I often use this blog as a venue to write about my work with children. In reviewing my archive of past entires, I realized that I left out one very important detail of my work – parents. It is impossible to work with children and not encounter their parents. In fact, if I didn’t ever encounter my students’ parents, something really would be wrong!
Parents can be challenging. They ask too many questions. They overbook their kids. They don’t understand the value of your work. They hover. They think they know more than you do. They don’t respond to emails. They send you too many emails. They’re over involved. They’re under involved.
Parents can also be amazing allies. They advocate for their kids. They support their artistic and academic endeavors. They volunteer to help build sets. They arrange carpools. They value your work. They feed you. And, let us not forget, they sign your checks.
Though I do not always work with them directly, parents are an essential part of what I do. After all, they are the ones who are telling their kids that it’s okay to try out for the school play, or take voice lessons, or play the piano. They are investing time, energy, and money into the pursuit of an artistic accomplishment. At first, I think I was afraid of parents. I didn’t want to them to somehow “get in the way” of the work the student and I were doing. And I certainly didn’t want them treating me like “the help” or telling me how to do my job. I was young and defensive. Over time, though, I have learned that parents are really the key to mine and their child’s success. I need the parents to understand why our work is valuable. Beyond that, I need them to encourage their child to practice when I’m not there. Whether I see the student once a week for a voice lesson or three times a week for a rehearsal, there is still the need for work to happen in between. Talent aside – the more that the parents encourage practice at home, the more prepared and successful the student is in the lesson or performance.
Parents are also an amazing gateway into understanding their children. They will often share sensitive information about how a student is struggling in a certain class or having some social challenges – things that the student may be nervous or embarrassed to tell you herself. And, of course, you can learn so much about a person simply by studying his or her parents! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.