For the last month and a half, we have been sharing guest posts about how teachers and (a) principal involve parents in student’s literacy development. I love all the ideas that have been shared and have gained so much from them myself.
The term “lifelong learner” seems to come up again and again but I really do believe that it’s true or should be true for educators. It helps me to see what others are doing and to take those ideas and see how they can fit into what I do. It is so valuable to share with others and to reflect and rethink what we do so we are striving towards doing the best that we can.
After going through process of National Board certification, I realized that working with parents is something I needed to improve upon. That year I reached out to parents and set up mini-conferences outside of conference time to survey parents about how they support their child with reading. Based on the surveys, I presented them with some ideas for how they could do more to help their child.
Anything teachers can do to get to know families or what a student’s home life is like will help in working with students and with understanding what we can ask of parents. As a mother of two sons, I have gained some perspective as to how hard it can be to manage everything at home and work while still trying to help my kids play and learn. (It's completely different when you are the parent instead of the teacher!!!)
Learning what each parent does really helped me to realize how different their thinking is from mine. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that not everyone is as crazy about reading as I am. And even if they do read at home, they might still benefit from my expertise as a teacher.
Here are the three biggest things I discovered from surveying and meeting with parents that I would not have known otherwise:
1. A mom of a 7th grade student was sneaking in to her son’s room at night to find what book he was reading in his backpack. She would read the book and then slip it back into his backpack without his knowing.
*When I met with this student’s mom I suggested she actually talk to her son about what he was reading. She could ask him questions about what he was thinking about the book or give her opinion of what was happening or what would happen next. My focus was to get her talking to her son about what he was reading to help check his comprehension and give him her thoughts about the reading.
2. Parents of a kindergartener had never ever taken him to their public library and little reading was done at home because his grandmother was taking care of him while parents were at work. His grandmother only spoke Spanish and was not literate in English to help him.
*I explained to the parents that the library is free and that all they need is a Driver’s License or other form of proof of the residency to get a library card. I explained that the library has books, books on CD, DVDs, CDs and other resources all totally free.
3. A mom of a 5th grade student wasn’t reading with her daughter because she only completed school through 4th grade in Mexico and couldn’t read with her daughter in English at home.
*When I realized asking this mother to read with her daughter was unrealistic, I started downloading audiobooks to an iPod so the student could listen while reading the words along with the book. I suggested that the mom could sit with her and listen and maybe understand some of the story in English or possibly learn more English by listening along with her daughter.
What I took away from sitting down and talking to parents about what reading is like in their home is that if I do learn about a student’s home life it helps me to be able to know how to best help parents work with their child at home. If I can show parents that I care and take into consideration what is happening in their homes, then I can make suggestions that they can actually carry out. Communicating with parents allows me to better empathize and work with families to help their children love reading outside of school.
I haven’t called parents in for mini-conferences since two years ago but I do survey my students and talk to parents on the phone or through e-mail more than I ever did before. It amazes me how much we can learn from letting parents talk to us about what they are dong and what works and doesn’t work for them. Developing effective two-way communication makes a huge difference compared to just sending home notes or handouts with ideas but not getting feedback from parents.
Thank you for reading our series on working with parents! We are always learning and I hope that between our guest bloggers and myself you found something worthwhile that you can implement or coordinate with what you are already doing in partnering with parents. The main tenet that seems to run through all of our posts in this series seems to be getting parents involved and sharing our ideas about what we do to encourage students to read.
Please share what works for you in partnering with parents or what idea you think you would like to try! Thanks again to all our guest bloggers! We appreciate their ideas!