On a big sheet of paper, parents articulated the dreams they had for our kindergarten and their children. When we asked why there were 6 toes on the footprints they had drawn, we learnt that they represented an inclusive school that celebrated the differences in children.
The dream-building activity was an endeavour to strengthen our partnership with the parents who entrust their children to us. As in all partnerships, mutual trust is a key ingredient for success and we were touched that parents found it safe enough to share their personal stories openly. They revealed how they were bullied and feeling like a failure in school. Some teachers had nothing nice to say about them, but some really inspired them to keep trying. However, all present had to leave school prematurely. A 29-year-old father shared, “My siblings are now doing well because I went to work early. I only studied till Secondary 2, but I am proud that I did my duty as the eldest.” His story was not unique, and it seemed like the eldest child in the family was always expected to help run the family and the reward was to see a younger sibling succeed.
“Sacrifice” was a common theme in the lives of these parents and it continues to be so as they now endeavour to provide well for their children. They do not have much materially but from the list of dreams they had put on paper, they provided a picture that experts in early childhood education say is beneficial for children’s well-being. They aspire to provide their children the opportunities to learn through play, exploration and adventure. They believed that by doing so, their children will feel valued and loved; and be emotionally strong, confident and independent when they begin formal education. Their dreams revolved around providing a safe and happy home for their children, and that their children grew up to be well-adjusted individuals who were kind to others, animals and themselves.
Vulnerability is a paradox. When we make ourselves vulnerable, we feel a little weak and insecure but, it requires a certain strength to do so. As the parents and teachers listened to each other, they laughed, and they cried. They acknowledged the determination, discipline, commitment and perseverance within the stories that surfaced. They were vulnerable, but they were not weak. They found strength in trust, solidarity and humour.
We will be acting on the suggestions that emerged from the discussion. A parent pointed out that a strong home-school partnership also meant that teachers listened to what parents were teaching at home and observing about their children. Whenever teachers invite parents for a feedback session, parents experience an implicit expectation to do something for their child to perform better at school. However, this suggestion was not about turning the tables because a home-school partnership is not just about what teachers or parents bring to the table but what they commit to doing together.
Enjoy your weekend.
“It takes two to speak the truth — one to speak, and another to hear.” – Henry David Thoreau