Parents, Prepare to Begin the New School Year NOW

Parents, if you have school-aged children and you already know the school that they will attend for the upcoming  year, then you can begin preparing both your child and yourself  now-before the 1st day of school. There are things to be done, besides shopping for new clothes and school supplies in order to be ready for that first day. You can begin to make a list of any and all questions you may have for the teachers and staff as it pertains to your child and yourself, as well.

Whether this a new school for your child or a familiar one, you must be actively involved with those teachers-your child’s teacher in particular. You want that teacher to know your name and your face. The teacher must know that, no matter what your education level, culture or language of origin, your child’s best interest is your main concern. Make some time to visit the school, and introduce yourself to the teacher-with or  without your child.

A few days prior to Day One, staff will be in the school building preparing for the children. A most opportune time for intros will be then. If you don’t know the name of your child’s teacher this year, then when you arrive at the school, visit the main office, and ask someone. You want to know where your child will report on that first day.

Should you get the chance to meet your child’s teacher before school starts officially:

  •  Ask him or her, after you introduce yourself, of course, whether there are any specific demands or requests related to the curriculum, behavior, expectations, etc…
  • Ask about the types of established routines, , and tell the teacher a little something about your child. Mention any allergies, likes or dislikes, special talents, nicknames[or given name pronunciation]The idea is to exchange information , establish a relationship with the teachers and begin partnering in collaboration to maximize your child’s learning growth and achievement.
  • Tell your child’s teacher about your child’s specific personality traits, too. Is your child shy, talkative, bossy[a natural leader] or wear prescription eyeglasses, etc…?

If you are a working parent, outside of the home, you may wish to:

  • Tell the teacher what your normal availability is for emergencies or reporting concerns. Similarly, you may want to ask him or her what times are best for you to reach out, whether during or after school hours. Once again, the idea is to familiarize yourself with the facilities, the floor plan and it is a good for the school-based staff to understand that you are an engaged and involved parent, both in and outside of school.
  • Ask to see the textbooks that will be used to supplement your child’s learning instruction during the year, checking for unedited affirmation in facts and inclusiveness. If you are a person ‘of color’, then I would like to suggest that you ask your child’s teacher to utilize culturally rich and relevant diverse resources to guide instructional strategies and content. In fact, parents should insist upon a curriculum fully-embedded in diversely represented examples to illustrate instruction and reinforce pedagogy in the classroom-every classroom.

spotlightIt is vital that children see themselves and others who look like them in their classroom instruction during the school day-all children. It will greatly enrich their experiences and power up their learning, resilience and intrinsic motivation. This is especially important for children of color. Culturally relevant instruction will certainly encourage and enhance learner engagement and reduce potential boredom or behavior problems. Every child needs to receive a healthy balance of mirrors and windows, and children of color rarely are exposed to their mirrors[reflections in others who look like them] in school settings. This highlights the critical need for immediate everyday access to culturally affirming materials and resources. To help prepare your child for the upcoming school year the following tips will also help:

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Set up a sleep routine. It’s best to establish bedtimes and wake-up times at least two weeks in advance of the start of school. By the first  day of school, your child’s body will have become accustomed to the schedule and oversleeping or insufficient sleep at night will be one less worry.

Plan healthy lunches and snacks. The better you plan out the meals in your home, the healthier choices you will make for your kids. When you pack protein-rich snacks and lunches, balanced with fruits, vegetables, and other wholesome items, you ensure that your children will have the energy and brainpower to make it through each school day.

Organize clothing. Of course you will need to donate or otherwise get rid of the clothing that your kids have outgrown, but you should also take the time to carefully organize what is left. From there, decide what items you may need more of before school begins.

Designate a ‘school stuff’ area. Find a central spot to store everything related to school, including backpacks, outfits or school uniforms and a dry erase calendar with family/school schedules. Try to keep this area free of clutter and other non-school items so that you and your child can find what you might need, when you need it—and quickly. Have them help you stock it with school-related items and keep it clean and functional.

Talk about bullying. Research shows that one in three kids experience bullying at some point in their school career—and in the increasingly digital world, the consequences can be extreme. Make sure your children understand the right way to treat their peers, and when to speak up if they see someone else being bullied. Also make sure they know when to come to you if they feel they are being bullied. Talk about classroom behavior and your expectations of good conduct at all times, also.

Talk about classroom etiquette. Encourage your child to speak up, raise their hands and to be unafraid to ask questions to the teacher when they are unsure or don’t fully understand a concept. It is far better to review that which is misunderstood than it is to allow teachers to assume that everyone is on the same page. It becomes more difficult for your child to catch up or move on to another lesson.

Ask your child to talk about any concerns. The start of school is exciting, but can also bring some anxiety—especially when it comes to the unknown. Take a few minutes to ask what your chilare most looking forward to during the school year, and what things may be worrying them. By giving them a forum to express their concerns, you can help them work through any worries in advance of school starting and clear up any issues that could lead to a bumpy start to the year.

