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LIFE - Children, Youth and Families at risk

Self-Teaching Module for Teachers

Teachers as a Crucial Link in Partnerships Between Parents and Schools

The following kit is specifically designed for teachers and administrators interested in enhancing the parental role in children’s education.

  • Teacher Attributes That Positively Influence Parental Involvement
  • Tips for Teachers
  • Teacher Roles Critical to Partnerships with Parents
  • Teacher Suggestions to Other Teachers
  • Family Involvement Training (for Administrators)
  • Recommendations for Administrators

This project was completed by Jodi Humphreys in conjunction with, and funded by, the Parent Education Network of Wyoming.

Teacher Attributes That Positively Influence Parental Involvement

Several teacher attributes have been found that positively influence teacher relationships with children and parents. These characteristics include:

  • Sensitivity
  • Warmth
  • Reliability
  • Accessibility
  • Openness
  • Flexibility

Parent’s believe desirable teacher attributes consists of characteristics such as:

  • Warmth
  • Closeness
  • Approachability
  • Positive self-image
  • Positive discipline
  • Nurturance
  • Child-centeredness
  • Effective classroom management
  • Trust
  • Reliability
  • Effective teaching strategies

According to Epstein, 1984, and Galinsky, 1990, research has found many additional teacher attributes that are highly correlated with successful parental involvement. These attributes include, but are not limited to:

  • interest in professional growth (through workshops, continuing education courses, and conferences);
  • positive attitudes;
  • willingness to plan activities specifically designed to involve parents; and
  • personal competence.

Tips for Teachers

The following information is provided by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, Copyright 1997.

  • Be sensitive to cultural variations and child-rearing beliefs. Stay away from making judgments on parenting styles; always make an effort to respect the values and beliefs of the family.
  • Listen carefully to parents - they are experts on their own children. Families can provide you with crucial information regarding the child’s behavior outside the school setting.
  • Share pertinent information regarding the child on a daily basis, particularly when working in programs with infants and toddlers. Establish a procedure for keeping daily records and report behaviors, milestones, and other information to parents. This system is a positive key to open communication.
  • Communicate with parents about their children’s activities, field trips, and assignments ahead of time. This information allows parents to set aside the necessary time to work with their children or to coordinate family schedules with the expectations of the schools.
  • Always welcome parents into the program or classroom. Encourage them to drop in for lunch or snack time, or arrange after-work events such as socials or potluck dinners. Working around a parent's busy schedule sends a message that you are sensitive to the family's needs.

Although parents and teachers may look at children’s learning from different perspectives, they do share one common goal: making sure that children receive the best education possible. Communication, along with mutual respect between families and teachers, can help provide children with the kind of care and education to help them thrive. Because families and teachers have many time constraints and responsibilities, both parties may need to put forth extra effort to build strong and effective partnerships. The time and effort are surely worth the results.

Teacher Roles Critical to Partnerships with Parents

The following family-centered roles are crucial to forming a strong and positive partnership:

  • Support
  • Education
  • Guidance

Teacher roles involved in school and classroom activities focusing on family involvement, include those such as:

  • Support
  • Guidance
  • Decision-making
  • Nurturance

Together, teachers and parents can foster their partnerships by undertaking the following behaviors:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Planning
  • Decision-making
  • Guiding

Teacher Suggestions to Other Teachers

The National Parent Teacher Association recently invited teachers to submit their best ideas for increasing parental involvement. The upcoming sections will share with you some of their ideas, along with suggestions obtained from personal interviews with teachers.

The following ideas were selected from Teacher’s Best Ideas for Involving Parents and expanded upon. The complete version of this booklet can be found on the PTA Members Only subscription Web site. Subscription information can be found on the Children First website.

  1. Increase the number of home/school activities
  • School newsletter
  • Take-home bags
  • Weekly commitment sheets
  1. Design and implement parent education programs
  • Parent nights
  • Parent surveys
  • Parent testing workshops
  1. Host school programs and projects
  • Get acquainted nights
  • multi-cultural events
  • Outdoor classrooms
  1. Encourage volunteer and community programs
  • Parent patrons
  • Parent presentations, small or large group

Link: http://www.pta.org

Weekly or Monthly Newsletter

Create a weekly or monthly newsletter including a highlight of the current or upcoming studies, projects, or programs. Give possible suggestions as to how to incorporate education into at-home activities.

