While in the classroom, I think that I had a pretty good understanding of the value in parents being key partners in education. Over the past few weeks, while speaking with friends and family about their experiences as parents in the world of education, I’ve learned that there is much more to this complex partnership.
Parents genuinely want the best for their children and may be more open than perceived. Keeping this at the forefront when working with parents is key. While I would like to believe that I kept this at the forefront of every conversation or interaction with parents, when I reflect on interactions where we didn’t quite see eye to eye, I recognize that it is possible that I may have had a greater focus on an outcome that I hoped to achieve. While this was always centered on a positive outcome for the student, I wonder if we could have achieved more had I collaborated differently with the parent. I recently spoke with a friend who has a child on an IEP and she shared that in her experience, it wasn’t that she didn’t want the help offered for her child, she just didn’t understand the process or how having the IEP would impact her child. Because it was wholly new and not well explained – in her perspective – she felt defensive and didn’t feel heard or understood by those in the meeting. Her once positive sentiments around education were now tainted because she felt as though she wasn’t truly heard and her questions weren’t clearly answered. Through other conversations with educators, she’s understanding that the supports offered through the IEP are in addition to what she can do at home to support her child’s learning. She’s learning that it’s a living document that can be updated and reviewed. She genuinely wants for her child to be able succeed and I wonder if taking the time to ensure that she felt heard, if this process could have been a more positive experience for her.
Great learning is already happening in homes. I’ve never been a fan of homework. I’ve always seen it as “keep busy work” that can’t be assessed and is often a source of great frustration in the evenings for families. After sharing my thoughts on homework, while many parents have appreciated that I valued the learning that was happening through extra-curricular or other activities in the home, every year, I’ve had parents ask for homework. It was always challenging to balance the two extremes but understanding the value or perceived importance of homework was something that I was after. Through conversations with parents, many felt that it would help their child get ahead or make sure that they kept practicing what was being learned in the classroom. During these conversations, we often spoke about the skills needed beyond memorization of facts and content and activities that might further develop these skills. I shared with parents activities such as:
- Draw a map to your friends house. Include measurements and different ways to get there.
- “Invent” something using the various items in your recycle bin.
- Take something apart to see how it works – Reassemble it if possible or create something new with the parts.
- Look for geometric shapes in the yard, the store, or at home. Cut them out. Measure them.
- Listen to different genres of music and discuss the differences.
In my searches for other family-friendly activities, I found this link with more alternative homework ideas.
Great learning is already happening in homes. For a variety of reasons, parents are looking for creative ways to work with their children and help to give them an advantage. By helping to parents to understand the value in developing learning skills, they might just be ready to jump in and give these ideas a try with their children. Potentially helping to build even greater family bonds and connections.
Nothing! Without a doubt the answer to the question of, “What did you learn today in school?”. I’m amazed every time that I hear it and understand that it’s a challenge for parents to truly get a picture of what happens for the hours that their children are in our classrooms. It was one of the main reasons why I started a weekly classroom blog. It was my way of sharing with parents what we were learning and by adding a calendar to my site, it allowed for them to keep up-to-date with current events in our classroom and school. I found that the more parents knew, the more they felt informed about and engaged in their child’s learning, which is incredibly important. Several times the answer was still nothing, and this was a great opportunity to check-in with the student and to see how best to further support them in their learning.
Making parents feel heard. Understand that there is great learning already happening in homes. Support by sharing what is happening in the classroom. These are just 3 ways in which we might be better able to partner with parents to achieve even greater success in student learning.