These days many school districts are talking about Respectful Relationships. Our local district has made this topic one of their main focuses, something that is supposed to be at the forefront of all dealings. As a parent, and a stake-holder in the education system, I appreciate the effort. The problem is, all too often it feels like lip service.
Respectful relationships mean more than saying please and thank you. It is putting some equity into the system, and allowing parents a voice beyond fund-raising and playgrounds. Respectful relationships means understanding that when parties disagree, both sides have a right to their opinions.
Parents are the experts on their children. Sometimes, they do know best. And sometimes they feel wronged, and they deserve to be heard.
When one side has all the organized power, and is perceived to be impervious to complaint or concerns, then what does a respectful relationship mean? I think parents would like to see it mean equitable, when it feels like the school system sees it as meaning polite and courteous. The two, while not mutually exclusive, are also not the same. Whether they should be or not…. that is another discussion. But there is some call for honest clarification. If parents are not going to have an equal voice, don’t patronize us by pretending otherwise. That is not respectful.
I believe, in general, school districts do want respectful relationships, and I believe at the top of the organization you often see hard work being done to create those relationships. But when it comes to the individual dealings at a lower level, too often parents come away from interactions feeling not respected, not heard, and not treated as an equal even when they have been heard.
I’m not sure what the solution is, but in a system where parents are being asked for more and more of both their time and their money, it seems time to also ask for a little more respect.