As a nice addition, include pictures or short stories created by the students. This may encourage students to deliver the newsletters in a timely fashion.

The newsletter may be simple and sent home on a regular basis with a packet of the student’s work for the parents to look at and comment upon.

Take-Home Bags

Create take home bags for the students. Bags may include instructions for specific hands-on activities, reminders of upcoming events, and even the newsletter.

When including instructions for hands-on activities, be sure to include a complete list of supplies  needed to complete the activity. Including all the ingredients for the activity also may increase the likelihood of quick completion.

As a time and money saver, print directions for the activity on a laminated note card that can be returned when the student brings the completed project back to school. Cards can be used again for future classes.

If time allows, encourage students to offer ideas for take-home bag activities.

Weekly Commitment Sheets

When sending home weekly papers or newsletters, include a weekly commitment sheet. The commitment sheet will include such factors as effort, study habits, self-discipline, attendance, attitude, work ethic, and motivation.

Parents can be asked to review all included papers and discuss them with their children. Encourage parents to work with their children in correcting unsatisfactory papers so children will to learn, as well as improve their grades.

Workshops

Distribute parent surveys asking for suggestions on short workshops they may be interested in attending. Surveys may be distributed at parent/teacher conferences to ensure that parents receive the surveys.

After reviewing survey results, offer short, interactive workshops designed from parent suggestions. Be sure to thank and praise those parents who choose participate.

Parent Nights

Host monthly or quarterly parent nights. Parent nights can be used to discuss class happenings, share information, provide feedback and input, and build a larger social support system for parents.

It is generally more effective to maintain a positive tone at such events and avoid discussing negative incidents. Focus on the good things taking place within the classroom and attendance will be higher. Refreshments and goodies are a nice addition to parent nights.

Parent Testing Workshop

Sponsor a testing workshop specifically for parents. The workshop will help parents learn how to more effectively help students improve their test-taking strategies. The workshop also may include information and activities that will aid parents in decreasing test-anxiety for their children.

Get Acquainted Nights

A getting acquainted event may be most effective when held at the beginning of the school year. Teachers, students, and parents should be encouraged to attend. This event provides those individuals involved to get to know each other in an informal and stress-free environment.

Holding the event off school grounds is a good idea. A picnic in the park seems to be an idea often welcomed by many.

Multicultural Event

The need is steadily rising for an increase in education and sensitivity regarding multicultural issues. Be creative as to different ways in which these needs may be satisfied. For example, organize an all school event or even invite a single grade level, in which each class decides upon a different culture to study and explore.

Send home a description of the children’s assignments and ask the parents’ to become involved in preparation. As a grand finale, invite parents to join the students in a cultural celebration and food tasting gala.

Create an Outdoor Classroom

With the cooperation of parents, students, and other teachers, create an area outdoors in which the students can spend a designated amount of time studying. An outdoor environment can be beneficial to everyone involved by providing the students with the opportunity to experience math, science, reading, and writing, as they each relate to nature. When students are excited about learning, retention often increases. Be creative with your outdoor amphitheater.

Parent Patrons

The purpose of parent patrons is to promote positive attitudes, as well as build effective relational skills. By participating as a parent patron, parents are asked help support various groups and clubs within the school.

Some parents may want to help coach or keep score for a school athletic team, others may be more interested in assisting with the band or vocal club, while still others may prefer groups pertaining to theater and the arts. Whatever it may be, positive parent involvement and support in such events can be a tremendous model for the social skills of students. Use your imagination when recruiting parent patrons, and consider including students in the recruitment campaign.

Parent Presentations

Many schools currently have a day in which parents are invited to attend school with their children. During this time, the parents are asked to speak to the class regarding their career of choice and, specifically, what their career entails.

Take this a step further. Encourage parents to enhance their connections with children by coming into the classroom and speaking with either a small group, or the entire class, about past lifetime experiences. It is rather surprising how much adults like to tell stories, and how much children enjoy listening to them. For the students, these stories can encourage the connection between life experiences and academic activities. For the parents, it is another way of increasing the level of involvement in their children's world of learning.

Family Involvement Training

A large number of teacher education programs are currently increasing the attention given to training in family involvement. It is believed that teachers, parents, students, and the entire community can benefit from a higher level of family involvement in the schools. Currently, most family involvement training is offered as part of a course or in student teaching but has been found to be most effective when training occurs over an extended period of time and through various means of delivery. The Harvard Family Research Project study has suggested that family involvement training occur gradually, through a variety of methods (role play, video, and discussion) and throughout the entire curricula.

