I thought this would be kind of cool to do. My husband graduated in 1993, I graduated in 2008, and our son is currently in Kindergarten (Class of 2030!). From the time my husband graduated to the time I graduated, the ability for parents and educators to contact one another changed exponentially, and even now, just nine years later, it’s still changing in completely new and honestly, totally unexpected ways. You couldn’t have told me, in 2008, that I would basically be able to text my son’s teacher, and in 1993, you wouldn’t have been able to convince my husband that you’d be able to send a letter instantly, through the phone lines, from one machine to another.
So, I thought I’d do a comparison. This will also encompass my entire school experience, since I started kindergarten not long after my husband graduated, so I do remember some things from the 90s that are similar to what my husband dealt with.
The 90s and Before:
Generally, if a teacher or a parent wanted to speak to one another, they’d send a note home or they’d call and leave a message on the answering machine. Both options were a bit tricky, because notes could be lost and answering machines could be deleted or kept full (if there was one), but that’s just what happened. If it was serious, the office would call every number until a parent answered, but that was usually only if there were serious injuries or threats of expulsion. If it wasn’t too urgent, a letter was sent, which could take up to a week to get to the house. Parent-Teacher conferences weren’t really a thing for me in elementary school, because really, unless there was something super important that was going on, parents didn’t want to be bothered by it. Things were a lot less hands-on.
Email became a huge thing at the end of the 90s and early 00s. With dialup, it wasn’t always certain if a phone line would be tied up by internet usage, and since most parents tended to work in a business setting, email was more likely to be checked than answering machines. Also, the popularity of cell phones grew, and so did voice mail, but like answering machines, those could be full or not set up. Interestingly, when I was in high school, social media was becoming a much larger thing but didn’t quite have set rules, so it wasn’t uncommon for teachers to connect with their students or students’ parents on Facebook (not on Myspace, because that was more for the teenaged crowd), but Facebook was the first social media to really appeal to all ages, and it showed.
The prevalence of email and social media definitely led to the increase of interference or “helicopter” parenting – some parents grew so used to having a lifeline attached to their children that it wasn’t anything for them to email a future boss or college professor, or “check up on them” while at work or in class, which has been an open source of resentment for the employers of these children. Even if a parent wasn’t trying to be over-involved, a lot of times, the teacher would bring them into things that really didn’t involve them – for example, a lost piece of classwork or some sort of interaction for homework (which, for those of us with working parents, often went into the gradebooks as a zero, and into the email inbox as a “concern”). The children of these parents often end up dependent on them for both motivation and consequences, which means when they are finally forced to face the world alone, they flounder. It was a lose-lose situation for those of us who grew up in that time.
Emails also led to the downplaying of Parent-Teacher conferences – before, those were likely the only times a parent and educator would end up in contact, but now, it was easy to connect! No more relying on a child to pass a note, or a voicemail/answering machine that could be full or disconnected. It’s quite impressive to realize that this change came about during the 12 years that I was in the educational system!
The app has brought about a new way of living. There are apps for everything – for exercise, for socialization, for cooking, and even to keep track of your period and pregnancy symptoms! Apps are an integral part of daily life in the 2000-Teens, and no where is it more obvious than in the educational system. Laptops and Ebooks are often used more than physical texts, apps keep students honest and engaged in their learning, and, even in elementary school, apps are used to keep parents and educators connected. With an app, sending a message to your child’s teacher is as easy as sending a text! It doesn’t stop there – unlike emails, which were often limited in the types of attachments they could send or accept (thanks in large part to the preventative measures implemented by school systems), these apps can often send pictures, flyers, and update you on your child’s behavior immediately. It’s not exactly like being in the classroom, but it’s pretty close!
That said, I can see how this can both keep the helicopter parents at bay and enable them. It’s nice to know what’s going on in my son’s classroom, but it feels so intrusive. At the same time, it’s now expected to want to use these apps – my child’s teacher actually spoke to me about my reluctance to use the class app, because I hadn’t signed onto it for over a week and it gave her a notification! It is a great way to keep up to speed… But is it too much? It worries me – is this actually hindering my son’s growth, by keeping him reliant on me to police his actions? Do I really need to know every time he gets in trouble at school? The lines have blurred, and I don’t think I like it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about parent/teacher connectivity, as well as your experiences with any of the methods mentioned above, as well as anything I may have missed. Please feel free to leave a comment down below, or you can hit me up on Instagram, Youtube, or Twitter.
Thank you so much for stopping by, and have a good one! ;0