Communicating with parents is typically interesting and enlightening when it comes to learning more about my students. Every year, I engage in such discussions, finding out more about their hobbies, interests, what makes them tick, and how they learn best. Over the years, I have noticed an interesting topic come up on occasion. Without fail, I think every educator has heard parents express what seems to them as a Jekyll and Hyde scenario. The conversation typically goes as follows:
Teacher: “She is responsible, respectful, and wonderful in class.”
Parent: “Really? She is a monster at home!”
Teacher: “He seems to be enjoying school, his classmates, and always has a smile on his face.”
Parent: “Really? At times, he is driving me crazy, argues, and then falls into tears.”
So what do we make of the disconnect between the student we see at school and the student who shows up at home? How is it that the student is “blue ribbon” in the classroom, but a blubbering mess at home in their bedroom. Parents might ask, “Are we doing something wrong?” thinking that I, as a teacher, might have some expert parenting advice to help the situation. Ironically, the answer lies in the great relationship the parents have established with their children.
The reality is that school is not easy. There are routines to follow. Self-discipline to exercise. Work to organize. Friends to fit in with. Locker combinations to remember. Experiments to analyze. Rigorous academics to engage in. Social situations to navigate. It’s mentally and emotionally draining. All this while just, being a kid. The constant restraint and focus students must employ builds throughout the school day. For certain students, this may lead to “holding it together” during the day, and falling apart at night.
And who do we fall apart with? For any person of any age, we fall apart with the people we are closest to. The people with whom we feel safest. For our students, this person is typically a parent. This may present as argumentative behavior, or a break-down into tears, but just know, this is more a statement of “I worked my butt off all day to be the best student I can be” and not of “I want to be a pain in your butt.”
No one wants to hear there are tears being shed at home, but for some students, it is an occasional and inevitable burst of the bubble that builds throughout their school day. It is love and family that allows them to fall apart, and it is love and family that will build them back up. So, listen but don’t judge. Ask but don't push. And remind them that they are awesome every day!