Being an Ally in an “Us vs. Them” World

 

 

One day last Spring, I substitute taught in kindergarten. The class was, let’s say, energetic and, let’s be honest, I was fairly unseasoned in the world of kindergarten at that point. Nonetheless, I did my best and most of them followed suit. A couple children struggled to cooperate and I asked them to sit at their tables, rather than the carpet, until they were ready to be calm with the group.

 

classroom

 

I kept glancing at them periodically, because I was eager to invite them back. During one such glance, I happened to notice one little boy using his tool kit scissors to snip at his hair.

 

I put an end to that, got things back on track, and the day went on. At the end, while writing my note to the teacher, I mentioned that this child had had a tough day, was often defiant, and had cut his hair while at his table.

 

Now, unsurprisingly, this particular student was not known for being an angel. The teacher was in daily communications with his mother regarding how he was doing. In her email the following day, she (the teacher) mentioned the hair incident.

 

She was caught off-guard by the reply:

 

“I asked E. if he cut his hair. He insists he did not. Your substitute is a liar.”

 

Now, the classroom teacher knew I hadn’t lied. Let’s be honest here– what would I possibly stand to gain from claiming some child cut his hair? There is nothing about this that makes me look good or plays to my advantage.

 

On the other hand, let’s consider why a little five year old might perhaps not want to tell his mom the truth about cutting his hair.

 

Which seems more likely?

 

But, rather than consider that her son might want to avoid getting in trouble, the mother immediately jumped to calling me a liar.

 

I’d love to say that this is a very rare occurrence, but the truth is that it’s not. We’re living in a day and age when it is absolutely common for parents to believe their children over the teachers without exception.

 

And that’s a problem.

 

Listen, I GET that we need to be advocates for our kids. Trust me– I’m very familiar with having to speak up, call meetings, and make things happen in order to ensure that my children are getting the educations to which they’re entitled.

 

HOWEVER.

 

Teachers, in almost every case, are on the same side as parents.

 

They are not the enemy. They are not “liars.” They are not out to get our kids.

 

Are there sometimes missteps or miscommunications? Sure. We’re all human. But those things are easily resolved by calm-minded, allied people. I often point out that I have an incredible success rate with getting problems solved at the school– and it’s not because I go in there all ready to fight. I go in assuming we all want what’s best and will work together to get it fixed.

 

We need to draw the line between advocacy and blind support to the point of ignorance.

 

Stand up for your kids, yes.

 

But understand that that isn’t a synonym for standing against the teacher.

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