A few recent events in my community and school have really given me a lot to think about on a variety of levels. These events that have happened are not directly related nor really even in the same ballpark in terms of the situations, but both have driven home something that I think is really lacking in education.
What is lacking is the bridge between schools and parents/families. I don’t know where things begin to divide, but as students progress through the grades this wall begins to build between families and schools. I don’t believe that it is intentional, but something that builds up over time.
I believe that this wall is built by both parties. Both sides are guilty and both sides need to work together to make things better.
Parents may have had a bad school experience themselves. Parents may not feel welcomed to play an active role in the education system. Or, parents feel that the partnership is only a partnership if they adhere to the school ideas(which does not make it a partnership).
Schools typically only connect with parents when something is wrong. Schools may not provide a welcoming feel to the building. Classrooms may feel off limits despite that schools have websites, Twitter feeds, online grades, etc. Due to the busy schedules, schools run out of time to listen to what parents have to offer and suggest.
As a parent of three and an educator I am really coming to understand the power of communication. Communication is easy for me because I am in the education world as a job. Many don’t have this benefit. Many work their own job(s) and are doing all they can to just survive.
We need to open up the airwaves. As schools we see the kids more than the parents do. We work with their kids at least 40 hours a week. My two year old spends more time with our daycare than she does with us. It is not ideal, but it is the way of the world. We have to develop a partnership because we are all responsible for helping students learn, prepare, and navigate the world.
Our community lost a middle school student when she took her life last week. I have a heavy heart because I don’t know her personally, but the idea that perhaps things could have been in place to help bother me quite deeply. How much do we share and talk between families and schools? Should we talk more? Perhaps parents don’t have the answers, but by connecting with schools could a teacher or educator have a connection? I don’t know, but what I do know is that despite a world where we share everything online while still fighting for privacy, we all struggle with what really needs to be shared? How do we get both parties on the same page where families know we are devoted to these kids? As a parent I want the teachers of my kids to know if something is going on. I don’t want to worry about teachers passing judgement, but to work collectively. As a coach I know that I can get through to kids more than the parents. Not because I am better, but because I am not the parent!
As educators we have to work to open up ourselves, classrooms, and schools to let families know how much we care for these kids. By working together we can enhance the learning of the students. If they feel safe, understand that families and schools are working together, and both parties are keeping up their end of the deal we could establish something powerful. Parents need to work on this and so do schools.
Talking with some parents on some topics and ideas of things that bother them further cemented these thoughts. They brought up perspectives on things that we as educators just may not be aware of, but are very important for us to consider. Once again, because I did have some parents comfortable talking to me I was exposed to some things that make complete sense that has me wondering why things are the way they are. It was really important and powerful to have these conversations.
In the end we need to work to bridge this gap. We want welcoming schools for students, but we must develop welcoming schools for parents. Parents must learn to trust the teachers. Working together on both sides will allow great things could happen.
What do you think?