On Saturday, a teacher posted a thread on Twitter in which he bemoaned the possibility that parents who had access to watching their children’s virtual classrooms would do damage to “honest conversations about gender/sexuality” that teachers would have with students.
The teacher, Matthew R. Kay, who was a founding teacher at Science Leadership Academy (SLA), a partnership high school between the School District of Philadelphia and The Franklin Institute, and authored the book, Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom, wrote:
So, this fall, virtual class discussions will have many potential spectators — parents, siblings, etc. — in the same room. We’ll never be quite sure who is overhearing the discourse. What does this do for our equity/inclusion work?
How much have students depended on the (somewhat) secure barriers of our physical classrooms to encourage vulnerability? How many of us have installed some version of “what happens here stays here” to help this?
While conversations about race are in my wheelhouse, and remain a concern in this no-walls environment — I am most intrigued by the damage that “helicopter/snowplow” parents can do in honest conversations about gender/sexuality …
And while “conservative” parents are my chief concern — I know that the damage can come from the left too. If we are engaged in the messy work of destabilizing a kids racism or homophobia or transphobia — how much do we want their classmates’ parents piling on?
Why shouldn't parents hear your "discourse". @MattRKay is hiding comments, he will not be able to hide this one.
Parents pay attention to what your kids are being taught. pic.twitter.com/FeMO4m8XlX
— Low&Slow (@ClaudesBBQ) August 9, 2020
“Helicopter” parents is a term to refer to parents who supposedly exhibit an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children. Parents.com stated, “The term ‘helicopter parent’ was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott’s 1969 book Parents & Teenagers by teens who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter.”
“Snowplow” parents are the “newest embodiment of a hyper-intensive parenting style that can include parents booking their adult children haircuts, texting their college kids to wake them up so they don’t sleep through a test, and even calling their kids’ employers,” Business Insider reported.
In his book, Kay wrote, “When I was growing up, my parents used the term house talk to label conversations that I was not to share with anyone else. This term implied that people outside of our family wouldn’t understand, and involving them would annoyingly complicate things — or cause actual trouble.”
“Yet there has always been a difference between collegial banter and house talk, between the water cooler and the dining-room table,” he added. “It is dangerous to invite ourselves to the latter because we are tolerated at the former. We must, if we value our students’ right to determine healthy relationships, never accept invitations unless they have been proffered. We must, through earnest humility, earn our seats. Just as we cannot conjure safe spaces from midair, we should not expect the familial intimacy, vulnerability, and forgiveness needed for meaningful race conversations to emerge from traditional classroom relationships.”
“Familial intimacy depends on both parties feeling like a priority to the other,” Kay wrote. “We do not tend to feel close to those who continually treat us like afterthoughts. To preserve our emotional well-being, healthy people draw specific parameters around these relationships, saving our vulnerability for those to whom we are the greatest priority. This extends to the classroom, where most students consider their teachers only tangentially invested in their lives beyond their academic performance.”