that makes them feel inferior, even if they are communicating otherwise. Human beings do not like to be preached to; that is another reason why lessons tend to be so successful in a Montessori environment. Guides do not preach to children, nor do they come across that way. Do something different and meet with parents at the beginning of the year to establish a clearer understanding. This seems like a lot that the parent is asking, but the parent is not asking. This is what the parent and Guide signed up for when the parent became aware that a Montessori education was best for their child and the Guide decided that they wanted to devote their career choice to serving the child.