Innovation: Education

Learning to parent as an educator

What’s your school song?

Meredith Swallow, Tarrant Institute for Innovative EducationA few months ago I wrote about not spending enough time on personal reflection. It is incredibly easy to be immersed in the many “Top 10” lists of education; and it’s fun spending time trying to solve tool based problems (anyone come up with a best way to insert images on the Slides app? Hit me up if you’ve got a solution). So I made it my goal to spend some time this week thinking about my practice.

I’m personally grappling with my opinions of family engagement from the educator perspective, and family engagement from the parent perspective.

I’ve been involved in many stimulating conversations over the past few weeks centered on what an engaged learner looks like. It got me thinking, what does an engaged parent look like? I brainstormed a list of ideas, qualities, and actions, but realized that I was thinking from my own educator perspective. I was listing ways that I wanted parents to participate in student learning. I’m also a parent. How do I want to engage in my own daughter’s learning?learning to parent as an educator

I have evolving opinions – after all, she is only three. But I am already trying to balance between wanting to let her independently grow and develop with other educators, pre-service teachers, and children her age, and wanting to know about every activity, drawing, or snack.

Last night I started singing The Little Green Frog – she immediately stopped me to say, “No, Mommy, that is a school song.” Right now I like the clear distinction between school and home. I respect that she recognizes a transition from one environment to another. But when I think about the engaged learner discussions, that distinction is blurred, and often that
transition does not happen.

School and learning do not end when it’s 4 o’clock or the doors close. I envision a time – probably a few years down the road – when we are engaged as a family in discussions around her inquiry based projects. I’m assuming that as a family we are contributing ideas, suggestions, and possibly making plans for weekend adventures to different communities of learning tied to her project.

learning to parent as an educatorThen the parent perspective kicks in. I often try (unsuccessfully) to not bring work home. I love my work – but I also value time and space for non-job related conversations. So why do I expect sustained engagement in my daughter’s schoolwork, but not necessarily my own? As adults, we often talk about the work/life balance. Are we spending enough time considering
the school/life balance? Or is it possible that the idea of balance is outdated and they are all interconnected?

For me, personal reflection does not necessarily yield answers – it sparks more questions. Though what I do know is, at my daughter’s request, I will sing The Monkey and the Engineer, and leave The Little Green Frog for school.

That brings to mind thoughts about age and self-advocacy…

Meredith Swallow

Meredith Swallow is in her fourth year as a doctoral student at UVM, and is working with the Tarrant Institute as a Research Associate and Professional Development Coordinator. As a former middle- and high-school math teacher, Meredith facilitated environments of engaged, active learning, by supporting the connection of knowledge through interaction, understanding, and meaning. Her research focuses on the intersection of educational technology, content knowledge, and pedagogy, and how that supports twenty-first century educational goals and outcomes. She strives to model effective technology integration across multiple disciplines by recognizing diverse learning needs and specific school and teacher contexts. When not studying or engaging in research, Meredith enjoys her time in the outdoors hiking with her trusted sidekick Jack the Dog.

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