Educating parents?

Today I am contemplating the role of the early childhood teacher in educating parents. This is quite a polarising topic in education, you either think parents need to be educated as to the value of play based learning or you don’t. I have yet to meet a teacher who thinks parent should sort of be educated.

In the interests of being up front, this is what I think…
Parents should not be educated by early childhood teachers as to the value of play based learning.
This is just my opinion and I can’t wait to read your thoughts in the comments section below. Now that you know what I think, let me explain to you why.

It’s a matter of language. When we talk about educating parents the implication is that the parents are ignorant, and need enlightening by us the early childhood teachers. This perspective, of the teacher as the one with all the knowledge and the parent as ignorant, undervalues what parents bring to the relationship. An alternative to educating parents is to share with parents. For example, telling a parent a story about what their child did today… “I saw Johnny use his pincer grip for the first time today!” As teachers we see so many fantastic exciting learning moments throughout the day. I am a parent myself and it is these exciting moments that I want shared with me, including their educational value, not a lecture on what curriculum subjects are hidden within my child’s play. That’s actually really boring.

The language we choose is a window into our underlying beliefs and attitudes. Point being if you do not think parents need to take a class on play based learning with you as the teacher, perhaps you should think harder about your language.

Talk to your audience. The key is knowing your parents and talking to them where they are. Sometimes parents are stressed and in a hurry after a busy day at work and they just don’t have the ears for listening to your great story about pre-literacy skills. Maybe pre-lit skills are number 100 on the list of what is important for their child to be developing. Every family is different with different goals and expectations for their child and their child’s teacher. Child advocacy issues aside, who are we to tell parents what is important for their child? We are in their lives for a year or two, their parents are there for life. Also who’s to say that what we consider important right now will still be important in a few years time? The truth is we can’t know what skills or knowledge is going to be relevant to the children of today as they grow up and enter the work force.

Let me know your opinion!
If you are a teacher, how do you share the exciting learning happening in your classroom with your families?
If you are a parent, what kind of information would you like to hear about your child’s learning? How would you like that information presented? Casual conversation? Parent teacher interview?


3 thoughts on “Educating parents?

  1. As a parent, I agree! Parents do need education and support, but they also need to be respected for the knowledge they have of their own kids. So sharing with them, rather than educating them sounds great. And understanding that teachers are inputting into the kids for a short amount of time in comparison is a key perspective.

    In saying that, teachers can add so much to the kids learning. Its worth knowing, as a parent, that the teacher isn’t just ‘babysitting’, but allowing the kid to develop and supporting their learning. I think it’s critical that the parents can see the value the teachers add, as much as the teachers need to value the parents.

    • Hi Kathryn. Thanks for taking the time to respond with the parents perspective! I am glad to hear that parents are looking for more than a babysitting arrangement for their children and are interested in what learning is taking place. Have a great day!

  2. ‘Educating parents’…emm….sounds rather draconian and a little patronising. I much prefer words like sharing, laughing, friendship and respect.. As a parent of a 16 year old son, watching him grow, develop and learn from a new born to a teenager has been and will continue to be frustrating and scary but always fascinating. This is and continues to be OUR story. My point being is I want to learn about my child’s day from a friend rather than what the pro’s and con’s of ‘play learning’. I have attended enough child/teacher interviews and left feeling a little inadequate as to whether or not my child has attained the national average.

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