On any given school day, educators are tasked with making approximately 1,500 decisions. To put that into perspective, they make an average of one decision every four minutes during their six-hour school day. Many of these decisions are made on the fly and out of necessity, from instruction to addressing questions to being mindful of student behavior. A teacher’s attempt at containing the controlled chaos in every classroom means planned and impromptu decision-making, requiring them to always expect the unexpected.
Compounding efforts in the classroom is what’s happening at home: working parents and kids’ homework, packing lunches and cooking dinners, rushing to practices and games, battling the clock to get everything done. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day, yet the list of things everyone is to accomplish just keeps growing!
It’s no wonder, then, that teamwork is essential when it comes to kids’ academic success. Educators may be the instructional experts, but parents are experts of their children, speaking to the research that proves parental involvement is the number one factor driving student success. Schools can revamp curriculum, hire the most qualified and experienced teachers, and have all the resources in the world, but if students are not supported and motivated at home, it’s all for naught. That’s why educators and parents must strive to work together and bridge the gap between school-to-home communication. Sure, communication is a simple concept, but it’s made logistically more difficult by a multitude of factors:
Teachers should be interacting with parents early on and in a consistent, ongoing manner that is both positive and constructive. Of course there are times when teachers simply need to talk to Mom about her son’s unacceptable classroom behavior, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to broach that subject once a positive rapport has been established! Too many educators wait until they have a complaint or concern to contact home, missing the opportunity to build a solid foundational relationship. Parents are more willing and excited to talk to a teacher they believe has their child’s best academic interest at heart. Beginning the school year with a few friendly welcome calls is a great start to building that trust.
When students are young, parents are welcomed into the classroom as guest readers, PTO volunteers, and class party planners! However, as the student advances through the grades, parents are not invited as often to participate in their children’s education. Lack of hands-on time and waning decision-making opportunities can make parents feel like outsiders. While that’s certainly not the intention, it seems to be the unfortunate progression in the public school system. Regardless of age or grade level, parents should be viewed as partners in their child’s educational endeavors.
Many parents did not have a positive school experience; as such, they don’t understand or appreciate the value of a formal education for their children. This issue is a difficult one to address because it means changing a person’s perspective. This often entails providing additional, new opportunities for parents’ learning, and though tough, it’s not impossible to help parents understand what academic success can mean for their students.
The sad reality is there are several families whose priority is not education because their basic needs are not being met. Perhaps they are experiencing poverty or life is just throwing lemon after lemon at them. Whatever the reason, personal hardship absolutely takes its toll on a person and impacts his ability to focus on other things, including his child’s education.
A language barrier between home and school is not a new issue, but it is a growing one. Our country is becoming more diverse with each passing year, which means schools will continue to face the challenges of communicating with students and families in their first or preferred languages. Until all stakeholders receive information they can understand and use, families will feel as though they are not a valuable part of their child’s education. Schools should strive to create an inclusive community, one that supports its members’ varying needs.
Varying demographics and student needs will always pose unique challenges for schools and parents to successfully close the communication gap. Fortunately, certain policies and new technology can help all stakeholders feel like active, valued participants in their child’s education. In the next post, we’ll focus specifically on the ESL barrier and explore the best strategies and tools for engaging these families. Stay tuned!
If you’re a district looking to open lines of communication between school and home—during testing season and beyond—book a personal tour now. The tour takes less than 15-minutes and trust us when we say: your teachers will thank you!