As we continue to learn what it means to be a RENEWED TEACHER in this series, we venture into the territory of the caretakers of our students.
As RenewED Teachers, we must always:
WORK WITH FAMILIES
This phrase is intentional. I purposely do not use the word parent. In no way, shape or form, am I throwing shade to parents. What I am attempting to do is value everyone that takes care of the children we encounter daily. Throughout my experience in the classroom, I have met my fair share of diverse families. I have met mom and dad; mom and mom; mom, dad, and step mom; dad and stepdad; mom and grandmother; mom and grandfather; grandfather and grandmother; foster mom and
dad; adopted mom and dad; siblings; cousins; aunts and uncles; fake aunts and uncles that are really close friends of the family, etc. Theses are real combinations of families I have met on more than one occasion during back to school nights, open houses, conferences, and other events that were held at the school.
Some of y’all are probably like, “Duh! I do try to work with them. These parents just don’t care.” And you know what? Because we have seen it for as long as we have been teaching, we actually believe they don’t care. Then we blame them for their children not being as successful as they could be in our classrooms. With those beliefs, come unfair ways in how we interact with and treat their children, and whether we contact the families throughout the year to communicate positive or negative events and outcomes.
But I urge us to think differently. Because as Ross W. Greene says in Lost at School, “Blaming [families] doesn’t help anyone at school deal effectively with… kid[s].” (p. 13)
What if we believed all families cared about their child? What do you think would change? I don’t think it would magically change anything, but because of our efforts, I believe it would change the way we communicated to our colleagues about our students and their families. It would probably change the way in which we communicated with our students. It would probably even change how often and why we communicate with families.
Families Are Our Biggest Allies
I see families as allies. I don’t make families believe we are on the same team, even though we are. I show them. I tell them. I recruit them. I thank them. I support them. I invite them in my room at any given time. I value them. I let them know, upfront, that I cannot help their child be successful without their support and input.
I send letters home to families prior to the first day of school. This letter introduces me, my experience, and my expectations. I also include the grade level, homeroom, and date for Back to School Night and first day of school in the letter. You can download a free template from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store by clicking the link.
In addition to the letter, I include an opportunity for families to share some positive thoughts about their children with me. This is my favorite part because I immediately have families thinking positively. In addition to this, I am able to get a bigger picture of who my students are. Of course I get information from former teachers, and usually it includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. However, I use the positive information to my advantage. On the first day of school, I have something to talk to them about. Later in the year, when or if a student is beginning to show behaviors that get under my skin (I want to say P. Me Off. LOL!), I reread these letters to help me see this child as their family sees them. Typically my response towards the child changes, and “just like magic,” their response is better. Let’s be clear. It’s not magic. It’s compassion and respect. (I am considering using a Google Form to collect Positive Thoughts this year to help shrink my paper trail. But you can access a copy of the form I send home to families in my Teachers Pay Teachers store by clicking here.) I have never received a Positive Thoughts form back from all families. So if you decide to include this idea in your back to school activities, I don’t want you to get false a false hope. Each year, I make changes to get families further engaged. Technology has been helpful in reaching more families.
Leave your thoughts in the comments!
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Until then, Happy Teaching!
Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher