Diana Toma is an artist and the mother of a pre-schooler and a second-grader who attends a public school in Atlanta, Georgia – a school which encourages parents to volunteer at least 10 hours a year. Before they moved to Atlanta, her daughter had attended an alternative school in Brooklyn, New York, where there was no curriculum, homework, or grades and where the focus was on play. Diana, who hails from Romania, writes here about her experiences talking with her new daughter’s teacher about homework and education.
When Parents and Teachers Work Together, Our Lives are Easier
by Diana Toma
When I went to meet my daughter’s teacher at the new school, I have to admit I was going with some preconceived ideas. Everybody at the Brooklyn alternative school had told me that public schools are to be avoided like some sort of “educational hell on earth.” I was scared to have those opinion confirmed. Plus I was afraid that the teacher would judge me because my daughter was “behind” in many of the skills that the public school students in Georgia had.
When I sat down with her and had a conversation, I was pleasantly surprised that she was willing and ready to listen to what I had to say. I told her where my daughter is coming from. The teacher told me that she hadn’t ever had any contact with alternative schools, and she asked me questions about it and listened carefully to what I had to say. I quickly got that she was really interested in who my daughter is and what methods would work or not with her. After all, that is all I could ever wish from any teacher!
With my fear out of the way, I was ready and it was my turn to listen to how she sees things and even if I never intended to negotiate homework matters, ideas were naturally flowing back and forth as our conversation progressed. I told her I noticed that homework doesn’t always really help, as my daughter’s focus and attention span is very short at 7pm when I would had time to review it. I explained that I didn’t want her to start resenting homework – my principal goal for my kids’ education being to have them love to learn. The teacher was very open to that; she understood how homework can be a factor of stress for parents too, who are tired after a long day at work. She said that all she cares about is that my daughter practices in some way, any way, reading, writing and spelling. So we agreed that if I choose for her not to do the homework, to just make a note in her daily folder.
You know, I really think that she was really happy that I talked with her. It seems that is encouraging for teachers to know that they are backed up and in congruence with parents, as that makes their life much easier too!
Since then I am in contact with my daughter’s teacher, mostly through emails. I always remember to ask if she needs anything for the class, and once I volunteered to help with the winter party, by purchasing some snacks and doing an art and crafts activity with all the kids. I want her to know that I have her back and that together we are a team working towards developing and enriching a child’s life the best as we can. That way I know I am up to date with my kid’s needs and it feels really good to know that I am not alone in all this growing up process.
Well that’s not all. It’s worth it to say that my daughter, as a result of my involvement with her school, is so proud to show her peers that her mommy is cool: her mom brings funky sticky foam paint and cookies! So it had a positive impact on our relationship as well.