How (Lack of) Co-Parenting Affects Teachers

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My husband recently attended a parent teacher conference for his son.  He had to schedule his own separate conference date because, as per usual, my stepson’s mother did not notify my husband of the conference date.  This unfortunately is nothing new for our family.

When my stepson entered Kindergarten, his Mom did all of the enrolling and registering.  We trusted that she would follow the court order and that my husband’s information would be on all of the paper work.  By the middle of the school year, we started noticing how little we see.  There was never any school work sent home.  We never received any kind of information from his teacher or from the school.  The only thing that we saw for the first half of his Kindergarten year was his report card (probably because she knew we would really be suspicious if she didn’t even show that.)  It was at that point that my husband and I decided to go into the school office (court papers in tow) and ask to see my stepson’s record.  We quickly found out my husband’s information was not on anything.  His name was not listed as the father.  His phone number was not saved in case of an emergency.  His email was not saved to receive notifications from the school.  My husband basically did not exist to the school for the first half of my stepson’s Kindergarten year.  The school of course updated the records for us, but we were still so frustrated.  Even when my stepson’s mother is being nice or decent with us, she is always scheming.  She would smile telling us how well he is doing at school and say things when we would ask like “oh, I don’t think they do parent teacher conferences in Kindergarten yet,” while knowing darn well that they do (because she attended!)

We contacted my stepson’s teacher and requested a meeting.  We informed her of what his mother had done to exclude my husband from his schooling and education and that up until this point we had missed any and all communications regarding his schooling.  While the front office was handling the communications that go out from the school (which was an easy fix just by adding my husband’s email address to the record), what we needed from his teacher was much more.  We told his teacher that we do not see anything that is sent home.  We had to ask her to start sending home copies of anything that came home from the classroom and had to ask her if she would be willing to communicate weekly with us on how he was doing and what was sent home so we could make sure we saw what we needed to see.  She was a brand new teacher and very sweet.  She understood our concerns and was very willing to help.  The rest of the school year went by without us missing anything.  And the conversation with her set a precedence for the conversation we would have to have with each of his teachers to come.  For the most part, all of his teachers thus far have been very understanding and have done their best to communicate with us and make sure we receive information as well.

Recently, I was talking to my cousin who is a teacher.  I was telling her this exact story and how amazing the school and all of the teachers have been in trying to include us and helping us stay informed since they understand his mother does everything she can to keep us uninformed.  I told her how we speak to the teachers in the beginning of the year, how they make two copies of everything so that we see everything, how they email us on a weekly or bi-weekly basis regarding his progress.  And then I asked her, as a teacher, what she thinks when she has parents in these situations.  While of course she is understanding and wants all parents to be a part of the educational journey of a child’s life, she did have some frustrations as a teacher.

Here were some of her frustrations:

1.) She becomes a part of the co-parenting process.  Co-parenting should be between the parents. A teacher should not have to be a “middle-man” because the two parents can not find a way to co-parent and simply share information with one another.

2.) Overworked and underpaid.  Teachers really are! They have 20-30 kids in their classroom, have to take their student’s work home to grade most of the time, and then are also supposed to remember to make copies and send emails for the student in her classroom whose parents can’s get along well enough for the sake of the CHILD to do what they are supposed to do.

3.) Parent-Teacher Conferences.  There are only so many time slots teachers have to schedule parent teacher conferences.  Parents who cannot stand to even be in the same room to hear about how their own common denominator – their CHILD is doing frustrate teachers.  If the teacher cares about your child’s well-being, why as parents is it so hard to sit next to each other, united for your child, and co-parent?

4.) The child suffers.  She said this is the hardest part of any situation where parents do not co-parent well when it comes to the child’s schooling.  The child is the one who ends up suffering.  Not the parents.  When the child has to make sure to get two copies of everything, bring two signed copies back, etc.  It makes things more difficult for the child, and can also be embarrassing for the child.  When the majority of the classroom has parents who are either still together or can co-parent enough not to have things made harder in the classroom, the child who needs to turn in two signed copies of everything and reminded to take two copies of everything suffers.

I shared the conversation that my cousin and I had with my husband.  We both agreed with all of her frustrations as a teacher and how our issues not being able to co-parent well with my stepson’s mom when it comes to his schooling affect my stepson.  My husband is planning to have a conversation with his ex this summer before the next school year begins to see if they might be able to find a way to co-parent without involving the school or the next teacher.  While this conversation will be a hard enough battle as it is, we also need to wait until we know she is having a “good day” to discuss it (I know all of y0u stepmoms know about saving conversations for a BM’s “good day!”  After summer is over and the new school year begins, I will have to update you all with how things are going and whether or not we are co-parenting better in regards to his schooling and education.

How well (or not well) are you able to co-parent with BM regarding school-related information?  Does it come easy for your family to share information and keep it in the family? Or do you also have to include the teacher to get information?  I would love to hear your thoughts and also what has worked for you!

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3 thoughts on “How (Lack of) Co-Parenting Affects Teachers

  1. Not the Average Mama says:

    My husband and his ex wife each set up their own parent teach conference times. The reason being, their schedules never seem to match up, so it just works better that way. There has been times when his ex wife had to cancel her conference time with a teacher, but we just filled her in on what we were told. Ever since the oldest has been in school, their teachers have told us how amazing we are at the whole co-parenting gig. It is a wonderful thing to hear coming from teachers who have seen it all. We have figured out that working together, especially when it comes to school related stuff, just works out best for all involved.

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  2. ~Proud to be Step~ says:

    As a teacher and stepmom, I can tell you that I see both points very clearly. We have always had separate conferences for our little one, for different reasons. (I actually encourage this with divorced parents if they can’t be in the same room or can’t work out the schedule, there is nothing worst then having parents argue and blame eachother during a conference… This way… The focus is the child) The first year… Things were just very ugly between them, the second year (this year) her mom was out of town. Both years, my fiancé sent an email to the teacher explaining the schedule and involvement with his daughter. That does two things… It makes sure the teacher knows he is present and also give the teacher his email address. It opens communication lines. Because both parents need to communicate… Specially if they have two homes. What you don’t want is for the teacher to relay messages or anything like that. We get more information from the ex this year but still we don’t get all of it, for instance we had no idea she had sight word lists going home until the 3rd one…but he harasses her for it, if that doesn’t go anywhere he will email the teacher. During her parent teacher conference this year, we were complimented on how great we are at this and both my fiancé and I laughed because things aren’t “good” but we told them thank you because if that is what they see, then it’s most likely that that is what my stepdaughter sees… And that’s what’s important.

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  3. SMAlicia says:

    We have it pretty good when it comes to co-parenting with mom and SD. Mom usually forwards school/sports emails to both of us. Either myself or my husband will forward that to the teacher/coach and ask if they can add our names to the distribution email list. Once we are added, we tell her we got them and the emails from her stop. Mom, dad, SD, amped I are all on a group text. Everything is communicated that way. Unless it’s something big-then it’s usually a phone call. The group text is great! No one has to remember to relay info or wonder, what time was….? What day was that event? It works well for us. Conferences are mom and dad. They get along and can sit through them. The first few were weird, yes, but life happens.

    I’m sorry to hear that in your situation, BM is a bit out there. That makes it reallllllly hard.

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