First of all, take a deep breath. You are either finished with students for this school year, or you are probably finishing in the next week or two. You deserve a pat on the back, a drink of your choice, and probably a nap. You fought for your teachers and your students. You balanced academics with safety and mental health. You kept your school going.
But now, in the next few weeks before you actually do get to hopefully sit by a pool for a few days or hike on a mountain or just sleep, you are setting up the success of next year. One of those key elements that was an extra challenge this year was the alliance with the families of your students.
In culturally responsive teaching, building alliances is a key foundational component – but it’s not just with the students, it’s with their families as well. We need to be pulling the families in, getting them on our team, and breaking down the “teacher vs. parents” mentality. This is not an easy feat in many schools. Parents may have a negative view of schools based on their own past experiences. Guardians may be working multiple jobs or taking care of multiple children, making it difficult to reach them. Families are often transient, moving from place to place and changing numbers along the way.
But one assumption we need to help our teachers make is that all parents/guardians
- want the best for their students,
- probably already know the challenges the students are facing academically and/or behaviorally, and
- want to hear good things about their students.
This is a very important perspective to carry. Cultural differences, language barriers, a lack of confidence or a number of other factors may keep parents from projecting this. Frustrated guardians may lash out at teachers or respond inappropriately, but when teachers can keep these assumptions in mind, it helps teachers interact in a positive and alliance building way.
Here are a few basic ideas for building an alliance with parents THIS SUMMER:
- Send home a parent survey. Find out what is important to parents – what they would like for the staff to know about their families, cultures and students.
- Have a plan for welcoming new students and parents – and make it accessible to parents who work or students who don’t have a way to come up to the school without transportation. Send a letter, put a sign in their yard, send a text, send an email – have multiple ways to communicate.
- Send returning students and their parents a letter/email telling them how they specifically added value to the school the previous year, and how you are looking forward to them returning.
- Help teachers have a system for positive contacts throughout the year.
- Set up a program that engages parents throughout the year.
This Friday, we will release a podcast (our last podcast for awhile – we’re taking a little break from the podcast for the summer)with an interview with Mike Sipple, Jr., an advocate and leader for an organization called All Pro Dads. This is an amazing program that pulls in the father figure thoughout the year and teachers communication and character. The Earhart Club (Episode 6, Season 1)is another example of a fantastic organization that focuses on communication and strength in the relationship with the maternal figure. I highly encourage you to bring on an organization that can help parents take ownership within the school. Their alliance is crucial to the success of students!
We have so much information on building alliances! If this is the direction you want to move your teachers, reach out! www.pressing-onward.org!
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