As a longtime educator and a board member of the Movemeant Foundation, which works to alleviate body image and self-esteem issues in girls, Meredith Essalat’s work inspired her to write The Overly Honest Teacher, a resource for parents and teachers to communicate better. Here, the Bay Area author shares her wisdom for moving forward in these uncertain times of education.
Why did you decide to write this book?
While I was doing some consulting, I had a hiatus out of the classroom. I just started jotting down notes, memories that I had about my time teaching, anecdotes and stories that I wanted to remember. And I also really started to think about how I wanted the parent-teacher dynamic and relationship to be better, how we needed to communicate better with one another on a larger scale.
It seems like the parent-teacher relationship is more strained than ever with the pressures of home schooling and distance learning.
I have to say I’ve just been so impressed with the collaboration that has taken place between teachers and parents across the board. I fully recognize that parents were all of a sudden tethered with their own 9-to-5 jobs in addition to that of taking on the role of a home-school teacher. But I think during this time, communication is key. And I stress that a lot in my book with parents understanding that they need to communicate with their kids transparently and vulnerably.
How can the advice in your book apply to this new world of education?
I think that the most important thing is for us to get creative. And for us to really pivot in terms of making learning accessible, no matter where our students are. I’ve said to so many people, ‘Distance learning is not an insurmountable challenge.’ We can still move the needlesignificantly with regard tostudent achievement and student growth. We can be utilizing Zoom in really creative ways where small-group work can be done in breakout rooms and then giving students time to have that digital disconnect if they need it. We can definitely help to structurestudent learning and student achievement as close to business as usual as possible.
What do you think is the biggest misconception parents have about education today?
I think that actually remote learning has given the general populace such better insight into the nuances that education requires. This really lifted the veil of the classroom environment, which is something that I sought to do with my book, to really give people a peek behind the emerald curtain to see what goes on between the hours of 8 and 3 when students are in school and parents are at their own jobs working. I think that it really helped to highlight the nuances that education has evolved into with regard to really targeting the individual students.
Photography by: Katherine Briccetti