Dividing Groups

As I was scrolling through social media the other day, I came across this post, and it immediately caught my attention.

I think that what the original poster (OP) is trying to say is that parents should be involved deeply in their child’s life. Parents should be highly attuned to who their child is in school and help them as much as is possible to be their best self. If the poster had said it in that way, I think I would have kept scrolling; instead, the tone of the post was jarring.

In working at Astra and thinking about our constituent groups (students, families, and staff), we spend a lot of time thinking about the relationships that have historically existed, exist presently, and may someday exist among these groups. This post felt like it was using the language of Covid to describe an outdated and limited view of the relationship between teachers and parents. I assume the OP is a teacher who feels like they’ve been working hard at their job and doesn’t feel the connection and support of their students’ families. That sounds deeply challenging. The post suggests (with clear resentment) that before the fight over masks, parents had put little energy into their child’s schooling. Masking the combativeness as heroism, the OP lays out the kinds of things with which teachers regularly contend.

As a former teacher, I understand that the job is difficult and time-consuming. It is, sometimes, thankless, and it is always underpaid. But those frustrations, when hurled en masse at parents, become entirely irrelevant. In teaching, you must see each child for who they are and what they bring. When you lose sight of the individual members of your class, you’re no longer teaching effectively because you aren’t teaching the people in front of you. When you treat parents (or really any group) as a monolith, you create division and put folks who fall into that category on the defensive. All this OP did was further a divide that doesn’t need to exist.

So here’s my ask of anyone who reads this: The next time you come across a post on social media or some kind of messaging elsewhere that suggests students, families, or staff are opposing each other, reach out to someone in those groups in a way that will deepen a relationship. For example, if you know a student, you could ask them how they’re feeling about school lately and ask if they want to talk or tell you a story about something that happened. If you know a parent, you might see if they feel supported or ask if they have the resources they need in order to help their child take their next steps in school. If you know a teacher or other staff member, you could see if they have a specific need for their classroom (sometimes there’s a supply that could be really helpful), or you might write them a note of thanks or encouragement and pass it to them at the next opportunity. At Astra, our hope is that we can imagine and then create relationships among people and groups that are validating, supportive, and kind. In our experience, the best way to go about that is to start wherever you are.

If you have a good idea about how to deepen one of these relationships, comment below.