‘There is a relationship between the joy essential to teaching activity and hope.  Hope is something shared between teachers and students’. Paulo Freire

I would like to add ‘and parents’ to the above quote.

I had a most uplifting experience at a Staged Assessment and Intervention meeting last week (and that’s not a sentence to be typed lightly!).

The class and support for learning teachers were there but the parents were not. This was no surprise: they had not been seen in the school since they enrolled B 5 years before except for a meeting called to allow him to return to school after a period of exclusion recently.

Much to our surprise and pleasure, after a quick phonecall, B’s dad arrived.  

We had, in fact, good news. B had calmed down since his first and only exclusion and was performing well in class. We had identified a significant dyslexic difficulty and felt that his level of frustration about the mismatch between his ability and his performance in reading and spelling had led to his acting out. We were able to assure his dad that his literacy delay was not an indicator of general slow development but was very specific.  We were wanting to discuss how best to teach B so that he could perform his understandings without the barrier of print.

Well, this is common for me. I attend such meetings up to 10 times a week.

So why was this one so different?

Well, B’s dad talked eloquently and thoughtfully about the problems he had had at school (not so very long ago). He had been excluded for fighting so frequently that he ended up in residential care and felt he had learned nothing. His understanding of the difficulties his son faced – and possible solutions – far outstripped ours, needless to say.

But what was most profound was the connection we all felt. B’s dad did not bring his unhappiness and sense of failure to the meeting. He came with a strong love for his child and a desire to ensure that B does not go the way that he had. But he also had a sense of  proportion in that he understood the pressures on teachers to ensure that all the children in their care are successful, effective, responsible and confident. (I have to say that this is not always the case!!)

Although he needed persuasion to cross the threshold, once he was there he gave so much of himself for the good of his boy that we professionals were all silenced. Later we agreed that the encounter had brought tears to all our eyes.

‘Loving’ is not part of a teachers’ job description. Neither is ‘unconditional positive regard’. But I believe warmth, genuineness and empathy are essential characteristics if we are to work in partnership with parents and carers and the community for the benefit of all our children.

Here is Carl Rogers expressing my thoughts better than I can:

..In my early professional years I was asking the question: ‘How can I treat, or cure, or change this person?’ Now I would phrase the question in this way: ‘How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his [sic] own personal growth?’ 

And this is to celebrate the return of Wordle: