The transparency of parenting

After reading through several of the comments on my Teacher Magazine piece about the parent/teacher relationship, I just had a bit of a revelation: Parenting is as transparent as teaching, isn’t it?

Think about it: One of the greatest challenges of teaching is that everyone seems to think that they “know” what it is that we do because they’ve sat in a classroom for the better part of their lives.

That experience somehow translates into overly confident—borderline arrogant—critics of our actions on a semi-regular basis. We give too much homework, we give too little homework, we are overly harsh when disciplining children, we aren’t stringent enough, we’re overpaid, we don’t need extra planning time—-you name it and the parents of my classroom probably have an opinion about it.

But aren’t teachers often just as critical of parents?

Don’t many of our peers automatically assume that students who struggle come from homes where moms and dads don’t care?   “If their parents would just make them do homework,” we gripe. “If they’d teach discipline…If they’d send them with the proper supplies…If they’d model proper learning behaviors at home…If they’d come to parent conferences.”

In the end, don’t we automatically assume that the parents of our students will have the skills and resources to support their children—and then hold a grudge against those who don’t rise to our own expectations for “responsible parenting?”

Do we both suffer from a false sense of transparency that leaves others questioning our decisions?  What actions would responsible educators take to avoid allowing assumptions to drive their thinking about the parents of their students?