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Communication

Across
The
Board
By:
Katie Miller

This class and all of my experiences in the education system have


helped me to broaden my thoughts and views to what is extremely important
when it comes to teaching students and making sure that they are getting
the best education possible for them. It is very important for families, schools
and communities to work together and have an effective system of
communication. In some of my placements I have seen some forms of
communication between the teachers and parents while in other the path of
communication was almost nonexistent with the exception of parent-teacher
conferences. After seeing both sides of the spectrum it has helped me to
realize just how important it is to keep the lines of communication open and
keep parents informed about what is going on in the classroom. In my
practicum placement at the 300 level I was in a preschool class at John C.
Myers Elementary School (Broadway, VA, Rockingham County) and there was
always communication between the parents and the teacher as well as the
community was involved in the school. Some of the parents would drop their
students off in the morning and this would give the teacher and the assistant
time to have a quick conversation with the parent. This was always a great
way to start the way when you can see the parent talking with the teacher or
the assistant in regards to how their child is doing in class. I have been in
another school in Rockingham County, Fulks Run Elementary School, in which
there was little to no communication between parents and teachers unless
there was an event at school that the parents attended. I found it to be very

awkward to be trying to teach students in which you have little to no contact


with the parents unless they contact you regarding something which did not
happen very often in the 8 weeks that I was there. Not only is it necessary
for teachers to know about a childs life at home but parents really need to
know about how their child is doing at school. To get an accurate and vivid
picture of the childs progress in school, parents need to know how their child
is doing in developing both academic and social skills (Davis & Yang, 2005,
p. 140). This quote really stood out to me when reading this because at the
time I was seeing what it was like not having any real contact with the
parents. In my current student teaching placement at W.W. Robinson
Elementary School in Woodstock, VA there is a lot of communication between
parents and teachers and the community. There is an open door policy in
which the parents can come in and schedule a time to speak with a teacher
or administrator in regards to any concerns that they have. Parents can also
contact the teacher to make arrangements when they have concerns that
they want to discuss in regards to academic or social issues.
Philosophy for Working as a Collaborating Partner in Childrens
Education

Being a part of childrens lives every day means that I am going to be a


huge influence on their lives and I feel that they should be a part of anything
that involves them. I believe that children should be a part of any form of
communication that occurs between their parents and the teachers. Children
should be able to explain and show their parents anything that is done in

class that can help them succeed. When children finish an assignment that
they feel is their best quality work and they are proud of it then they should
put it in a portfolio so that will have it available to show when they have the
chance. Concrete evidence enables dialogue. Whether it is a formal portfolio
or an array of student work spread out on the table, it is crucial that parents
see their child as a learner (Allen, 2007, p. 87). When parents are able to
see proof of what their child is learning and doing at school then it can be
helpful to them at home. Parents know who their child is at home and
teachers know who the child is at school but when neither knows how the
student is at the other place it hinders them from providing the best
education for the student. When we are working with children we need to
make sure that parents understand what we are doing and why we are doing
it. With most of the mandatory state testing that is now going on parents
need to understand that we are teaching their children everything that they
need to know and in a way that makes it not just about the state test.
Parents need information about the expectations, curricula, strategies,
and activities in their childrens classroom. They need to know not only
what their children are doing, but why and how. Once parents know the
what, why and how, they can be more supportive of their childrens
learning. (Davis & Yang, 2005, p. 119).
When parents know what we are teaching and how we are going about it
then they will be more capable in being able to help their child at home with
homework or when it comes time to study for a test. When parents

understand the classroom curriculum, theyre more able to help with


schoolwork, hold meaningful conversations with their child about school, and
offer helpful feedback to the teacher (Davis & Yang, 2005, p. 120). If we
have a solid communication channel then it will be great so that if something
changes with what or how we are going to teach then all we will need to do if
send out a letter to the parents letting them know what changed and why
the changes were made. When we explain our teaching to parents, we
make it possible for them to reinforce at home the expectations and lessons
of the classroom (Davis & Yang, 2005, p. 120). If there is no communication
channel in place then it would be hard to contact the parents and let them
know about any changes that would be occurring. When we have no
communication with the parents it not only makes our job difficult but it also
makes it difficult for them because the student will be going home and trying
to explain to their parents about what they are doing in school but they may
not understand because the curriculum is constantly changing. We gain a
valuable partner in educating the child, and we show the child that their
parents and teacher are on the same team (Davis & Yang, 2005, p. 120).
There are some students who like to play parent against teacher when they
do not get their way or when they get in trouble but if parents and teachers
communicate with each other and continue with an open communication
policy during the school year then the student will know that they cannot
play parent against teacher when they do not get their way. When
communicating with families that speak another language it makes things

