Partnership and cooperation between teachers and parents are so critical to pre-k. What happens at home impacts events at school and vice versa. Even though I spend months interacting with my students, recording their progress, and collecting their work samples, I need parental involvement to fully understand each child’s interests and needs. And I need parents’ trust if I’m going to get the information that, as David’s mother put it, will help their children go “sky high and have a better life.”
For example, last week our school held a parent-teacher conference night. But well before that week, I laid the groundwork to make sure my students’ parents came. I share information about their child's progress 2-3 times per week, either orally for those parents who drop off and pick up their children or through informal notes to those parents who work during school hours. I also reinforce that they are always welcome in my classroom by inviting them to special events like “Family Show and Tell” and our “Giving Thanks Party.” The use of both formal written invitations and constant oral reminders to anyone and everyone in the family we see helps boost attendance and demonstrate my sincere desire to invest each family member in their child’s education. Then, during conferences, I use an open dialogue format, as opposed to a more overbearing and arrogant top-down approach with me talking at them. Rather than just delivering and explaining the report card, I use an individualized action plan to guide discussion of the child’s strengths, target areas, and ways both families and I can move the child forward.
This last time, thirteen out of fourteen parents or guardians showed up for conferences. Several parents remarked that their child does things like rhyming and retelling stories at home -- activities I’d not seen these children do in school. This information is invaluable, since I now know the issue is not a skill deficit but a matter of not feeling comfortable or motivated to show these skills in the classroom. Now I can design teaching strategies that more accurately reflect each child’s needs. Thank you, families!
I think results like these prove that parents will make time to be involved if teachers make time for them and create strong home-school connections.