Thursday, October 19, 2017

ECE: K-3 Parent Engagement in November!

November is parent engagement month and I want to encourage all levels of early childhood education programs to think about what this means.I love early childhood most people consider that early childhood ends at preschool. In actuality early childhood extends through the third grade. So, as a first grade teacher I was as much a part of the early childhood experience as I was when I taught 3-year-olds. One of the major standards needed in our field is family engagement. Getting parents involved right from the beginning by encouraging them to take an active role in the educational process is the ideal if we want them to continue throughout their child's school career.

As a teacher who started out in inner city schools I can tell you this becomes so very important. As a first grade teacher I made it my business to visit the homes of every child in my class. I talked to parents about my plans for the school year, what activities I was panning, and how they could help. I taught in a neighborhood school and could do that. What my visit did was to let parents know I cared not just about a child in my class, but how I engaged with the family as a whole.

Schools today are rarely so engaged in the process of putting the family first in the educational process. However, if schools do so they will find great success in the education of the students they serve. So, I encourage parents to look for schools which support their families and not just their child. One such charter school system serving inner city students is called Rocketship Education in this blog post they talk about the 10 lessons they have learn in serving inner city families. Parent empowerment is number 3. This shows me the level of dedication they have to family engagement. if you are in the inner city of the Bay Area, Milwaukee, Nashville, or DC then check them out. If you are not as I noted above family engagement and parental support is key in the process of education.

How can today's educator empower parents to engage  themselves in the early years of education? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Send home or email a newsletter to parents each moth about the goings on in your classroom. Give them a heads up on ways they can participate far in advance so they can plan.
  2. Create homework assignments which involve parents and children doing things together. Plan an activity at school where kids need to bring in family pictures, tell a story about their mom or dad as a kid, or share a family recipe.
  3. Invite parents into your class to speak about their culture/job/hobby/interest which can expand the kids knowledge of the world and how people engage in it.
  4. Ask parents to volunteer to read or do math work with a child who needs extra help.
  5. Chances are some of your parents have jobs with ultra flexible schedules. Ask them to com in and help with any ambitious classroom project you know you will need extra adult eyes and hands to pull off.
The truth is we as educators, make parent engagement difficult mainly because we think parents do not care. When mostly it is just that parents are not sure how to help. If we open up our mindset to the ways parents can help, explain those ways, and give them enough time to arrange their schedules to do so; I think most educators will be pleasantly surprised. Do not let your preconceived notion of what parents will or will not do prevent you from asking. Give parents the benefit of the doubt. They deserve to be invited to engage in their child's education. All they need is a little guidance in the process.

Believe in Parenting

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