Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Parent Parables: The Supportive Parent

As I had mentioned in a previous post, parents are an omnipresent force in any educational or extra-curricular setting. Whether it is school, soccer, or piano lessons, parents can become a teacher’s invaluable partner or tenacious barrier. I thought I would start this series on a positive note, and begin with the Supportive Parent. Before I begin, however, a few disclaimers:

Disclaimer #1: I am neither a parent nor a parenting expert. This series is not meant to be a critique of any parenting style, so take no offense. These are merely my experiences, or the observations generously shared by colleagues.

Disclaimer #2: I have taken the necessary measures to safeguard the identity of minors. Details may be altered or omitted in order to ensure and protect the privacy of minors and their family.

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The Supportive Parent is deeply valued by teachers. This parent strikes the balance and is encouraging and supportive, all while instilling a sense of integrity and discipline in their child. This parent is genuinely interested in what their child is involved in, and is equally as engaged in their child’s progress and growth.

The Supportive Parent is the type who engages in open communication with the teacher, and asks questions. How is Johnny doing? Does Mary need any supplies? What can I do to help Jack with x and y? How can I help or support the program? Etc. The Supportive Parent will ask questions about your teaching method, which I, personally, enjoy discussing. I adore involving parents in the learning process, especially so they may better understand what their child is practicing and learning.

Generally speaking, the child of a Supportive Parent tends to excel. For example, in a previous post I mentioned the mother and daughter who take tandem oboe lessons with me. When it came time to selecting an instrument the daughter picked the oboe. Her mother thought the oboe sounded like so much fun she decided to learn as well. At first we discussed back-to-back lessons, but scheduling issues brought forth the idea of a mother-daughter joint lesson. They are progressing at a phenomenal rate, and seem to be having a lot of fun learning together. Mother and daughter function as a tight-knit support system for each other. Of course, the daughter loves it when I tell her part of her weekly assignment is to help out her mom. It is beautiful to see a parent and child enrich their lives together, and I feel fortunate to work in such a wonderful atmosphere.

Now, I am not suggesting that every parent take up the clarinet or basketball or forensics because his or her child has. This would be an entirely impractical expectation. Honestly, one can only do so much and one only has so much energy. I believe the Supportive Parent comes in many forms, and honestly does the best that they can for their child. On a more typical and realistic scale, I consider the most useful thing a parent can do is to communicate. When a parent addresses genuine questions or concerns with a teacher, it is often provides useful insight for the educator and, hopefully, will benefit the child. However, the truly Supportive Parent does not cross the professional boundary line. He or she neither tells the teacher how to do his or her job, nor maliciously undermines the instructor (which, unfortunately, has been experienced by some colleagues).

As a private teacher, I experience the Supportive Parent type of the most. Generally speaking, this should not be too surprising, since enrolling in private lessons normally involves both parent initiated contact and regular opening of the wallet. However, even in the private setting, this is not always the case. We shall discuss the less or overly involved types in an upcoming post.

What have you experienced? Please, share you encounters.

Merry writings.

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