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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dealing with Parents: The Gifted Student and the Age Requirement Standard

Parents have got to be one of the biggest blessings and simultaneous challenges in the educational realm. As a teacher, you want to keep parents happy, but when it comes to dealing with their children, there are sometimes obstacles you have to overcome to get the parents to understand your reasons for doing things a certain way, or to even get them involved at all!

The triangle showing the influence of  relationships between parent-teacher-student. I found this on Google Image Search. I do not know who made this.

I have been working with WAA for the last couple summers and have usually been a hit with the parents - I always do my best to keep them informed. I'm friendly and love talking to them before and after classes. I want them to see that I am an involved and devoted teacher who puts their child's instructional needs above all else. Because of this, normally there are no problems. But I met with my first challenge today and it was definitely a tricky one to handle! I thought that this situation was a fantastic learning experience for myself as a new teacher, and decided to write the scenario and solution as a blog entry for other teachers to reference.

The Situation:

One of my summer classes is Japanese for Teens, which has an age limit of 13-17 (I also have an Adults class that goes for 18+). My supervisor called me a few days ago asking if I would be willing to let a nine-year-old into the teens section. I was fairly uncomfortable with the idea, despite the mother telling my supervisor that her son was very mature for his age and would be able to keep up just fine; it wasn't that I doubted the mother, it was more that I worried for the comfort level of my other students, as well as how much I'd have to alter the content of the course to make it understandable to a nine-year-old and still be interesting to a seventeen-year-old!

In the end, I told my supervisor that I did not feel comfortable taking the student, but when she talked to the mother, the mother was very upset about this. She did not understand why her son could not be an exception, especially since he is above-average intelligence (I'm not sure if he is a TAG student quite yet but some hints towards that were made) and "very mature". My supervisor recommended that I call the mother to talk the situation over with her, so of course I did just that.

Before I go into my personal solution to the situation, I'll lay out the challenge in bullet points for easy reference:
- A nine-year-old student's mother wants to register her son for a class where the earliest age accepted is thirteen.
-You as the teacher feel uncomfortable with this because of your students' comfort levels and content issues.
-Mother is upset and does not understand why her son can not be in the class if he is mature and intelligent enough to handle the content.

Pause and Reflect: before reading my solution, how would you handle the situation? What would you say to the mother? If you'd like, leave your solutation in the comments section and compare to the one I provide!

The Solution:

I called the mother of the nine-year-old student and began by introducing myself and stating my purpose. I said that I had called to talk to her about her concerns over the Japanese for Teens class so that she could understand my perspective and we could reach a solution that would benefit her son. I was very calm and even-toned, even going so far as to make sure my voice sounded cheerful and optimistic to ease the tension. I listened to the mother as she expressed her upsets to me and waited for her to allow me to speak. When I spoke, I started by saying that it is my top priority to make sure each and every one of my students gets the most out of my classes. I said that I want to give her son the best education possible, but that I did not think that it would be the best environment for him because it might make the older students uncomfortable to be in a class with a student so young. I said that that sort of discomfort could hinder their learning experience, as well as his. Explaining it this way really helped to calm the mother and understand things from a new perspective.

I continued by telling the mother I had no doubt that her son was very intelligent, and that I wanted to make sure he got the challenge he needed. Although I couldn't allow him into my class, I offered to give private lessons. Private lessons, I explained, would cost more, but it would allow her son to have plenty of one-on-one attention, the progression could go entirely at his pace, and the content could be focused around what he wanted to learn.

The Outcome

The mother was in much better spirits after we talked. She told me she would talk about private lessons with her husband, although she was still a bit disappointed there wasn't a chance her son could be allowed into the teens section.

Even though her son couldn't be included in the teens section of my Japanese class, the lesson that should be taken from this is that the mother was grateful to speak with me and a positive bond between teacher and parent was formed - a bond that is key to being a successful and outstanding teacher!

I hope this scenario proves useful to you fellow lolita (and non!) educators in the future.


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