I believe without a doubt that the core of my students’ success relies on parent engagement and parent-teacher partnerships. So, in order to foster this success, I gather my students’ families quarterly and share relevant information with them in order to keep them engaged and well informed about their children’s success. I create a culture in my school that fosters an environment where parents feel welcomed and valued.
However, this year I started a new approach with our ESL families; I started our school year providing our parents the opportunity and the platform to have their voices heard. Our students' parents know our students best! They know their weaknesses and strengths much better than we do. Their dreams and aspirations for their children should be what drives our desire to do what is best for our students.
I made this simple "My Wish..." poster and gave each parent a sticky-note. We asked parents to write down their wish and desire for their children's school year and/future. Our focus was not necessarily with an academic approach, parents were also encouraged to think about their personal and social desires for their children.
These are some of our parents' wishes for their children:
In January, we met with our parents again...this time our focus was mid-year grades. I asked our parents to bring with them their children's report card and any intervention documentation they had received from their teacher. As we discussed the grading process and the desired academic target at each grade level, I could sense that our parents were feeling discouraged due to their child's current level and grades.
I didn't want our parents to leave our meeting discouraged so we switched gears and started talking about students' strengths. I gave then the mantra I stand for, "highlighting strengths to make weaknesses disappear". I reassured parents that even though we had some work to do...we could work together to support students to get where they need to get. They are not there YET...but then can be!
Each parent received a sentence strip to write their child's strengths. I asked them to think about what they love doing, what they like spending their time doing, what their favorite subject is, what they want to be when they grow up...etc.
These are some of our students' strengths highlighted by their parents
This was an amazing opportunity for parents to turn and talk with their children and ask them about what they love doing (if they didn't know). Students were excited to share their likes and what they were very good at. Parents' reactions were priceless! They realized there are was so much good and strength in their child. Once they started focusing on strengths, they realized that their weaknesses (academic, that is) were slowly disappearing.
We took every sentence strip and attached them together to create a chain. We talked about how we need to focus on strengths and make them stronger like a chain to strengthen our students' future! Our parents were excited and more receptive to ways they can support their children at home to help them achieve the required grade level.
Again, in order to support our students' success, we need to foster an environment where our parents feel part of the process and have an opportunity to voice their opinion about the children WE are educating at school. And don't forget Jimmy Casas' wise words: "UNLEASHING TRUE POTENTIAL BEGINS BY REMOVING THE LABELS THAT HOLD CHILDREN HOSTAGE."
Thank you for reading!