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December 10, 2006

Learning from Each Other

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.

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Comments

Hi Sophia,

I'll be following your reflections! I'd also like to share with you our parent involvement and school readiness program, HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parent of Preschool Youngsters) and hope you will check out my blog! We'll encourage each other!

Carla,

Thanks for the note. I look forward to checking out your blog and learning about your own parent involvement strategies. The more great ideas, the better.

Hi Sophia,

It is so refreshing to read your enthusiasm. I spent 5 years as a teacher in Atlantic City public Pre-K and it was the most rewarding and fruitful five years of my career. The items you write about are so close to my own personal experience I feel as though I am reading my own words. I have taken my experiences on the road and I am an advocate for early childhood education and I am trying to raise the bar (preschool for all children as well as teacher credentials) for the early preschool years. I conduct a educational workshop "parent participation in the preschool classroom" a big hit in the inner city schools. I am interested in hearing more from you. Keep up the good work and may we continue to advocate for those that are too young to do so themselves!

Tracey Campbell

Tracey,

Thanks for the note and encouraging words. I would love to hear more about your parent participation workshop in terms of its content, response from parents, and the cities in which you have presented it. I was actually thinking of creating my own early literacy workshop for parents in my district focusing on making the most of story time and building awareness of everyday uses of print.

I also feel strongly about improving teacher quality, which w can can to in subsequent conversations.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sophia

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