more challenging but that doesnt mean that it is a bad thing. Many
teachers find interacting with parents across cultures to be hard work,
perhaps the hardest part of their teaching. Theres no doubt it can be hard. It
challenges teachers to do things a little differently (Davis & Yang, 2005, p.
10-11). When we are challenged it helps us to think more creatively and see
different ways in which we can do things to make our lessons and activities
better for the students. Just because something is challenging does not mean
that it is a bad thing or will inhibit us from doing what needs to be done to
make sure that the students are getting the education that they deserve.
Sometimes conversations and communication in general with some parents
will be difficult but we still need to find a way to communicate with these
parts just like any other parent. In my current student teaching placement at
W.W. Robinson Elementary School there is a student in the class with whom
we have a difficult time communicating with their parent as she is very
negative and condescending when she is talking to the teachers or
administration. I have personally seen this during parent-teacher
conferences and it made things feel very uncomfortable but we did continue
to tell her the issues that we were having and she did bring her child into the
room and talk to him regarding the issues that we reported to her about him
being disrespectful to all teachers that he has. After the conferences we did
notice a change in him and he has been a lot better ever since. Even the
hardest conversations with parents can have a positive outcome. The value
of learning parents point of view cannot be overstated. Parents can shed

important light on a childs situation (Davis & Yang, 2005, p.170). In the
situation that we were experiencing this child in particular would have issues
when we would let him know that he need to relook at an answer that he had
written down for a question regardless of the content area that we were
studying at that moment and he would tell us that we were wrong and that
his answer was correct. After speaking with his mom she let us know that he
does not like to be wrong and would even tell her that she was wrong
sometimes when she was helping him with homework. After the conference I
would ask him to explain to me how he came to the answer that he had
instead of asking him to relook at it and at first he would still say that he was
right but after a few times he would then look at his answer and realize
where he made a mistake and know how to correct it. Things have continued
to go well until just recently when he has started ignoring our advice again
and just telling us that he is right and that we are wrong. It gets very
frustrating but we know that we cannot ignore the problem and will be
having another conversation with mom about what is going on.
Sometimes, however, the problem isnt easily resolved despite our best
efforts, or it gets better for awhile, then gets worse again. This
happens even to the most experienced teachers. It happens because
teachers, parents, and children are human beings, and human beings
are complex, and because problem solving is a complex undertaking
with factors beyond our control. (Davis & Yang, 2005, p. 173).

Statement of Research-based Evidence for Building Collaborative


Working Relationships
The majority of this class has supported the concept of collaborative
relationships between school, home and the community. When everyone is
working together you are going to have a system that runs very smoothly
and effectively. When parents are involved at school, the performance of all
the children at school, not just their own, tends to improve (Henderson and
Berla, 1995, p. 14-16) (Davis & Yang, 2005, p. 7). When families are
involved at school it lets the students know that there are people who do
care about them and want them to succeed. When it is obvious that we care
about each one of them then they will start to blossom and succeed in their
studies. Sometimes it takes spending a little one on one time with them to
make sure that they understand the content. According to Davis & Yang,
Regardless of family income or background, students whose parents are
involved in their schooling are more likely to have higher grades and test
scores, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved
behavior, and adapt well to school (Henderson and Mapp, 2002) (p. 7). In
my 4th grade student teaching placement at W.W. Robinson we have a
student who at the beginning of the year was very shy and would not talk
much except to her friends. Her mom is very involved in her education as
well as both the teacher and I and we have seen a lot of growth out of her
and she is now talking more and more every day. It has gotten to the point
that she has come out of her shell so much that we will now hear her laugh
during class. It is so amazing to see the changes in students over time.

There are some parents who do not contact the teacher or the school at any
time during the year. According to Davis & Yang (2002), Many parents who
dont proactively contact the school or teacher are those who feel like
outsiders because of their race, ethnicity, economic status, educational
background, proficiency with English, or immigrant status (p. 18). When
parents are not made to feel welcomed and accepted at the beginning of the
year it makes them feel like they are not welcome and hinders their ability to
help not only their child but all the other children in the class. Learning about
other cultures and lifestyles is a great way to broaden the views of the
students and their parents because we may not actually know as much as
we think we do about certain cultures.
As teachers, we come into the profession because we find joy in seeing
children learn, from seeing that light in their eyes. When we build
bridges to families of various cultures, we increase the chances that
their children, not just the children of the mainstream cultures, will do
well in school. (Davis & Yang, 2005, p. 11)
When we incorporate the different cultures that we have not only in the
classroom but in the community it helps to build awareness of what is
happening in the communities that our students live in. We are helping them
to see and understand things that are different than what they do on a daily
basis in their lives. When we are teaching them about the different cultures it
also provides us a great way to bring the community into the school and
have them show the students different things about their culture and

