12/05/2012 03:31 pm ET Updated Feb 04, 2013

How Do Parents Relate to That 'Person' on The Other Side of The Proverbial Desk?

As a grandmother of six, a single mother of two adult children and an educator of forty years to both children and adults, I have had much experience on both sides of the proverbial desk. I have had to interact with educators for whom I have had great respect, and I have had to find common ground with teachers with whom I have had difficulty connecting. Concurrently, I have been the recipient of many opinions and comments from anxious parents, some of have made perfect sense, and others who have needed much counseling to understand how to effectively help their child. It is fascinating to me, that after all of these years, I am finding that parents of young children still seek my advice as they embark on the school/parenting path.

When I take my grandchildren to some of their activities such as gymnastics or music class, there are always parents engaged in deep coversations about how to deal with their child's teacher or how to make sure the teacher knows how to handle the uniqueness of their child. Both of these topics seem to be paramount to parents now, just as they were many years ago.

Even though I had a life teaching credential that was the equivalent of a Masters Degree in English and Music, and even though I had successfully passed numerous classes in early childhood education, I was still "mommy," and I dreaded that first meeting when I cautiousy walked my child into the classroom for the first time. I hoped the teacher would recognize that my son was incredibly sweet and that he was a natural athlete. I worried that the teacher might not make learning fun for him like I always had. I worried that the teacher would not understand that my daughter was a gifted communicator who needed to express her many original ideas. Would the teacher encourage her to be emotionally and socially competent? Would the teacher realize that she was about as cute as a little girl could be? I could go on for many pages specifying all of my concerns, but I am sure the reader can relate by now.

My son had difficulty sitting for a long time in his chair in kindergarten. The teacher called me in to let me know that she had nicknamed him "toast" because he kept popping up from his chair! I was so happy when she sought my advice. I asked her if she might allow him a few minutes in the middle of the morning to go outside and run around the school yard so that he could get rid of his wiggles. She was happy to take my suggestion, and the problem was solved.

After my daughter's first day of preschool, her teacher asked me to stay for a few minutes to talk. She explained to me that I needed to let my daughter understand that the teacher was the person to talk to the class, and that her job was to listen carefully to the teacher's directions. (I guess she was modeling what she had seen me do in the classroom!) I told the teacher that I would take her advice seriously, and that issue was finished.

Each time I thought I had "seen it all" as a teacher, something always happened to surprise me. On one occasion, I had a little boy in my class who was quickly becoming the class clown. He was a bright little boy with whom I spent much time talking, but his behaviour was disruptive, and he was taking too much classroom time with his outburtsts. When I called his mother in for a conference she was initally very defensive. She told me that the other kids were not going to like him if I tried to change his humorous comments, and she was sure that I did not like her child. I spent a good length of time trying to reassure her that my intentions were pure, and that I simply wanted to help her child be more successful in school. All of the sudden she started sobbing uncontrollably! I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do, so I listened empathetically.

She managed to explain that when she was a little girl the children were very cruel to her, and nothing was ever done to help her. She went on to say that it was very important to her that her little boy be well-liked so he would not have the same experience she did. She was recting out of fear and past ecperience. The cry seemed to help her, and I hugged her with the reassurance that I understood, and that we would work together with a behavior modification chart to help her son.
I am hoping that this topic becomes one that can be interactive. I welcome questions and comments, and I wish to be helpful in my responses.