As parents, we've probably all felt the cool shoulder in a school environment from time to time. A common comparison is that the situation reminds people of “high school” or “junior high” all over again. In some ways, maybe it does. And the initial Great Schools article portrayed two very real consequences of these adult cliques.
First, they can deter individuals from contributing time and energy to the school. Second, feelings of rejection, or acts of exclusion, hurt not only a parent, but also his or her kids and intensifies what is already a tough phase for young people.
I wanted to know what it was like for my husband’s grandmother, a 92-year-old-woman who raised three kids and who, even now, seems to be the epitome of graciousness and enthusiasm. I imagined her being a part of a PTA and including every new parent or lost-looking soul into a discussion, remembering someone's name the next time they met.
It was 1960 the last time she went to a PTA meeting. She’d had her third child several years after the other two, and she said she was a 46-year-old mother sitting in a room of mostly 25-year-olds.
“I never made any friends there,” she said recently.
I asked her daughter, who’d inherited what I think of as an ability to make friends quickly. No parent cliques to contend with either, she said. She was working 80-hour weeks. There were few events parents were expected to attend or plan, and when she did go to her son’s private school in Connecticut, the other parents were in a rush to make the commute home.
Then I asked another woman whom I respect. She is now a grandmother, but spent her younger days as the daughter of an Army General moving from place to place. Did her mother give her any tips for making friends when she was a young mom? Not really, she said. As a freelance writer, she developed her own style:
“Cliques are just too hard for me. I prefer to develop my own friends in organic fashion and I tend to be a gatherer rather than one who shuts things off. When I worked at the ballpark, I had a tight group of friends, but was constantly inviting others to join us for dinner in the press box dining room. I think it bothered some of my closer friends, but I remember what it felt like to be on the outside and I never want to give off that vibe.”
I approached this topic thinking it was not only universal but something parents have been concerned about for generations. I am not so sure. Maybe it’s the nature of the independent women I asked. Maybe the current environment of academic competition, or perfectionism, has spurred stronger and consequently less inclusive alliances among parents that act, or are perceived, as ways to control success.
Even if that were the case, given the opportunities of our current world, the person you may least expect to go on to great things may be sitting in your kid’s classroom. It seems to behoove everyone, and every motive, to be nice to that child's parents.
This week on the Educated Mom I take a look at MOOC's, Massively Open On-line Courses, and how they may or may not fit into the concept of a $300,000 college education.