In the years I've spent as an educator, parents have asked me a lot of questions. "Should my child be reading?" "Is it okay that she counts on her fingers?" "Why can't he get along with his siblings?" Over the years, I've realized that almost all the questions I'm asked boil down to one: "Should I be worried?" Raising children in today's world can be anxiety-producing, and, as one parent told me, "I don't know anything about five-year-olds; I haven't really met any except my own." This led me to come to the understanding that when parents ask me questions, they're asking me as someone who has known a lot of children, who has watched them grow, who has studied them. It makes sense: when your computer does something unexpected, you talk to someone who's had a lot of experience with computers. When your child does something unexpected, you probably want to talk to someone who's got a lot of experience with children. We live in a society that's constantly judging parents, expecting them to be experts, which, when you think about it, isn't fair at all. Parenting can be difficult and isolating, and expecting parents to do it all on their own, without expert help, is absurd. After years of receiving grateful comments from the parents of my students, I've heard a theme: "It's so helpful to have someone with experience to ask for advice."
As a classroom teacher, I become well-acquainted with my students -- and their parents -- each year. I love helping parents figure out what works best for their family. However, I also know that it can be intimidating to talk to your child's classroom teacher. Maybe you want the opinion of someone who doesn't have a relationship with your child. Perhaps you want advice from someone who hasn't even met your child, because you're trying to think abstractly about a situation that's arisen. Maybe you want to hear from someone with no axe to grind, who doesn't have to be cautious about telling you the truth because of school politics. There are many reasons to consult someone outside your immediate community, and, by expanding my offerings to folks outside my everyday world, I'm hoping to fill some of those needs, while still continuing to share my experience with those I already know.