As we devote the next few days to completing our report cards and prepare for our parent-teacher conferences, I’d like to share an experience that really came to prove that how often and the manner in which we communicate with our students’ families and caregivers really makes a difference to in supporting and furthering their learning experience.
I am part of the Portuguese-speaking Students Task Force created by the TDSB. It’s mission is to look deeper into the challenges experienced by Portuguese-speaking students and their families including a very high drop-out rate in secondary school and low enrolment with respect to post-secondary education. We have spoken to the students themselves, teachers within the Portuguese community, and most recently, the parents. We discussed at length issues including: how Portuguese-speaking students and their families are viewed by educators; whether students and families feel supported by the TDSB (programs, resources, etc.); what challenges exist; and possible solutions and/or suggestions.
I found it absolutely fascinating that there was one aspect/challenge that each group (students, teachers, and parents) mentioned as needing immediate attention: communication between the school/teachers and parents. The reality, concerns, and suggestions made were practically identical and so I thought it would be beneficial to share the parents’ viewpoint as we think about our parent-teacher conferences.
Parents commented that although they understand teachers are very busy, they often feel left out of their children’s education because they do not really know what’s going on in the classroom on a regular basis. They said that their children’s education is a bit of a mystery when it comes to what they are learning, how they are being assessed, how they can further support their child, and how the education system works overall. It came down to admitting that they feel intimidated at times to speak to the teacher or ask questions about what is happening in the classroom.
When asked about what they would like to see happen with respect to communication between educators and parents, they put it very simply: they wish educators would reach out to them on a regular basis whether it be through a newsletter, email, webpage, tweet, agenda, phone call, etc. to let them know what the children are learning, how the learning will be assessed, and how the family can support and further the learning outside the classroom. Overwhelmingly, parents said that when teachers care enough to take the initiative by constantly keeping the doors of communication open, they feel more motivated in able to guide/support their child.
Let’s keep this in mind…myself included!