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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in parents as partners

Posted by on in What If?

While you may not see them, the parents or guardians of your students are in your classroom every day. As the primary caregivers of your students, they influence how your students think, feel, and react. Even though the ideal parent or guardian would be informed and supportive while providing a stable home environment and supervising homework, not all individuals meet these ideals. Instead, the parents and guardians of our students are people much like ourselves.  They want to do what is best for their children and don’t always know exactly how to go about it.

Some are overinvolved in their children’s lives and extremely sensitive to the smallest problem—real or imagined. Some will have a negative view because of unpleasant past experiences with school. Still others will be positive and supportive allies. Despite this complicated variation, one thing is certain. Creating a successful relationship with parents and guardians is the classroom teacher’s responsibility. Here are a few suggestions that can be adapted by almost any teacher.

At the start of the term send home a letter that explains the most important rules, policies, and procedures in your classroom. In particular, be very careful to explain your homework policy if you want parents or guardians to help you with this area.

Make sure that all written correspondence is neat, legible, and carefully proofread so that you appear as professional as possible. Readers should pay attention to your message, not question your expertise.

Contact parents or guardians when their children are successful as well as when you need their help in solving a problem. When they hear good news from school, parents or guardians realize you are trying to help their children be successful. When they only hear from teachers when there’s trouble, they quickly learn to dread conversations with us.

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Posted by on in General

mama bear

It was the end of a long day of school...or so I thought. Already 4:45, and everyone had left for home except for me and Valerie, our school secretary. I was putting the finishing touches on the slew of reports scattered about my desk. Valerie worked on her own projects behind the counter, right outside of my office. I had just called my wife to let her know that I was planning on leaving by five.

The front door swung open, and a thirty-something woman began bellowing at the top of her lungs, "What is wrong with this school? I want to see the principal!"

Valerie, ever so calm and professional, ignored the angry outburst and quietly asked, "May I help you?"

"You the principal?" hollered the woman as her husband and two boys stood timidly behind her.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

After fourteen years of teaching child care professionals and teachers about preschool learners, one of my college students, with sweet, enthusiastic innocence, told me that her threes understood the word “hypothesis.” That in her center, they teach a “word a week” to the children. And their philosophy? Their motivation? “We have to get them ready for being four.” I suggested that the children are learning to be three. Why push them?

Her program is called an Academy. That says a lot. A Facebook friend, who owns a center, confessed that using the word “Academy” in her school’s title was a marketing decision. She is uncomfortable with it because her program is a process-oriented, creative program where children learn organically—through play experiences, with teachers as guides. But she bit the bullet and chose that word—Academy—to bring parents in.

“Academies” ask two-year-olds to glue noodles to a paper plate, then ask the teacher to glue on the letter “N. They display these almost identical pieces on a bulletin board in the classroom so parents will think their toddlers are learning something (they’re not). They call this academics. Many parents believe that an early academic start (mimicking public school) is good for their children. You can’t blame them. They so want to believe they are giving their children a jump start. All they know is from their own experience, and they don’t remember school any further back than early elementary school. These are the biases they base their choices on. These biases don’t come from developmental theorists, or from the hallowed history of child care and early education. They certainly don’t come from today’s leaders in the educational field. They come from the cultural memory of the industrial age. Ken Robinson calls this a mechanistic approach to education. This approach is outmoded.

We want to prepare young children by allowing them to grow organically, and learn through curiosity, imagination, and creativity. These three qualities are immensely important. They won’t perpetuate the mechanistic, industrial world view of the 19th and 20th century, but will prepare a generation to become the talented, productive, individual human beings that we will need in the future. How can we educate parents to demand the best for their children? By educating them about what the best is.

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Posted by on in General

Grace.jpg

I have a front row seat to one of the greatest shows on Earth. You see I get to watch the teachers in my building work magic everyday. Many get to school before I have even finished my breakfast and some do not leave until I am tucking my children in for bed. Their dedication is amazing and spending time with them each day is an honor.

This is why when I hear folks blame teachers for low test scores, poor behavior or low motivation I cringe. I can't begin to imagine how teachers could do anymore. And so the next place to blame is the home. Parents and guardians are very easy targets because they are not us. Why would we blame ourselves when we know that we are doing all that we possibly can?

A child comes in without their homework. Their parents must not take their education seriously.

A child misbehaves in class. Their parents must not teach them right from wrong.

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Posted by on in School Culture

door knocker

As the principal at a rural high school several years ago I often wrestled with the notion of partnering with parents at this level. How could I engage families? So many freshmen entered without a clue as to how to be successful. Most of my parents did not have an understanding of how involved to be at this level. I embarked on a radical adventure to try and bridge this gap. I decided to do a home visit to every one of their homes the summer before they began high school. This out of the box idea became one of the most powerful acts I have ever done as an educator.

My bilingual secretary and I visited 88 homes that summer. We mapped out the visits in neighborhoods and armed with information about credits, Powerschool, dual credit options, graduation requirements and extra-curricular opportunities we hit the road. Some families were suspicious as to why I would feel the need to visit their homes but the majority of them were so appreciative. More often than not the entire family would be present, all dressed in their finest with delicious food to serve my secretary and me.

 The visits would begin with me asking the question,"What are your dreams for your child's education? " The answer to this question would set the course for the rest of the conversation. We showed the parents how to check their children’s grades online, and we discussed ways that they could support their children’s education. We talked about educational goals and developed a plan for each child as to how to achieve them. All parents now had an educational partner in which to call with any questions. This initial meeting with each family was so positive that it made any subsequent calls that required a disciplinary tone so much easier to make. The incoming freshmen began  a step ahead of any former group of students. Attendance levels went up, discipline issue went down.

I changed jobs after that year but I kept tabs on this group of freshmen. They graduated in 2015. Guess who they invited to be their keynote speaker? Yes, I was honored to deliver the graduation speech for a group that became so very special to me as a result of a summer spent in their homes. Reaching out to make the initial connection paid off in a big way for this group of students. Home visits are not just for preschool, they are highly impactful at the secondary level as well.

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