Last night was Open House, the time parents come to school, visiting all their child’s classes and teachers. I used to get all nervous about it, but for the last several years I have been increasingly laid back. Sometimes these meetings have even been filled with authentic dialogue.
Last week I asked my advisory what it was that they wanted me to tell their parents at Open House. I thought the conversation would be short and I had some back-up activities to do to fill the time. Little did I know, but the floodgates had been opened. The students were filled with so many things to share, they were tripping over each other to make sure their stories and suggestions could be heard. When the period was over and the next class was coming in, they were still following me sharing last minute tidbits and anecdotes. They reminded me during the day yesterday to share with their parents what they had shared with me.
These are their words: Chill. Calm down. Trust us. Understand us. Let us be more independent. Don’t blame us. I’m overbooked. You don’t understand how stressful school is for us. Listen to me. Hear me out. Too much pressure. Parents manage my time. Why can’t I have more down time? I want to manage my own life.
I read this last night to the parents of my advisory, who were all sitting around a large table. I also shared that I thought we (the school) were certainly part of the stress issue as well. The parents were moved. They heard, but I’m not sure they owned what the kids said. They understood it as a very complex situation— that they were only a small piece of a larger culture involving peers (theirs and the child’s), school culture, and the larger pressures of “success.” Some shared that they have never put emphasis on grades so the message was clearly coming from elsewhere. I kept reiterating that really what I felt was behind their children’s words was a desire to be trusted to take control of their own responsibilities, to function independently.
This morning I asked my advisory for feedback—what had their parents shared with them about last night’s Open House? JZ said her mother was really loving and wanted to talk with her about school, which she said was not her usual behavior, especially not at 10:00 at night. LT said her mom wanted to know about her stress levels. BF said his parents wanted him to know that if he worked hard, doing the best he could, that grades didn’t matter. EN said his mom asked him if he had practiced his cello.
We all know that parenting is a tricky business. Sometimes our eyes are down the road and into the future, when we really ought to be engaged in the moment— in this very moment. Sometimes by focusing on dreams and opportunities for our children, we avoid or minimize or miss the here and now.
It seems that there was a lot more to be open to at Open House this year.