Children’s lives are shaped by the web of relationships in their environments. In our capacities as school leaders, teachers, and parents, we are entrusted with the formidable responsibility of guiding, nurturing, supporting, and teaching our young. As the significant people who help children to make sense of their world, one of our primary tasks is to build relationships which support the quality of learning that our children deserve and need if they are to develop into caring, responsible, educated persons.
Because we share the same basic goals, the mutual collaboration, support, and participation of families in their child’s education is an important way to promote high standards, improve student achievement, and model life-long learning.
At P.S. 158, strong home-school partnerships are at the heart of the school’s belief system and take varied forms. One way that we have worked to strengthen home-school collaborations around educational issues has been through parent development workshops.
The successful series of parent workshops, facilitated by teachers and the principal, have made public and accessible the work of the school. The workshops are informative, engage the parents in discussions around teaching and learning, and address a wide range of topics such as early literacy, the writing curriculum, standards and assessments, standardized testing, integrated curriculum, and transition issues. In our effort to reach out to as many parents as possible, morning and evening sessions are scheduled.
These parent development sessions also serve to provide the school leadership and staff with information about concerns, needs, and questions, which cause us to further examine our professional practices and instructional programs. In turn, parents are able to take away from these workshops strategies, ideas, and suggestions for supporting their child’s learning at home.
For example, parents have received helpful hints on how to: make use of environmental print in the neighborhood to promote the reading process; help children make good book choices at the local library or bookstore; recognize the power of nightly read aloud (yes, even to older students) to foster a love of literature and provoke thinking and discussion; or understand how to help children work toward producing work that meets high-performance standards.
The mutuality of the home-school relationship is one from which everyone benefits. When parents become knowledgeable about the work of the school, they are better able to work in concert with the school to ensure their child’s success. For school staff, a constructive and supportive alliance between the home and the school becomes an integral part of the teaching and learning process whose ultimate goals is to help students work and learn at high levels of competence.
Students’ motivation to do well in school increases because a clear message is communicated to them – education is valued and important to the home and the school. The job of educating our children is an enormous task that belongs to all of us. Collaborative relationships inspire students to engender a deep respect for learning when they view their support system as a caring community of teachers and learners.
Public education is at a critical and very exciting period in history. As we move toward standards-based instruction and performance-driven schools, school communities will need to focus greater attention on issues of individual and collective accountability to children. Strong, supportive home-school partnerships are a good start!