By Brian Host.
Children benefit academically when parents and educators work together, as a parent is a child’s first and most important teacher. Within the formal education system, parent involvement is most effective when viewed as a partnership between parents and educators.
Parent involvement occurs when parents and educators participate in regular two-way and meaningful communication involving student academic learning and other school activities. Parents are encouraged to be actively involved in their child’s learning at school and are included, as appropriate, in decision-making activities.
This may be achieved through regular feedback for schools, students and parents regarding the social and academic progress. As such, school reports are an essential element in the partnership between teachers, schools and parents. As teachers focus on building trusting collaborative relationships among families and community members, they acknowledge and respect the family in addressing any class or cultural difference. This enhances the notion of partnership, where power and responsibility are shared for the education of the child. The education of every child is helped immeasurably when parents take an active interest.
By means of professional discussions with parents and teachers, the elements that parents value most in reporting are interaction with teachers and a mark that gives a fair and accurate assessment of their child’s progress, but this mark needs to be accompanied by an explanation and suggestion for improvement to help improve and deepen student understanding.
Written reports are an essential part of reporting, but they do not provide a full picture of a child’s progress at school. As well as informal talks with teachers, reporting should include formal meetings and meetings involving parents, teacher and child.
Ideally, through regular contact with the school, parents should know enough about their child’s progress for there to be nothing in a written report that comes as a total surprise.
Parent–teacher meetings are crucial to parents’ understanding of how their child is progressing. I have found benefit in conducting multiple meetings throughout the year to allow a constant flow of information on the student’s learning. The first was to allow parents to meet the teacher and talk to them regarding educational goals; the second was based on the mid-year report and the final was to discuss aspects of education that parents could work on during the summer holiday. Informal conferences were conducted with individual parents on a daily basis, either ten minutes before or after school, many of these I had the opportunity to conduct or participate in. Meetings with teachers give parents the chance to raise their concerns about their children, or their misgivings about the school and/or the teacher. Meetings offer a chance to clear the air and to find reassurance.
Providing a constant flow of information through emails, the class blog and Twitter accounts has also increased parent buy-in and follow-up at home. I have found that these tools reduce confusion and potential misunderstandings created in the transfer of essential information from the teacher to the parents via the student.
Being fully informed about their child’s education enables parents to better decide the degree to which they want to become involved and the type of action they may want to take.
Brian Host is an Australian-based primary school classroom teacher and learning coach with a specific focus on ICT skills. He is excited to see edcamp rolled out globally and has read widely about the revolution in professional development and what edcamp has achieved in the northern hemisphere. Brian will be facilitating a session on global connections for teachers, students and classes using tools such as blogs, global games, social media and video conferencing. His twitter handle is @hostbrian
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