Many teacher education programs lack a comprehensive definition of family involvement. Programs tend to emphasize the traditional parent teacher conferences much more so than contemporary family involvement activities. This is not to say that parent teacher conferences are not important; however, teachers and schools need to recognize the additional assistance that families may require. Families often need a great deal of encouragement to help their children with their education. Teachers need to recognize this need to provide parents with specific ways to assist their children. Teachers can help parents with specifics such as homework, basic parenting education, and an increased family support service.

Teachers can increase their knowledge of family involvement issues through specific courses. Courses found beneficial in family involvement training include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Parent as class volunteer
  • Understanding parents and families
  • Parent as school decision maker
  • Parent teaching child in the home
  • General family involvement
  • Open house events
  • Parent teacher conferences
  • Communicating with parents

Information received from New Skills for New Schools: Preparing Teachers in Family Involvement - 1997 Link: www.ed.gov/http://ces.uwyo.edu/PUBS/NewSkills

Recommendations for Administrators

Source: New Skills for New Schools: Preparing Teachers in Family Involvement - 1997

  • Develop a national network to support teacher preparation in the area of family involvement
  • Strengthen state policy guidelines for teacher preparations within family involvement
  • Evaluate experiences and outcomes related to teacher preparation in family involvement
  • Improve training effectiveness through collaboration across disciplines and specialties
  • Emphasize family involvement as a priority among professional organizations
  • Maintain teachers’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes toward family involvement through continuous inservice training

 

Develop a National Support Network

An obvious need exists for a program that would work with professional organizations to develop standards, disseminate information, and model development and evaluation regarding family involvement. This program would provide educators access to an inventory of cases, as well as new case development.

This dissemination and assistance may be performed by a variety of parent associations, professional teacher and school administrator organizations, and teacher training institutions. Such a tremendous network of organizations can bring a level of change that would, in turn, create a ripple effect throughout the entire educational system.

Strengthen State Policy

Currently, most state policies for certification requirements mention family involvement only in general terms. By providing a more clear and comprehensive definition of family involvement, teacher education programs will have a guide to follow, while still being allowed flexibility in where, how, and when to implement family involvement training.

Evaluate Experiences and Outcomes

Research on the effectiveness of specific programs in preparing teachers to work with families and communities is needed. Areas that need to be examined include the effects of teacher preparation on relationships between teachers and families, teachers’ practices, and parents’ perceptions of their relationships with teachers. Specifically, the evaluations must examine how parent and teacher outcomes of teacher preparation relate to student outcome. How does teacher preparation contribute to the academic and behavioral outcomes for the students?

Evaluation is necessary to bring about change. School and district level efforts should be made to assess and evaluate both the positive and negative aspects of the training. For example, teacher self-assessments designed by the schools can uncover outcomes of their work and assist them in improving their practice.

Improve Effectiveness of Training

We all have heard the saying, "two heads are better than one." The same concept applies when attempting to improve the quality and quantity of family involvement training. Collaboration across subspecialties, such as early childhood and special education, as well as across professional schools, such as social work or public health, can prove to be a promising strategy in making these improvements.

Many teacher education subspecialties can add a rich source of information to the training. Early childhood programs, for example, tend to focus on family involvement issues more than elementary or secondary programs. Social work, home economics, and other health or social service departments have a vast array of knowledge about family related issues that may benefit family involvement training as well.

Include every possible resource that you believe can add something new to the training program or even build upon an area already included.

Emphasize Family Involvement

Resistant attitudes from school administrators, teachers, and faculty members often challenge teacher education programs. Multiple efforts will be needed to effect such attitudes. Pressure from professional organizations and other external groups may break the barrier to increase family involvement training within teacher education programs. The National Parent Teacher Association, the American Association of College Teacher Educators and others, play a significant role in establishing national standards, developing innovative training programs, and pinpointing priority areas. Your role can be just as important.

Maintain Teachers’ Knowledge

Initial training is often implemented, but continued support is just as important. Development and training opportunities for educators must be an ongoing process order to sustain and increase previous knowledge.

Teachers who are overwhelmed and feel overworked need to realize that family involvement can ease their load, rather than add to it. By continuing teacher training, teachers will build upon their base of knowledge and skills in order to better the educational experience for everyone involved.


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