Three Timelines in the Education of a Youngster: Three Opportunities for Misunderstanding April 28 2016
Three Timelines in the Education of a Youngster:
Three Opportunities for Misunderstanding
During the education of our young, contention often arises. Parents get angry at teachers, at schools, and even occasionally at their own children because what they wish to have happen for their children is not happening or it is happening but not the way they believe it should happen.
Teachers get frustrated with students, or, more frequently, with the parents of students who don’t help with homework or don't monitor bedtime and curtail or eliminate screen time and video games. This can then escalate to conflict and this can also include teacher-to-administration conflict.
The administration often must manage strife between the school itself and parents or between the school and teachers, even sometimes between the school and a student. When a student gets into trouble a parent or a teacher can be a ferocious advocate for a child.
Why the conflict? Gone are the days when a parent might say to their child, “The school (teacher) must have a good reason,” or, ”Well, what did you do to have this result?” or, “I know Mrs. Silvestri. There’s more to this story than in you are telling," or "Get the work she asked you for done.” Rare is the teacher who comprehends deeply the difficulties of living in a family busy with many jobs of two parents, or a single parent home; or of a child who must cook their own meals; or of being left alone for long periods of time; or living with parents on the brink of a split-up. And hard-pressed is the school asked by parents, teachers, and students, to uphold a standard, to keep agreements of a community, and to hold a community of independently minded people to those agreements.
Respect for the Three Timelines
Peace might better follow respect for the different timelines, which drive these three bodies responsible for the upbringing of children: Parents, teachers, school. For this particular pondering, students will be included with their parents. Though this is not always the case, in most cases parents are dependent on hearsay evidence of the goings-on at school from their children. So these points of view – parents and students – tend to align!
If we could understand the perspectives these timelines engender, without having to abandon our own small bubble of good will, peace and recognition that any child with three groups of adults championing his or her success and well-being, is a lucky child.
Timeline #1 – The School
This timeline is the slowest of the three timelines. The keepers of this timeline are administrators who manage the comings and goings of the whole school, the community surrounding the school, and the “image” of the school beyond the immediate community. This group tends to be the ultimate rule keepers. These people must worry about precedent (“If we do it for him, we will have to do it for all children…”) along with budgets, and community pressures. In public schools, community pressures include test scores, and performance, and mandated curriculum (disguised as “scope and sequence” as seen in the Common Core State Standards, for example).
In this timeline, “the school” knows that parents come and go and cannot be relied upon to uphold the longevity of the school’s individuality. Never forget that parents work hard for their children’s schools, but once their children go off to college or get launched other ways into life, parents’ interests in the school inevitably wane. The focus of vitality for the long life of a school lives with teachers who last for decades and administrators who carry “the big and long-term picture.”
Timeline #2 – The Teachers
Teachers are called to their task of teaching through a vocational calling. Teachers do not enter their profession in search of fame or fortune. Lately, teachers have been much maligned as idiots, untrustworthy, and incompetent. However, any student whose life has been changed by a teacher will testify to the error in this bad press.
Teachers tend to comprehend the potential in a child from working with a child every day for many hours in attempts to awaken a desire to learn, to stimulate interest in complex topics, and to help a student master what is learned everyday through practice.
The timeline of teachers is more urgent than that of administrators; however, this timeline holds a patience of the whole arc of childhood and studenthood for each child. The teacher knows that human potential unfolds through cultivation, structure, habit building, and attention, and does not pop full-blown from a first lesson. Teachers often recognize obstacles a child faces in real handicaps that can be subtle yet profound, or emotional difficulties wrought by life or inner turmoil.
Teachers will advocate for students against the timeline of the school, understanding that rules sometimes do not serve one individual and can sometimes present unnecessary blocks that, if lifted, can mean a world of ease and progress for that child.
Timeline #3 – The Parents
This timeline is most urgent of all. This timeline recognizes the myriad small windows of opportunity in a child’s growth. Each disappointment, each success for a child is important to parents. In the way of life we have established in the US particularly, parents are often too busy to create and sustain these opportunities and depend on the teachers and the school to carry these for the child. In this timeline, the long view does not thrive. Parents need daily attentiveness to the personhood of their children. It does not help to tell a parent, for example, that their son may not wear the baseball cap in class that his grandfather who just passed gave him or a school that asks for no hats to be worm during the school day. Nor does it help a parent to hear that their child's class is hard pressed to endure habits of affectionate contact from their third grade daughter when they know their daughter is simply a very loving being and needs contact to feel safe.
Respect and Recognition
An offering of peace in this writing is to ask us all to respect the fact that these three timelines cannot easily match. We all count on the other group to do our jobs and unwaveringly stick to them. Where would we be without each of these timelines? Where would our children be? Recognition is a good starting point for conversation instead of conflict. “We have different timelines on this one,” might help in recognizing that a solution must understand each of the three perspectives to find a solution for any child.
None of these timelines should ever be abandoned. Children need us to work from all these perspectives to give them a safe and wholesome environment in which to grow and learn. These three timelines can also teach a child that there are different perspectives, different “clocks” measuring human lives. We can also teach them how to respect and accept each other’s points of view in the way we handle them.
And, again, any child with all three realms working well and strongly in schooling through the grades is a lucky child. The strength of the realms contributes so much to the education and sense of ethical behavior in the life of a youngster. It matters.
Let us think peace and use the understanding of dissimilar timelines to weave collaboration and solutions instead of additional strife in an unsettled and unsettling world. Our children will thrive if we do.
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Our Library Lady recommends a few great books for addressing the differing perspectives of these three timelines:
- Speaking, Listening, Understanding, by Heinz Zimmermann
- The Child, the Teachers, and the Community, by Jørgen Smit
- Partnerships of Hope, by Christopher Schafer
- The Mysteries of Social Encounters, by Dieter Brüll
- Parent Participation in the Life of a Waldorf School, by Manfred Leist
There are more, too! Take a look at www.waldorfpublications.org