Sunday, January 22, 2006

Positive Relationships in a Student's Education

Developing Positive Relationships with Parent and Family Groups

Among the theory that there are allied spheres of influence on a child’s life, it is necessary for teachers to develop positive relationships with parent and family groups as well as the community. Much like the interlinking Olympic rings, these spheres of influence are a single unit in raising a child. Teachers are not teaching subjects, they are teaching to produce high-quality, upstanding members of society. The old proverb, it takes a village to raise a child, was never so true.
Without these relationships, attempts at working with our students can fail. There must be a positive alliance between families, school, and the surrounding community in order to provide the most supportive situation for student success. No sphere can be left out if teachers are going to get the most of their students. Teachers, families, and the community are in this child’s life together, and should not be opposed to one another. Trust is needed from students, but also from these other spheres of influence. Therefore, a teacher must ask himself the following questions:
· With what parent, family member, group of parents, of family members can a more positive relationship be developed?
· Throughout the course of the school year, what types of communication are necessary in order to develop such relationship?
· What aspects of school need to be communicated in this manner?
· In what specific ways can these needs be met?

Developing Positive Relationships with Parent and Family Groups
Schools, communities, and families are partners in a child’s education. The way for teachers to develop solid, positive relationships with families and the community is through constant communication. Lee Canter’s applies the golden rule to such communiqué when he said, “Treat parents as you would want your child’s teacher to treat you (Canter & Winberry, 2001).” Such advice should not go unheeded while planning strategies to build trust and develop more positive relations with a student’s family and the surrounding community.
Having such positive relationships will not produce successful students. Ultimately the responsibility for an education lies with the student. However, positive relationships among the student’s overlapping spheres of influence help provide adequate and appropriate scaffolding for educational success.
With Whom Should Better Relations be Developed?
One of the significant challenges of being a teacher is providing the appropriate structure for improving learning at home. This is a clear obstacle to many students successfully doing well in classes. Whether they choose not to read material, study independently, or begin projects early, learning at home is not usually taking place. If the student is going to be successful, parents of all students must be successful. In the case of my students, I have found that the students in my upper level classes do less work at home, however they do produce greater quality in the end.
While parents are generally happy with the results these students are producing, they are capable of so much more. That is, they are capable of so much more if they put their minds to it. This is why students’ families must be informed of how to help with homework, projects, and studying for tests.
How can these Needs be Communicated?
At the start of each school year, students’ families must receive information communicating the goals and strategies for a given class. In my case, I would like all students next year to produce a project for the National History Day competition. While students will not be required to enter the contest, the project will be a required element for exiting the course.
Because of this ongoing assignment, I must make it clear to students and families how I plan for students to meet this goal. Along with my policies and procedures, which already have to be signed by parents, I must send home information regarding this assessment, as well. This information will include the required skills necessary for the project.
Additionally, since the project will be a year long, families must clearly understand the timetable on which student work must be done. Calendars must be sent home, regarding deadlines. Furthermore, information must be sent home regarding how to assist the students in their projects. Such calendars provide not only a syllabus for the course, but also show important deadlines for the project. Aside from placing these dates on my website, parents will all be sent a calendar. What would be most beneficial would be to set up an emailing list, and be able to send out reminders to parents regularly.
The National History Day competition is a new task I am taking on with my students. I feel these are the necessary types of communication that must be done in order for such projects to be successful. My expectation is that the early letter home will help to introduce the project. All too often, when students do not complete projects, parents are unaware that there was an assignment. In fact, this situation occurred with two students over the past month. Additionally, the calendar and strategies being sent home will help parents keep their children on task. Another comment often heard from parents is that when they ask about homework, their child says that there is none. The project will be ongoing homework, and perhaps parents will be able to use this as a fallback. Rather than taking stock answers of “school is fine, my project is fine,” they will keep in touch.
Furthermore, Joyce Epstein (2002, 12-22) deems both of these strategies effective. The letter and calendars would effectively work as a one-year action plan. They would detail what must be done to complete the project effectively. Additionally, the calendar and letter would outline the responsibilities of the partnership in achieving student success. Likewise, since students choose their project topics, this assignment is embedded with content students will find personally interesting (Rogers and Renard, 36). Lastly, students will overcome their fears of embarrassment (Rogers and Renard, 35). While all students must complete the project, they need not enter the competition. That apprehension that his lack of knowledge will be exposed is erased by giving the student the option of entering the contest.
Perhaps, not all of the calendars will make it home. Still, I feel a running email and telephone correspondence with family will help keep students on track. Likewise, students should want to be successful, as they will do most of the actual project planning (Rogers and Renard 36). Therefore, if support is given by both parents and myself regarding the National History Day projects, then students will enjoy a greater opportunity for success.
Canter, L., & Winberry, K. (Directors). (2001). Program 6: The Power of Reaching Out to Students and Parents [Motion picture]. In C. Arnold (Producer), The high-performing teacher. Los Angeles: Laureate Education, Inc.

Epstein, J. L., Sanders, M. G., Simon, B. S., Salinas, K. C., Jansorn, N. R., & Van Voorhis, F. L.
(2002). School, family, and community partnerships: Caring for the children we share. In School, family, and community partnerships: Your handbook for action (2nd ed., pp. 7–29). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Rogers, S., & Renard, L. (1999, September). Relationship-driven teaching. Educational
Leadership, 57(1), 34–37.

No comments: