Why not be the educator who changes how a parent views school?
*This video contains graphic language*
For a variety of reasons parents can be weary of schools, teachers, and principals. Maybe their educational experience was less than ideal. Perhaps, they have been taken advantage of as parents. Possibly, their child did not receive the opportunities they should have. Parents carry these negative experiences with them to teacher conferences, email conversations, and grocery store run-ins.
Helen Hunt (Carol) in As Good as It Gets has a son who suffers from a variety of medical issues. As a single, low-income earning mother, she receives the constant run around from doctors and healthcare providers. In this scene, Jack Nicholson (Melvin) , a wealthy author, sends his publisher’s husband, a doctor played by Harold Ramis (Dr. Bettes), to personally take care of Carol’s son.
Carol has a hard time comprehending the situation. She goes from nervous to angry to shocked in a matter of moments. She is unable to believe that this type of care is possible for her son. The years of neglect from the medical field has left her jaded and untrusting, rightfully so. Towards the end of the scene Dr. Bettes says, “Whatever I find out, I promise you, at the very least, from now on your son is going to feel a great deal better.” Following this comment, the camera pauses on Carol for a long time. She does not say a word. But, you can tell by her face that for the first time she has hope. Hope that her son will live the normal life every parent imagines for their child.
As educators we can get into a rhythm of making sweeping generalizations about students and parents. We can assume that we know everything about a family situation before meeting them. A 12:30 conference can be seen as a 30 minute inconvenience or an obstacle standing in the way of lunch. I ask that you stop treating that conference like a time and start treating it like a parent’s hope. Get to know your families. Learn how they got there. Gaining the perspective of the child’s greatest advocate can unlock additional pieces of the puzzle. I challenge you to be the one who tells a parent that no matter what experiences they have had in the past, “from now on your child is going to feel a great deal better.”