How Should Schools Utilize a 2Gen Approach to Teaching and Learning?


Whether you know it or not, to teach in schools today is to assume a 2-Gen[multi-generational] approach and create a framework for student achievement and family wellness built around that approach. To meet the needs of the child, you must also be mindful of the needs of the parents and the entire family. There is no effective way around that reality.

You may wish to focus solely on the child in the classroom, but the child is a whole person, bringing into the classroom experiences of the whole family. In order to help maximize achievement and increase school performance, you must simultaneously maximize the parents’ inherent capacity to support learning and whole family functioning at home.

Within their current circumstances, parents can support achievement regardless of race, income, location, level of education, or spoken language. Nearly half of young children are growing up in low income families and that number is growing. In the U.S., 10 million families with kids 8 and under have parents with limited skills, low to no wages and inflexible work schedules. 45% are single parent led and 17% are challenged to find affordable and reliable child care.

2Gen suggests that children succeed when parents succeed and vice versa. Historically, most public programs, including schools, operated from a position whereby needs of the child and the parent are addressed in isolation of each other. Schools and other child focused programs seek parental engagement but without an understanding of the work and home demands of those parents. No one helps parents who are struggling with stress on a daily basis, or the daily stress of providing for their family.

Children’s outcomes are interrelated with their family condition, the home environment and overall functioning. The 2Gen approach is built on the assumption that poverty can have negative consequences and threaten the entire family’s stability which can potentially take a negative toll on a child’s school performance and future.

Bringing together parent and child resources can address the needs of both vulnerable children AND their parents together. By providing a variety of supports that aim to empower families, we effectively are arming children with the tools for greater resilience, increased motivation and success in school. Parental involvement in their child’s development is a key aspect of this approach. Without educator input, parents will still be involved. However, with educator supports, parents can build on existing capacity and improve outcomes.

Begin an intentional focus on integrating families as a part of your strategic learning plan. Accordingly, the 2Gen Framework is about incorporating family support strategies into early childhood education and development. It is an intentional approach to working together in ways that result in improved outcomes for the child and the family.

An intentional integration requires new systems and processes, staff training and support. As the way we are to teach Black History in school, this is ongoing, and a continuous focus on families, the staff’s relationship with families, and a consistent monitoring of outcomes along the way. This is by design in order to optimize academic performance and to strengthen and empower families and communities.

Staff often lack a full understanding of programs and services
available to help families or they have an isolated view/understanding of those programs. Knowing exactly what is necessary to access the programs and resources will help create pathways to achievement.

Many staff view themselves as working for a single program or a department, but their programs or department in each school operates with a singular and shared goal-ensuring every child’s achievementand college and career readiness. A shift in mindset is critical to view themselves as working for the student, family and community as a whole, in finding pathways to a better life.

The Family Liaison position in schools is essential in helping staff understand what families need and want and helping families navigate the school system, access community programs and resources. Staff must understand that it will often be necessary to step in and facilitate that access. Information and knowledge sharing!

Suggestions for schools:

  • Appoint cross departmental committees to compare notes on student strengths, needs, and  identify any family-related issues. Also, most importantly, these committees can share their ‘what works’ strategies on instruction, family communication and behavioral interventions. Addressing the whole child involves the family—-always.

Collectively align with a shared committment to restorative practices and ensure equity.  This will foster a collaborative mindset, mutual peer support and create a more student/family-centered approach to teaching and learning. Across content areas and departments, all staff can join efforts with one collective goal. Ultimately, this will facilitate a more welcoming school climate.

  • Shift learning focus away from outcomes to a more process oriented approach. When processes are highlighted and examined more closely, individualized learning interventions are likely to result in success and improved student performance. The mindset shift becomes more participant and invites engagement. When communicating with parents, emphasize and explain each process to promote advocacy at home.

Instead of telling a parent that,”This week’s task is to learn about George Washington.”, tell them exactly what you expect their child to know.  Instead of telling a parent,” We are learning about fractions.”, tell the parent exactly what you want their child to be able to do or understand about fractions. Then provide parent worksheets that will explain the process,  detail the specific information wanted or tell parents where they may find the information their child needs.

  • Encourage teachers to learn about accessible services outside of the school setting-the district or state levels or in the community.. They are encouraged to provide families with a list of nearby resources where they may find free to low cost services and information. Content area pedagogues should have their own personal ‘rolodex’ of  websites where useful strategies and other content-related information may be found.  Arm them with websites to navigate, even on their mobile devices, to find answers, help their child at home and supplement instruction.
  • Network with other organizations to leverage their breath of knowledge and services they offer that support your mssion. Invite and include outside CBOs and other stakeholders to visit the school, the classroom, on a regular basis, to inform and inspire. These are components of empowerment.
  • Provide ongoing cultural competence trainings to reflect and encourage self-awareness among staff, address and minimize any implicit bias. By the way, implicit bias exists not only about racial and ethnic diversity, but LGBTQ bias, as well. When we talk about this ‘group‘, we must destigmatize and normalize it as part of our everyday conversation. This reduces bullying and bias, and invites equity.
  • Re-visit the curriculum, and dedicate your environment to be an extension of the entire community and think GLOBAL. Look around you. Students represent the world. Cease teaching through the lens of eurocentricity. Continue to educate staff about the characteristics of the neighborhood, the vibrant cultures, and integrate that responsiveness into pedagogy.
  • Dedicate every classroom teacher’s instructional plans to be family centered at least once each week in the academic year. This means that instruction must be relevant and student assignments must incorporate family involvement.

Remember that low income families-children and their parents- don’t need grit, because they have it already; they need inspiration! Seek to inspire them and there will be increased motivation to thrive and succeed in school, life and career! Teach and educate children, but inform and coach parents….and link both strategies to learning and empowerment!

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