It’s been a couple of months since I’ve written a blog post, a moving gift that my colleagues gave to me so that I could feel better able to take a breath in moving my family from Pittsburgh to upstate New York. The last thing I wrote about was the relationships I’d formed with my sons’ daycare teachers and how I was struggling to leave because I felt so sad and out of sorts about ending those relationships. It’s been about eight weeks since they started at their new school, and things are mostly going well. I’ve been to the pediatrician eight times as their immune systems have taken a bit of a hit in re-entering society more robustly, but I’m glad to be on this side of things, even though I miss their former teachers terribly. They were the first professionals my husband and I really partnered with to make sure that our kids were growing into empathetic, kind, and curious people; we trusted their judgment and sought their counsel. They helped us understand if something wasn’t in the realm of typical, and we knew they had our backs. It’s hard to leave that behind.
Thankfully, we’ve found new people who are helping us navigate those same things. I adore my younger son’s daycare teacher whose warmth, affection, and playfulness are clearly displayed at all times. When he’s sick at home but my older son is at daycare, she finds me to ask how he slept and if he’s eating well. My older son’s teachers are continuing to work on potty-training with him with incredible patience and enthusiasm. They’ve adjusted, and I’m coming along, too.
I think that the most important piece I’ve figured out in how to make the transition to new teachers easier for us as a family is how I can lean in to get to know their teachers. Relationships are almost never exactly 50/50, and in relationships between teachers and families, I believe the onus should be on the teacher who has a professional responsibility to get to know their students’ families, but I also know from my own teaching experience, that when families leaned in toward me, our dynamic was easier. I knew I could call them no matter how things were going, and they would be receptive. So now, I’m trying to take on my fifty-ish percent of the equation, cementing a healthy and collegial dynamic with their new caregivers.
There are a lot of ways to extend an olive branch to other people, but here are some examples of what that has sounded and looked like for me:
-consistently asking their teachers how they’re doing and waiting for them to respond;
-asking them how something went and offering my own genuine emotional reaction;
-remembering who has kids and asking about how they’re doing;
-sharing that I hope they have relaxing, restful evenings and weekends after long days of running after little ones;
-smiling and interacting with teachers whom the boys don’t currently work with;
-thanking the teachers and office staff for their time and care;
-verbalizing that I’d always rather get a call if something happened; and
-noticing and remembering how their teachers like their coffee (and bringing a teacher an iced coffee when my younger son had to leave because of a communicable disease).
Relationships take time, and they also take effort. I want my sons’ teachers to feel comfortable talking with me about anything they see (yes, even the things that are less than desired). I am hoping for a genuine partnership where their teachers play an integral role in how they set boundaries, how they navigate conflict, and how they ask for help. If I want my sons to learn how to get to know, respect, and trust their teachers, this seems like the least I can do by way of setting an example. For now, I’ll keep looking for small ways that I can demonstrate my care and gratitude to the people who are keeping them safe and encouraging them each day, and I’ll try to see if they prefer muffins or scones to go with their coffee.
Are you a teacher or a parent who is trying to figure out how to lean into building deeper relationships this upcoming year? If so, reach out here or on Facebook; we’d love to help!
Image courtesy of Jack Bailey. Pictured, Sara's two sons (Sullivan on the left and Tucker on the right), sitting on a blue couch in their new house.