In leading a growing school-aged OST (Out-Of-School) program, serving over 120 students this summer, our families have invested in us based largely on established trust, years in the making for many.
That trust enables my program staff and me not only to assist our parents to navigate their school choices but to speak freely, safely and as a family when uncomfortable student issues arise. It enables our ability to access student data, provide immediate interventions where necessary and ultimately tailor programmatic aspects to fit individual needs.
Without that trust, our ability to help ensure student gains is severely hampered, especially if we are limited to our parental dialogue. And if as advocates we are unafraid to speak truth to power, we must trust in our parents’ ability to examine the truths that too often, can contribute to the larger problem due to perceived apathy, lack of awareness or, in this case, just how they communicate with their kids.
Take our first week of summer camp as an example. In the administration of disciplinary action for student behavior, one of our parents chose to berate their child in a manner, verbally, I would only call enlightening. Enlightening in that the demonstration informed much regarding how this child comports himself with adults and other children. In all honesty, I would have been less uncomfortable had the parent instead employed the “spare the rod” approach….elsewhere.
While this display is an outlier; each such instance is one too many. It is not the whole measure of the parents care for their children, this parent, in fact, is one that carefully and thoughtfully chose a district magnet school based on her children’s strengths, and following an assessment of the school’s overall performance. Further, as a result of years of relationship, we recognize external factors beyond their parent's control have very recently contributed negatively to a tenuous family stability dynamic.
I trust the parents’ comfort toward our relationship is why they allowed for an exchange that as a parent myself wreaked as vile, inappropriate and mentally abusive, without malicious intent but the wrong redirect.
But in hindsight, the failure to communicate effectively was not the parent’s alone. In this case, the failure was shared in that trust did not compel us their community partner to advocate on behalf of a child at their most vulnerable.
If fear is truly not an option where the work of saving our students is applied, then any and all that threaten our children’s prospects are fair game.
I can only trust our parents recognize this condition of our relationships together as we go forward with a common purpose.