Being a teacher involves establishing a culture of trust – with your students, parents, and co-teachers. As a new teacher and a virtual stranger, I wondered if it would be possible for me to achieve this in a virtual environment.
Looking back, I can visualize how nervous I was for something as simple as calling the parents, introducing myself, and understanding their backgrounds. The constant hum of the dial tone followed by “the person you are trying to reach has not answered your call” were familiar companions in my first week of this exercise. An exercise in patience, it can be said. The first few calls that did get through got the job done but I was operating from a place of fear and avoiding mistakes. My focus wasn’t on developing a relationship.
I think my first breakthrough came when one parent suddenly asked me about my background. Her genuine surprise when I told her still brings a smile to my face.
“But your Tamil is so good! And I’m so glad you’re taking the time to listen to me.”
I’ve held on to these words ever since. That 8-minute conversation changed my whole perspective and approach to working with parents in this context. It opened my eyes to the challenges they were facing to educate their children when most of them had little to no formal education of their own.
When I started having online classes, I made it a point to call the parents to inform them. I would also do a check-in call to ensure that the kids engaged with the content sent on Whatsapp. Many parents who were unreachable at the beginning were brought into the fold over two months. It was heartening to see student engagement increase gradually as a result. I think my second breakthrough came when one parent reached out to me with concerns about her child’s learning level. That was when I started working on actively establishing a two-way channel of communication. For me, this is extremely important today as schools are still closed and students remain isolated from the classroom and their friends. It is practically impossible to help the children without having the parents as active participants.
I think the biggest takeaway has been to trust the process itself. Every relationship needs time and effort before it reaches a place of mutual trust. It’s been six months since we began this journey, and it’s remarkable to see the difference in communication and receptiveness. I have come to realize that I have to offer a part of myself if I expect the parents to do so and that in most cases just listening is good enough. An extremely gratifying recent experience was when I asked a parent who did not know English to sit in on the class with her child.
“Ma’am, do you think I’ll be able to learn English if I do the exercises too?”
Now that the foundations are in place, I cannot wait to build my bridges over the next year.
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Wordsmith- Anjali Sarmah, Bhumi Fellow