Forging Connections with Families, Part 2: Reaching Out

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about a thought-provoking series on the home-school connection that was recently published in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.  In the second article in the series, journalist Erin Richards looks at the issue of whether education schools should be doing more to prepare teachers for working with and trying to involve parents in their children’s school lives.  She focuses on one teacher—Joe Dorn—who laments that he did not learn more about working with parents during his teacher training program.

Whether and how to teach pre-service teachers about parental involvement is an interesting question, but what really struck me about this article was how much this teacher, who wants to do more, is already doing to reach out to and work with parents! Among other things, he attends students’ sports events, tries to use newsletters and e-mails, and has parents volunteer in the classroom.  His dedication was inspiring and reminded me of the many ways, both big and small, teachers go above and beyond what many think of as our daily jobs.  Reading about Joe Dorn made me recollect about the many ways I’ve seen teachers reach out to parents.  Here are just a few:

  • A colleague who tried to make personal contact with every family before school started, even though for some families this took a great deal of persistence.
  • A teacher I met at a conference who was trying to learn a foreign language so that she could better communicate with the growing population of parents at her school who speak that language.
  • The many teachers I know who schedule conferences at unusual times (early in the a.m., in the evenings, or even on weekends) so that they can accommodate parents’ work schedules.
  • Teachers who recognize children’s academic gifts and go out of their way to help parents who might not otherwise do so navigate “the system” to make the most of those.
  • A teacher with whom I worked who tried to give parents positive reinforcement about their efforts with children. (She believed that they needed it perhaps as much as the children did.  For example, I once heard her tell a parent, “I can tell you have been reading to Jamie! She loves the time with you and is really excited about books.”).
  • Teachers who listen to what parents have to say even when they disagree, or when the parents are not so skilled at expressing their concerns.

Here’s to Mr. Dorn, the teachers I mentioned, and all of you who are making a difference in the lives of children by trying to work with their parents and caregivers!

Margaret Berry Wilson is the author of several books, including: The Language of Learning, Doing Science in Morning Meeting (co-authored with Lara Webb), Interactive Modeling, and Teasing, Tattling, Defiance & More.

Tags: Family Connections, Working with Families