I have been honoured to serve the community of Eastwood for the last 6 years as their lead learner and Principal. In the course of my work I have supported many parents attempting to help their children in learning.
One of those parents is Stephanie Renaud. Stephanie is a certified teacher, a writer and a @yoga_junkie! She came to visit as she was preparing for a new article around parent/principal relations. As a result Stephanie published in Windsor Parent Magazine and dedicated the piece to me. On my last day the magazine arrived and I was very surprised and extremely honoured by her kind gesture.
I have featured Stephanie’s writing here before so I thought I could share her latest piece with you as the content is helpful for all parents.
Article Below By Stephanie Renaud B.A., B.Ed.
Dedicated with gratitude to James Cowper, principal of Eastwood Public School 2009-2015
Developing a culture of trust between the key players in a child’s education sets the stage for growth, development and success for all concerned.
Whether the connection with your child’s principal (or any professional on staff) arises casually through your continued presence in the school at various functions, or because of the need to collaborate on academic or behavioural issues, the mindset of each player as they enter that interaction plays a major role in whether or not it will be productive.
A mindset is defined as a habitual or characteristic mental attitude that determines how you will interpret and respond to situations. Carol Dweck, through her research at Stanford University, divides mindsets into two categories; fixed mindsets and growth mindsets.
The difference is simple.
A fixed mindset arises from the belief that your qualities, or those of others, are carved in stone. Conversely, a growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things that you can cultivate through your efforts. These ideas are broadly applicable to any situation or interaction you find yourself in.
When it comes to your role in your child’s educational journey, the mindset that you approach it with can and will make all the difference. James Cowper, who has been principal at Eastwood Public School in Forest Glade for the last six years puts it this way “If a parent is trying to communicate with a principal or other educational professional about something the first thing they have to do is adopt a growth mindset. Why? Because everything in a school is about learning, this is the baseline and from every experience there is an opportunity to learn. “
As a parent, there are some basic assumptions, or ideas that you can hold in your mind as you develop your relationship with your child’s school that will set the stage for the development of productive, positive partnership.
Presume positive intent – It is incredibly easy to allow our anger, frustration or discomfort with the events bringing us together to colour how we approach our communication. Start by entering each encounter, whether it be a phone call, a face to face meeting, or email, with the assumption in your mind that the person on the other end is coming from a positive place. This way you set yourself up ready to work as a team before you even begin. After all, we all want to see our children succeed.
We are all on the same team – Ultimately, the reason that parent and professional are working together is the child. Your child. You all come together with the interest of working towards the highest good for this child that you can achieve. After all, isn’t that what we all hope for? Bearing this in mind as we work together supports us in weathering disagreements with equanimity and productive collaboration when tough situations arise. It’s how we work through the hard times that determine the good times we see.
We all bring a key ingredient to the table – Principals are the experts in education. They have completed 13 years of post-secondary training as well as numerous years in the classroom to earn their way to the office that they now occupy. They bring a very important ingredient to the table. Parents are the lead on parenting. Anything that happens outside school hours is the parents purvey. Between the two people, you have the entire day covered. Knowing this, collaboration becomes a powerful tool. If you are facing an issue such as aggressive or inappropriate behaviour that has caused a suspension, how you as the parent deal with the time your child is at home will have a great influence on how productive and effective that disciplinary action will be in fostering growth and learning in your child.
Have a clear idea of what you want to know before communicating with each other- Do you really understand the events surrounding this communication? What caused this to happen? There may be rules, or disciplinary procedures, or other motivations that you don’t understand clearly that brought this all about. Have clear questions ready to ask when you communicate so that you will be fully informed as part of the team.
Principals (and teachers) are people too –This means they have stress, and bad days and families like everyone else. Seeing this, you allow yourself to have compassion for them, and patience. You expect this in return, giving it will inspire and call out the same in them.
Be the master of your own mindset – Says Mr Cowper; “Be aware of your own motivations and presumptions. These make or break a partnership.” As you interact, you may become aware of a presumption that you hold that is not jiving with or helping your current situation. A growth mindset opens one to the possibility that this can evolve based on the quality of your own experience.
As with any partnership, the people who are on each side make all the difference in how that partnership plays out. So, what happens when it’s the professional that has the fixed mindset and the parent who holds the growth mindset?
“The only thing we can do as human beings is be mindful of who we are and mindful of our behaviour and let everything else happen around us.” Says Cowper. “We must all focus on who we are and what we do, and if that guidance system is kindness and understanding then you can’t go wrong.”
By focussing on our own contribution to the situation and being confident that we ourselves are coming from a place of openness, in a spirit of collaboration, we set ourselves up to frame our relationships in the most productive and responsive way possible. In doing this, we feed the learning and lay the groundwork for positive, productive growth.
As always, tweet me with your thoughts, and contributions @yoga_junkie I love to hear from you!