Early in the school year, schools often have “meet the teachers nights” or information nights for parents. These are important for two reasons:
1. They allow you to develop relationships with the teacher/s of your child
2. They allow you to learn the language of learning and schooling
Research from Australia and overseas has found that students achieve better outcomes from their education when schools, families and the community work together to support student learning (Henderson & Mapp, 2002). An Australian study drawing on the case-studies of 61 schools, identified that partnerships between families and schools can improve educational outcomes for students (Muller, 2006). It resulted in increased:
• Self esteem
• Engagement in learning
• Participation in more challenging subjects
• Literacy and numeracy outcomes
• Completion of homework
• Behaviour at home and school
• Connection to school and learning
• School completion rates
This study also concluded that partnerships between home and school also had benefits for families and resulted in increased:
• Understanding of their child’s learning needs and progress
• Confidence in the school environment
• Investment in their child’s education
• Feeling of support from school and other parents
• Satisfaction with the work of the school
• Self esteem
• Capacity to help their child do better at school
• Involvement in their own education
• Connection to the school
• links with community resources and services
Partnerships are built on mutual trust and respect and recognise and value the ideas and opinions of all parties and both families and staff need to work together to support children’s learning (Elliott, 2005).
A shared approach means we are on the same page with the school when it comes to values and practices. In most cases we put a lot of time and worry into choosing the school our child will go to. We chose it because it resonated with the values we stand for. Taking time at the beginning of the year to build relationships with the teacher/s means we can have conversations that will support each other’s work. Both teachers and parents possess valuable information about the child. You have knowledge as a parent that is not available to anyone else (Pushor, 2007). You have hopes and aspirations for your child. A relationship with the child’s teacher/s allows us as parents to put our knowledge about our child together with the knowledge of the teacher for the benefit of the child.
2. The second reason is what is called Academic socialization. I have been around schools for most of my life yet I find them difficult places to navigate and to understand the language of teaching and learning. So I know how you must feel. By using this time early in the year to establish contact and get to know what is happening with the curriculum your child will be learning will help you have those much needed conversations with your child. It is not that you are expected to teach that curriculum at home.
A study in New Zealand showed that as they learned the language of schooling and learning then their involvement with their children in the home led to higher achievement effects (Clinton, Hattie, Dixon, 2007).
1. So if you have not already spoken to your child’s teacher/teachers, get in contact. Email is always good as mornings in schools are hectic times and you can miss each other on phones.
2. Explain to them what hopes and dreams you have for your child this year and any information about their learning needs they will need to know to best assist your child. Do it in the spirit of working together with the teacher knowing the benefits this will bring to you and your child.
3. Remember one of the things that greatly frustrates teachers is when they do ring home often parents want to save their child and take the child’s side first. This is only natural but not in their best interests or to developing 2 way communication with the school. Stop and listen and get clarification before defending.
To get more of these articles for the parents of your school and to check out Cathy Quinn’s 6 Effective strategies for assisting your child’s achievement click here.
Clinton, J., Hattie, J., & Dixon,R. (2007). Evaluation of the Flaxmere Project: When families learn the language of school. Wellington, NZ: Ministry of Education.
Elliott, R. (2005). Engaging Families: Building strong Communication Vol. 12. ACT: Early Childhood Inc.
Henderson, A. & Mapp, K. (2002). A new wave of evidence. The impact of school, family, and community connections on student achievement. Retrieved from Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) http://www.sedl.org/connections/resources/evidence.pdf
Muller, D. (2006). Family-School partnerships project: a qualitative and quantitative study. Retrieved from familyschool.org.au/index.php/download_file/114/275/
Pushor, D (2007). Parent Engagement: Creating a Shared World. Paper prepared for the Ontario Education Research Symposium, Toronto, Canada. Available: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/research/pushor.pdf