lifestyles. I know that I have heard many parents complain and seen on
social media sites that we are teaching about different religions and cultures
in school but that we do not teach about Christianity and they do not agree
with it or want their children to take part in these activities. I mean if we are
going to teach about the religion, culture and lifestyle of one of the students
then we need to teach about all religions, cultures and lifestyles that are part
of not only our class but the community. These ideas should not be a onetime lesson or activity but this cultural responsiveness needs to permeate
everything we do with students and parents all year long (Davis & Yang,
2005, p. 9). Parents should know that they are welcome to come in and
observe or participate in any activities in the classroom. Having parents
come into the classroom not only gets them involved in what is happening at
school but an obvious benefit of doing this is that it helps parents better
understand how their child is being taught (Davis & Yang, 2005, p. 99).
When parents understand what we are doing and why we are doing it then
they will be more comfortable with the idea. If they can see first-hand the
concepts that we are teaching it will be easier for them to come to grips with
the ideas. Parents can assume a variety of roles in the classroom and ideally
should be able to choose among roles so that their time in the room is
comfortable for them and everyone else (Davis & Yang, 2005, p. 100). When
parents are in the room they can choose to observe, participate, share or
help. Each of these roles will allow the parents to see their child along with
other children in a natural setting of learning information. There are

significant benefits to such involvement (parents in the classroom). It can be


powerful for children to see their parents as respected and visible
participants in school life (Davis & Yang, 2005, p. 109).
Strategies that Families Can Use to Support Their Childrens
Learning
There are many different methods that teachers can use to involve
parents in their childs learning process and help them to provide the needed
support. One time-tested way of involving parents in their childrens
education is to welcome them to come into the classroom (Davis & Yang,
2005, p. 99). When parents are in the classroom then they will see how we
are doing things and will be better able to help their child at home with
homework, projects or even have a conversation about what is being
learned. Sometimes parents do not understand the content that is being
taught and it makes it harder to be able to assist your child when you do not
understand it yourself. According to Davis & Yang (2005), Often all the
explanations about what the children are doing in school and why theyre
doing it come alive and make more sense when parents are there to see,
hear, and feel classroom life for themselves (p. 99). When they are in the
classroom and involved it will help them to get a better understand of what
we are doing and how they can help the students in the classroom as well as
their child when they are at home. According to Davis & Yang (2005),
Another important reason to have parents in the classroom (is) to enrich
childrens learning. Parents presence can add energy and inspiration (p.
99). In all of my placements whether it was practicum or student teaching I

have only ever had one or two parents come into the classroom and when
they do not come in to see how the classroom is run or how their child
interacts with other students then they will not be able to understand the
reasoning behind any decision that the teacher makes regarding instruction
or behavior issues. I have experienced one parent who has said that her child
does not do anything wrong and that it is always the fault of the other
children involved. If this parent would come in one day and watch how her
child speaks to not only the teacher and myself but also to the other
students then maybe she will understand that it is not the fault of the other
students but that her child is rude and disrespectful. During parent teacher
conferences she was asking why we were teaching multiplication to the
students in a way that was different than what she learned and when we
tried to explain to her that it is easier for the students to understand doing
multiplication in partial product than in the traditional sense she was still
questioning out methods instead of offering to come in and watch and see
how class was being taught. I understand that most families need both
parents working to make ends meet but there are always some parents who
could come in and observe or even help out in the classroom one day even if
it is only for 30 minutes. Not everything is always going to be manageable
and I understand that but I also feel that sometimes spending even 30
minutes to an hour in your childs classroom once a month or even a few
times a year and be very beneficial to not only the child but also to the
parent. When parents are participating alongside the children often gives

parents a deeper understanding of the purpose and value of classroom


activities than they can gain from observing the activities (Davis & Yang,
2005, p. 101). When you are participating in a hands on activity you know
learn and remember more than when you are just observing.
Reference Materials for Families
When I am a teacher I want the parents of my students to know that I
am available for any questions that they may have and if I do not have an
answer for them I will do what I can to find an answer for them or point them
in the correct directions. I will have several different reference materials that
I will supply to them in regards of helping them to find a way to be more
physically involved in their childs education. The first resource that I would
provide them with is Tips and Strategies for Increasing Parent and Family
Involvement in Virginia Schools by the Virginia Department of Education. I
would provide this resource to parents because it provides a lot of valuable
information about ways and tips to stay involved and how it can help
improve involvement. Within the resource it breaks it down into sections and
provides explicit examples of ways in which parents can be more involved
with the school and community. While the resource is written more directly
towards teachers it can help parents be more aware of the ways that we
would like for them to communicate with us and share their ideas, feelings,
and opinions on ways that we are doing things.
Another source that I would provide would be Did You Know??? 10
Things Any School Can Do to Build Parent InvolvementPlus 5 Great Ways to

