Scenario: A Parent-Friendly School Environment?


A parent enters a public middle school, where her son attends, for the first time, to see the Principal. Because she was called, she left her job on a one hour break, for apparently an ’emergency’ meeting.

The parent enters the building, first passing through a metal detector. She showed her identification to the ‘safety officer’ and received directions to the main office. She enters the office, is greeted by a secretary and informs her of the reason for the visit. The secretary, quite stoic, tells the parent,“Wait right here. Don’t move.”

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The secretary turned away and disappeared behind a door at the far end of the large office. The office has a tall wooden counter that separates visitors from the staff. The space has about six desks filled with office papers. People are walking around, going about their business, seemingly oblivious of the parent’s presence.
There are standard nondescript file cabinets along a wall. On the counter, there are more papers, fliers and visitor handouts, the parent guesses. No one had appeared to have acknowledged the parent’s presence verbally, but while standing there waiting for the Principal, the parent picks one up to read. Another employee, sitting at one of the desks, abruptly shouts to the parent, “Put that down. That’s not for you. Teachers only.”
The parent also notices that there is a wooden bench behind her, but the secretary said not to move and didn’t tell her to sit while waiting.  The parent waited about 15-20 minutes after the secretary  returned to her desk. ‘Strange’, the parent thought, ‘I have an appointment.’
About 5 minutes later, a teacher, the parent assumed, entered the office. She astutely notices the parent’s apparent fatigue. The teacher said,“Hello. Why don’t you have a seat.” The teacher then asked,“How long have you been standing there?” Does anyone know you’re here?”

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That was the first time the parent saw a smile from anyone in the building and the parent smiled back. That teacher goes behind the door that the secretary disappeared behind and returns two minutes later.
The teacher approaches the parent once again, and said, “The principal will be with you in just a few minutes more.” The parent thought that that was nice of the teacher and beach to relax a little. At this point, though, the parent has but 15 minutes left before having to return to work.
The parent waited another 10 minutes before the Principal came out from behind that door. Rather than approach the parent, the Principal walks over to the secretary’s desk and softly says something to her. The secretary rises from her desk, goes to a file cabinet and retrieves some papers. She gave them to him.
Then the principal greeted the parent by motioning that she should follow him behind that door and into his office. The principal, entering before the parent, sits behind his desk and then formally introduces himself.
This time, she saw two chairs and sat down in one of them without an offer. This is a scheduled meeting, and the parent is still unclear of the reason. The principal then asks if her child owns a cell phone. The parent responds affirmatively. She is totally confused and somehow really worried now. And also late returning to work. The parent wondered whether someone had stolen his phone, or he was sending or receiving illicit text messages.

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The Principal informs the parent that her son was observed using that cell phone during class. He says that cells are forbidden for use in the classroom. Her child had broken a rule, and they were contemplating suspension from school. She asks to speak to her child, but was told that he is in another class and has confiscated his phone. The parent demanded that his phone be returned to him at the end of the day, and assured the Principal that she would speak to her child.
Later that evening when the parent got home, she asked her child about using his cell phone in class. He told her that he was doing schoolwork. In disbelief, she checked his phone and learned he was being truthful. With limited access to the internet at home, he often uses classroom time to perform research and take notes.

For this she received a call from the school, during her work hours, asking for an immediate face to face appointment? For this, the school contemplates suspension? In 2019-the digital age! How can schools teach for tomorrow’s reality, when they can’t teach in light of today’s!

How does one respond to this situation? How should the parent have reacted or responded to the entire experience? Any one thing stand out?

How did the school climate feel? Was this school  parent-friendly? How ‘student-friendly or compassionate is that school? Should this parent have been called to school? One may wonder how many other parents received the same call. Or have shared similar experiences.

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Should the parent have been more assertive, asked more questions, been less patient with school staff? Was it incumbent upon the staff to be more courteous to the parent? What about the no-cellphone policy in class? Did the teacher investigate,  before determining him disruptive, disrespectful and unengaged?The Principal?

About cell usage, should teachers at school[particularly middle and high school]:

  • Begin to incorporate this new reality into lessons?
  • Understand that not all children have equal access to resources? or
  • Consider the many school-friendly uses for digital devices like cell phones in the classroom?

 

Reflect on this relatively ‘minor’ school scenario for a bit. Is there anything that could or should have been done differently here?

Kindly leave your thoughts in the comments box. Share your perspectives, for perspectives influence practices, and change begins right here!

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