By Pallavi Raikar
While working with children, more often than not we realize the limitations of not being with them as much as the school staff or parents are. One of the prominent limitation is not knowing the child’s environment beyond Apni Shala’s session time. Meeting and sharing our experiences with their parents, guardians and teachers is one such way of knowing a child more, which, by no means is an easy task.
My meetings with the parents so far have been filled with bittersweet experiences, but a lot of them have been insightful because –
- You are nervous:
You never realize how nervous you are until it is your turn to speak up to a bunch of parents, who have no clue why they have been called. There have been times when I try to make them comfortable and end up moving around a lot and then one parent smiles at me to make me feel comfortable instead.
- You never know what responses you will get:
No matter how prepared you are, no matter how many meetings you have taken before, the golden rule is expect the unexpected! There was this one time when one of our facilitators, after having taken several meetings, was pretty confident about taking up an activity with a group of parents, when suddenly an angry parent refused to be a part of the meeting citing that it was very inconsiderate of us to make them spare one hour for something like this. After several attempts of explaining the rationale behind this meeting, the parent was close to storming out and the facilitator was almost in tears.
- Sometimes you become the parent:
There are times when a group of parents are either too shy to speak or have so much to say that you have no time to think who you should be listening to. With the shy group you sometimes have to play the role of a loving, comforting guardian and try to tell them to not be scared. With the group that has a lot to say you have to become the parent who often acts as a referee between two siblings who are debating with each other, when parents with opposing views begin debating.
- Your train may not be always on track:
Parents have a lot to share and say. It is like a train that you are driving, they are the passengers and they will direct the train wherever they want to go. Imagine a train being directed to several directions by all of the passengers! All the things that parents have to share may be important and you certainly can take the liberty to go with the flow, but it does take will power and assertiveness to bring them back to point you had initially had to make.
- Parents know a lot more:
There was this one time when we asked a group of parents why would a child, who usually is talkative, be quiet at school. The responses that came were so varied! Some said that may be the child is scared of speaking to new people, may be s/he underestimates themselves, may be the child likes being that way, may be they haven’t found anyone who they feel comfortable talking to.
- They open up to you:
There are some wonderful times when you manage to strike a chord with the parents and they end up sharing a lot of personal information and find comfort in your presence, which is extremely gratifying. They talk about the challenges of parenting, the dreams and aspirations they have for their children, or how they regret not being able to spend enough time with their children. The passion and love with which they talk about their children becomes the highlight of our day.
- You may be singing to an audience of two:
No matter how important the meeting is to you, the parents are usually busy and for them to take time out for a meeting is a task. During such times it is very natural to think that they should be attending it because we are doing to ensure an all-round development of their children, but the fact remains that they sometimes just cannot attend the meeting even if they want to. Hence, there are times when you plan a presentation to an audience and end up having a one-to-one conversation.
- You better learn the Art of Persuasion:
Before putting it across parents, you have to be very convinced about what you are saying, if it comes from your heart, there are higher chances that they will be receptive to it. It also comes from experience and putting yourself in their shoes
All said and done, one cannot highlight how important it is to form a relationship with the parents/caregivers/guardians of the children. The journey of education is incomplete without the parent of the child being involved in it. It is important to not let the parents be just spectators but be equal partners, and orienting them and helping them better understand the about the work we do and the several ways that they can help us, is one of the ways to make any this program even more impactful.
Through these sessions we dream of building such a relationship with parents where we start working together as a team, gaining wider reach and making greater impact. We also believe that our regular interaction with parents will help us mutually understand the child better, thereby improving our respective relationships. As this post ends there is the anticipation of an upcoming parents meeting and a fresh surge of excitement mixed with nervousness!
About the author: Pallavi Raikar holds a Master’s degree in Development Communication from the reputed St. Xaviers College, Mumbai. She was an Assistant Teacher at Aseema Charitable Trust before joining Apni Shala as a Programme Manager in 2015.