 

Have a great school year, and have an engaged school year! Get as involved as you possibly can in all things learning and school. Teachers need to see you there, for in your absence, many often make an erroneous assumption that you do not care. Today’s parent, whether limited English proficiency, education level or time, MUST not feel intimidated by school staff-the experts on learning- because parents are THE quintessential experts on their children first. When both work together, learning at school is made more meaningful to you, your child, and educators. So collaborate with teachers, attend meetings, visit the school regularly[and unannounced, too], ask questions, address concerns, and be your child’s best advocate. Lastly, continue to build your own capacity to support your child’s development and your own as well.

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To Educate Through the Cultural Lens

broker tripleThe existing definitions of family engagement in education encompass and emphasize the importance of school staff to support students in multiple ways. To best accomplish this, staff must build an awareness of how their beliefs and assumptions about family and community engagement influence their interactions with families and ultimately, their children-the students. The school community’s demographics can provide valuable information about what may best support both student growth and family engagement.

It is helpful for educators to ask themselves some guiding questions, individually and collectively, to increase the positive effects of their work with families.

One such question might be:

If I had a child in school, what specific information would I want to know and hear from teachers at the beginning of the school year?

Another:

How and when would I want to be first approached with a problem?

In answering these questions as teachers engage or interact with families, it is important that information be provided to families in lieu of the multi-cultural presence in most schools. Sensitivity to cultural differences or diversity helps to prevent or exacerbate any barriers or roadblocks to partnerships or involvement of parents at school.

Educators’ beliefs are critical to their success in working with families. Most parents, even multi-culturally speaking, will usually wait for some sort of guidance from teachers at school before interacting with them, and the families’ beliefs will influence how they interact with educators. If an educator believes that a family will do little to support academics at home, then they will usually hold lower expectations of the child/student. An unfair and harmful assumption or an ‘immaculate perception’! Such family’s involvement with the educators at school will likely be minimal, thus missing important reciprocal supports each provides the other.

If an educator, on the other hand, believes that a parent is the child’s first teacher, and therefore inherently supports learning at home, the family is likely to be more responsive to interacting with teachers at school. Educators are in a powerful position to shape and influence the nature of family and community engagement at school. Therefore, they must reflect inward first when engagement does not occur, for the problem often lies in the communication framed by the cultural lens!

One’s own cultural background influences how one communicates and views others’ communication. People view the world through the lens of culture―a system of beliefs, customs, and behaviors that are filtered through our experiences. It is important for educators to understand that their cultural lens may differ from the cultural lens of families in the school community and to recognize that those lenses are equally valuable. Educators can and must effectively interact with families and community members from differing backgrounds and build relationships that support effective partnerships and student achievement.

Understanding cultural norms and beliefs can overcome challenges in interactions between people with different backgrounds.

Individualism and Collectivism are two contrasting value systems that influence communication, learning, and family or community engagement in schools. Individualism focuses on the needs of the individual. Individualistic cultures foster and promotes independence, individual achievement, self-expression, individual thinking and personal choice. In collectivist cultures, one determines his or her identity largely through interactions of the community. Collectivist cultures foster interdependence, group success, adherence to norms, respect for authority, and group consensus.

As contrasting systems, these two terms are not meant to stereotype cultural behavior, but to provide insights on how contrasting values can make a difference in parenting, school and classroom practices. No culture or society can be characterized as entirely one or the other and even within a particular ethnic group people are diverse and reflect differing values depending on their own unique experiences. Schools normally reflect the predominant culture of  society, which can lead to challenges when educators interact with people whose backgrounds differ from their own. Whether the school reflects a collectivist or individualist cultural lens, educators benefit from having knowledge and sensitivity for the other, AND respects and values the cultural, familial and individual differences as valid.

Developing cultural competence/proficiency helps educators ensure families have successful experiences with schools and the education system. One of the most valuable skills educators can have is cultural competence: the ability to work across cultures in a way that acknowledges and respects each culture. To work toward cultural competence, we must look within for a deeper understanding of ourselves, our cultural lens and the culture of the people we serve. We must also act on that knowledge, turning our understanding into more effective programs, services and meaningful alliances with families. This is particularly salient when our commonly shared and chief interest is the comprehensive development and total wellness of all children.

 When school staff understands and honors the attitudes, values, norms, and beliefs of a culture, they are using a cultural lens that goes beyond the superficial aspects of that culture, such as major holidays, manner of dress, foods specific to the culture, and family customs. Understanding and honoring a culture extends to paying attention to how culture might impact teaching and learning, social interactions within the class, and cultural values that respect learning by observing. Build capacity for engaging with diverse cultures and build competencies needed to effect optimal outcomes in learning and engagement.

Have a productive school year and do supplement instruction with content-area resources that present more realistic and multi-culturally-infused materials and [historical] references!