Fail! by John H. Wherry. I think that this resource is a great way for parents
to be able to see that I am doing to help them become more involved with
their childs education at school. This source talks about giving parents
practical strategies that they can do at home to help their child. While this
resource is also specifically written to help teachers and schools increase
parent involvement it is also a way that I can help parent to know what I
want and it is also a way that they can help keep me accountable for what I
want to accomplish regarding keeping the involved in the classroom.
Another source that I would provide for parents would be Epsteins
Framework of Six Types of Involvement by Joyce Epstein. This source breaks
down parent involvement into six categories: parenting, communicating,
volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with
community. Within each category it provides sample practices, challenges,
results for parents, students and teachers. Epstein (n.d.) says that
communications about school programs and student progress to mean twoway, three-way, and many-way channels of communication that connect
schools, families, students, and the community (p. 2). This means that
communication needs to happen in many different ways and all parties need
to take part in the communication process and not just one or two.
The last source of information that I would provide to parents would be
What Teachers Want Parents to Know. This article provides a lot of good
information that we just dont necessary think about on a day to day basis
when we are wondering why the students are unable to concentrate during

class. This article also lets parents know that while we do value each and
every student that we have we are unable to concentrate all of our time and
energy on just one child. In addition to this article there is another article
that corresponds and it is called What Parents Want Teachers to Know. This
article is a way to let teachers know what they do and do not want and by
providing this to the parents I am letting them know that I do understand
that they have concerns and I am going to do my very best to work through
those concerns with them. I also want them to know that I understand that
each child is different from all of the other students in my class and they will
never be compared to one another based on their abilities.
Additional Contributions

The United States is becoming more and more diverse each and every
day. According to Davis & Yang (2005), by 2020, nearly half of all U.S.
children will be of color. About one in four will be Hispanic, one in seven will
be non-Hispanic Black, and one in fifteen will be Asian or Pacific Islander
(U.S. Census Bureau, 2000) (p. 10). With the growing diversity in our
country it is necessary to be proactive and prepared to welcome families into
the community and into the classroom who may be hesitant in how they will
be welcomed. I want to start communication with the parents of my students
over the summer by sending out a welcome postcard letting them know that
I am glad that they are going to be in my class (Appendix C Figure C.1). I also
feel that right before the start of the year that a welcome letter should be

mailed to the students providing them with some information about myself
and some of my interests. Included with this welcome letter will be a family
and student interest survey which will provide me with information about the
student and their family (Appendix B Figure B.1). Communication is
something that needs to be carried out across the course of the entire year
and be as frequent as possible. Newsletters or student letters to their
families about things that they are learning or improving on should be sent
home at least twice a month (Appendix D, Figure D.1).

Bibliography
Allen, J. (2007). Inviting dialogue at the conference table. In Creating
welcoming schools: A practical guide to home-school partnerships with
diverse families (pp. 82-92). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Davis, C. & Yang, A. (2005). Parents & Teachers Working Together. Turners
Falls, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children.
Education world. (n.d.). What teachers want parents to know. Retrieved from
http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/profdev/profdev103b.shtml.
Education world. (n.d.). What parents want teachers to know. Retrieved from
http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/profdev/profdev103a.shtml.
Epstein, J. L. (n.d.). Epsteins Framework of Six Types of Involvement.
Virginia Department of Education. (2010). Tips and strategies for increasing
parent and family involvement in virginia schools. Retrieved from
http://www.doe.virginia.gov/instruction/virginia_tiered_system_supports
/training/cohort/2012/apr/tips_and_strategies.pdf.
Wherry, J.H. (n.d.). Did you know? 10 Things any school can do to build
parent involvementplus 5 great ways to fail!

Appendix A

Figure A.1 This is an example picture of a mobile that my 2nd graders


completed when we were learning about 5 of the different habitats. They
Appendix B

Figure A.2
There are
the pictures
that my 2nd
grades
completed
when we
were
studying
the
different
seasons of
an apple
tree.

Appendix B

Figure B.1 This is the welcome


letter that I sent home with the
students in my 4th grade
student teaching placement.

Appendix C

Figure C.1 This is a welcome


postcard that I would send out
during the summer letting my
students know that I am
looking forward to the
upcoming year!!

Appendix D

Figure D.1 This is a newsletter that I prepared for class regarding what we
were doing in my 2nd grade student teaching placement.