YOU NEED OTHER VOICES. When teachers reach out to community, parents and community groups not only provide essential support for your teaching; their voices join with those of teachers, and administrators and public officials are much more likely to pay attention.
CONNECT WITH PARENTS. Jo Beth Allen’s Creating Welcoming Schools: A Practical Guide to Home-School Partnerships with Diverse Families (New York: Teachers College Press, 2007) is an excellent resource for ways to work with parents. Earlier, Jim Vopat’s More Than Bake Sales: the Resource Guide for Family Involvement in Education (Portland, ME: Stenhouse, 1998) provided similar help.
VALUABLE STRATEGIES FOR PARENT CONNECTION:
- Start by listening. Learn parents’ needs and concerns.
- Share your own stories of struggles with learning or with that of your own kids – show you’re on the same side.
- Organize activities for parents and kids together – such as a family-memoir or family history writing night.
- Hold informal sessions — breakfasts or family night dinners for informal talk.
- Maintain regular communication using email or a blog.
- Home visits – yes, they take time, but talking on parents’ turf sends a strong signal and provides important insights for teachers.
CONNECT WITH THE WIDER COMMUNITY. Strategies for communicating about successes and challenges in your teaching:
- Local newspaper feature articles – visit the Western Massachusetts Writing Project website to see an excellent teacher-newspaper partnership with good examples of teacher-written columns.
- Twitter and Facebook – visit the pages of local organizations and link people to your own site or inform them of events in your school or classroom.
- Partnerships with community organizations and businesses bring valuable resources to a school, and inform people about your work. Teachers often experience new learning from such connections. Partnerships need to be negotiated carefully, since a school and organization each have their own goals and perspectives. A valuable guide: Working Collaboratively: From School-Based Teams to School-Community-Higher Education Connections.
Feeling a bit hesitant about being interviewed on the radio? Read Marilyn Rhames account of her experience: “Do You Like the Sound of Your (Teacher) Voice?” Education Week Teacher blog, Aug. 29, 2012.
Tell us your stories about parent and community connections and how they have helped you. Submit below.