As we navigate through the age of technology, as parents and as employees of the public school system, we need to remind ourselves of our collective goal — the education and social-emotional well-being of children, so they are prepared for and can thrive in community life.
When used properly and respectfully, social media is a great platform for communication between schools and the community. But it is also used in ways that is disruptive and harmful.
School administrators or teachers call parents to work together in resolving student conflicts. However, with the rise of social media use, schools are now contending with an incident going viral before an opportunity to even come to an understanding about it happens.
One side of an incident, or someone's interpretation of it, is shared over and over again on Facebook or Instagram, and what is shared is often incomplete and/or misleading. Some media outlets will even pick it up and run with it without context or fact-finding. The resulting fallout is often greatly disproportionate to what originally happened.
This distortion of conflict is something we need to avoid for the sake of children. When adults take to social media because they disapprove of school decisions, it sends a message to students that only one opinion matters, and the more "likes" and "shares" you get, the more validation you earn. That's not how the real world works.
We must work through differences with empathy, kindness, and respect. Being able to use those communications skills is crucial in an increasingly diverse and interdependent world.
Parents and community members have the right to have their concerns heard, and school administrators and teachers should hear them because constructive feedback is valuable, even critical.
"We must work through differences with empathy, kindness, and respect. Being able to use those communications skills is crucial in an increasingly diverse and interdependent world."
It's important for students to feel comfortable to raise issues with their teachers. Parents may bring issues to their child's teacher and request for an administrator to be present. In person meetings are best to listen to why a decision was made. Often times, an email can be misinterpreted.
Teachers and administrators make decisions based on the whole story. We gather facts, interview witnesses, learn different perspectives and do research. We always try to make a decision that is best for students and best for all involved. It is equally important for teachers and administrators to listen to the families, and for families to know that they're being heard.
We understand that, for parents and families, the situation being discussed is often personal to them.
We have seen a rise of parents taking their concerns to a media hotline instead of taking time to meet with school administrators.
The result has been detrimental to the morale of our teachers and principals, who are doing all they can to instill a growth mindset and reach achievement goals to prepare students for life. A teacher should not be fearful of what a parent will post to social media if he/she takes appropriate action when a student misbehaves.
We cannot work together effectively unless we are communicating effectively. Airing grievances over social media is not the answer. It dissolves relationships and leads to mistrust.
Most importantly, our children deserve our attention to work things out in the right way. Whether if it is in school or at home, our children are learning from not only what we teach but from observing our actions.
Our goal is for parents to feel welcome in our schools, and to work with us as partners in the education of their children.