The School Parent Partnership: A Two-way Street
Like all partnerships, a school parent partnership will be most effective when both parties commit to the partnership fully and when each party brings their strengths to the endeavor.
Communication is a key factor. When parents share news about major events or changes in the family that might affect their child, and relevant information about their child’s health or living situation, school administrators and teachers can be better prepared to provide extra attention to the child as needed. Similarly, when a school staff member sees signs that something might be amiss, alerting parents and guardians in a timely manner may ensure extra support and help at home.
Confidentiality and maintaining a family’s privacy go a long way toward establishing a successful partnership on the part of the school. Once, when I was visiting a school and sitting in the main office waiting area before a meeting, I overheard a teacher make a phone call about a student in the public space of the office. The teacher left a message on the parent’s answering machine, speaking aloud in front of all who were there, that the student had claimed the reason he didn’t have his homework that day was because he couldn’t afford the notebook, and the teacher was calling to verify whether that was true. I had no clue who the student was, and still I was embarrassed for the child and appalled at the insensitivity of the teacher. Whether or not the kid’s statement was true, a good partner would have invited the parent to call about a concern, and then had a conversation in which he could delicately approach the topic, rather than publicly declare private information about a family’s economic situation and leave that potentially humiliating message for mom or dad to come home to.
Shared goals and priorities can lead to opportunities for strong collaboration between the school and the family. Does the family think it’s important for the student to graduate high school in four years and go on to college? If so, they can be allies in making sure students are on task academically. Does the school see a budding Einstein in a student whose parents have minimal education? Teachers can give parents strategies and encouragement to support an academic potential in their child that may otherwise intimidate them.
Although we often overlook it, a shared love of the children can create a powerful bond between parents and educators. Every time I’m in a school I witness the passion so many teachers have to help their student understand, achieve, and excel. Educators need to let families know how hard they work for the children to succeed, how dedicated they are to helping kids thrive and grow into adults with meaningful and fulfilling lives. School staff and parents all want what is best for the child. Keeping the well-being and success of a child at the heart of every school/parent interaction, will strengthen these partnerships.