Happy day wherever you are! I just returned from visiting my 91-year-old grandparents in Iowa. The good food and fine conversation with the many people who dropped by are the perfect lead-in to a blog post about family/school partnerships. I joined the PTcamp (parent teacher camp) community on a six-week journey through the book Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family/School Partnerships, by Henderson, Mapp, Johnson, and Davies. We are 100 parents and educators who want to move our schools toward being Partnership Schools. Partnership schools are characterized by two-way conversations and authentic interactions between families, educators, and kids. We PTcampers are using collaborative tech tools to maximize our time together as learners, including a 100 person walkie-talkie Voxer group and a video-based Apprennet group. I'm not in the same room with these people, but I feel like I am!
The four types of schools outlined in the book are the following:
- Fortress School (p. 18)
- Come-if-We-Call School (p. 17)
- Open-Door School (p. 16)
- Partnership School (p. 15)
We were asked to decide where our schools fall in the continuum. My school is between a Come-If-We-Call School and an Open Door School, leaning towards Open Door School.
In week 1, I chose to reflect via video on Apprennet. In week 2, I choose to reflect by blogging, right here and now.
Our reflection assignment for week 2 is two questions.
Question 1) Share the 4 Core Beliefs through the lens of your daily work with students, teachers, leaders and community members. As a leader who understands the importance of partnership across stakeholders, how might you embed these Core Beliefs "into the bricks" of your learning community?
The four Core Beliefs as stated in the book:
Core Belief 1
: All Parents Have Dreams for Their Children and Want the Best for Them
Core Belief 2
: All Parents Have the Capacity to Support Their Children’s Learning
Core Belief 3
: Parents and School Staff Should Be Equal Partners
Core Belief 4
: The Responsibility for Building Partnerships Between School and Home Rests Primarily with School Staff, Especially School Leaders
What do the four core beliefs boil down to?
When schools, families, and communities are engaged, connected, and working together for the good of our kids, our kids benefit socially, emotionally, and cognitively. School/family partnerships should be top priority at every school; part of the air we breathe!
How would I begin to embed the four core beliefs into the bricks of my local learning community
- Start with the teachers and move it outward to the entire staff.
- Twitter. This is not only a learning tool but a connecting tool for us to leverage with our families. It is the portal to blogging and many opportunities for learning for teachers, kids, and communities. Teachers should be familiar with it and be able to use it for communication, sharing, as well as seeking and finding lesson ideas.
- Collisions: Ensure the teachers are meeting face to face in a mix of unconference/edcamp style pd, as well as project-based or genius hour learning. Get them talking, dreaming,and doing as active LEARNERS! Ask the teachers what they need and want to do. Give them time to be the change.
2. Sign up to lead an edcamp session at my school on Strengthening School/Family partnerships at New Mark
- Form an Action Team--those educators interested in leading us the way to being a Partnership School. Lead a book study of Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family/School Partnerships.
- Establish goals for the year and a plan with administrators, action team, and staff. Core belief #4 is one I'd stress. Then take off.
- Unleash teachers to change the world....and you know what will happen!
- We can be the change. We must be the change. We WILL be the change.
Question 2) Describe what you would do (or change) at your school to implement the 3-part "joining process."
We (schools) must give parents multiple ways to get involved. We can do a better job at this. Kids with involved parents do better in school and in life. All parents want the best for their kids and they want to be involved. It's up to us, the educators, to get parents INto our schools and INvolved. This is not something we can talk about a couple of times a year. Partnership must be a lens we look through daily.
"In the three-part joining process, the school community:
1. Welcomes parents into the school
2. Honors their participation
3. Connects with parents through a focus on the children and their learning"
My school's action team would run with improving the joining process for parents. Our building is inviting and our staff are kind and welcoming but I know we'll find many ways to make it better!
A few ideas from the book and from our Voxer discussions that
- **GUIDING THEME: ASK the parents what they would like and what they need. Show them their voice matters. Send out frequent polls, Google forms to get feedback from all parents who reply.
- Photos and stories about every teacher, posted outside their rooms!
- Make sure parents know policies for visiting school and ways to get involved. Get that info out to parents! If they know how and they have choices of ways to get involved in their children's lives, they WILL.
- Back to School Night--Sit down dinner that focuses on relationships; Hold over many nights in smaller groups for focus on relationships with parents and students
- Flipping Back the School night; sharing out nuts and bolts via technology and media to focus on important stuff and relationships during face to face time.
- Make the office brighter and friendlier, full of student work. Positive signs posted around school, welcoming parents in. Comfortable places to sit. Water and snacks out. Lamps. Think 'family room'.
- Neat idea: Create a space for a Family Center in the school, stocked with parenting and learning resources; a place for parents to learn, get help, talk with teachers. Food, microwaves, sink in there. There are schools doing this already.
It's time to go play on this Saturday afternoon. Have a great day everyone.