As an educator I often find myself being asked by parents for advice about raising children, despite the fact I don’t have any kids of my own. There’s this belief that I must have all the answers, however rarely does anyone have all the answers. Often I end up just reassuring parents that they are doing the best thing. That being said I do sometimes find myself making judgements about parents. If as a teacher I feel the pressure of being responsible for this child how much more pressure must the parents feel. If I add to that with my judgement does that not work counter to my purpose to be a partner. Sometimes judgement can even be implied. Take for example a school readiness checklist, if the child doesn’t meet all the criteria does that not judge the parents as poor. Is a checklist really necessary? If the parents believe the child ready shouldn’t we trust them? By implying deficits and gaps before a child even begins school are we not already privileging the formal curriculum over the family?
As a teacher I want to be a partner with families, so letting families tell me about their child and their strengths seems like a better conversation to have. Working together with the family and helping support them and the student is a much more appealing role than one where I sit in judgement of a family because I perceive a deficit in the child. I need to check my judgement at the door and instead listen to the family, rejoice in their child’s strengths with them and support them in helping their child grow in all areas. Deficits are only perceived when children are compared to a “norm” instead of viewed as capable individuals. It might be time to get rid of the idea that there is a perfect norm that all students should be like.