Food for thought:

How can we ensure a child’s future will be bright and successful when kept ignorant of their culturally rich past?

 

 

Parent Mindsets – Be A Learning Hero

 

 

Parents have always been and still are the captains of learning fate of their children in school settings, and their children are still masters of their destiny. Whether or not they are aware, parents’ heavily influence the educational route that children travel along as they grow up and transition out into the ‘real’ world. What do parents know about their children that will help educators facilitate successful knowledge acquisition, and what do they want educators to know, say and do to encourage their sustained engagement with k-12 schools?

We know that family engagement at school changes as students reach middle school and high school. How can educators keep parents engaged as their kids gain more independence? A great place to begin to answer that question is by asking for students’ input.

What do parents want from educators at school? What do parents in a digital tech rich society want from their child’s school today? Certainly they want their child to succeed in school and in life, but there have been some longstanding barriers to connecting with schools, which only widen as children enter both middle and high school. Now is the time to ask and listen to hear about them directly from parents themselves. No more assumptions or presumptions.

We now have an opportunity to hear from parents who have felt that their voices didn’t matter in education. This gives educators another  opportunity to identify and tap into parents’ power and strengths, acknowledge and address their concerns. Ultimately, we can align them with that of schools to foster achievement, maintain and increase engagement up through high school graduation.

When we hear what they say, recognize what they can bring to the education table, it then behooves us to reflect on our practices and perspectives, perceptions and alter them accordingly-with cultural responsiveness. Traditionally, schools came first-mission, vision, and practice protocol. Consideration was given to parents after the fact. Either parents ‘get with the program’ or get lost. They were left out and the most powerful ally to schools were ignored. Schools operated as though they could do it all by themselves. Now we see the light!

We need parents to partner with us in all facets of learning and so we are essentially starting over-back to the drawing board-re-defining, and re-designing culture, climate, curriculum, and collaborating with parents in promoting academic and life success of students. Another avenue to engagement involves the voices and input of the children themselves, as links between parents and schools.

For 2017, a new report from Learning Heroes and Carnegie Corporation of New York, “Parents 2017: Unleashing Their Power & Potential” explores parents’ concerns and hopes for their children’s future. They surveyed parents and discovered what and why there seems to be a perception gap regarding their child’s reading and math proficiency and aims to use the data to design supports and tools for parents’ use to help them navigate school systems and support the academic achievement of their children from preK through 12th grade.

Read the full report. Follow the link:

Parent Mindsets – Be A Learning Hero

How to Ensure Smooth Transitions within the Pre-school Classroom

Transitions are powerful teaching tools and learning opportunities. They guide children gently through the day, provide special attention to individuals, and help children move from one area of the classroom[or the home] to another smoothly. The following transition ideas should help you reduce the number of interruptions and encourage activities to flow from one to another with ease.

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Cues for Moving From Free Selection to Organized Activities

  • Flash the lights.
  • Strum an instrument.
  • Play pre-recorded tunes.
  • Sing a song that tells children what they are to do or where they are to go.
  • Move to the area where you would like the children to gather and talk quietly, they will notice and come to
    see what you are doing.

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Preparing the Environment

  • Place carpet pieces on the floor to designate a personal space for each child.
  • Write each child’s name on a piece of tagboard and position it on the floor to create a personal space for
    each child. (Children are more connected to their name plate if they decorate it themselves!)
  • By personalizing the tagboard, you can manage the environment more closely because you are not only
    designing the space where children sit, but also by whom they sit.
  • Put a blanket on the floor and invite children to sit around it. The blanket makes a great rectangle for
    large group time. If you want the children to be closer together, ask the children to sit on the blanket
    instead of around it.

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Grabbing Children’s Attention

  • Decorate a bag or box and place various props inside. As you use the box on a regular basis, the
    children will look forward to seeing what you have brought along for the day’s activities.
  • Gather boxes of various sizes. Place an object that is a clue to the activity inside the smallest box. Place
    that box inside of the next smallest box. Continue to nest the boxes, so that only the largest box is visible.
    As a child or pair of children open each of the boxes, the excitement about the planned activity will build.
  • Introduce the planned activity with an interesting puppet. Be sure to allow time for the children to “meet”
    the puppet.
  • Pose a problem or challenge to the children by using interesting questions and riddles. They will try to
    figure out the answer by the clues you give them with your voice and the smile on your face. The answer
    will smoothly “lead-in” to the planned activity.
  • Sing new or familiar songs and fingerplays to capture the children’s attention. By placing the words on a
    poster in the classroom, you can reinforce the words of the songs and the children’s concept of print.
  • Change the words to a familiar song to fit the theme. Some children may begin to create songs on their
    own.

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Dismissing the Children

  • According to physical or clothing characteristics.
  • According to their likes and dislikes
  • By asking them to answer a question or create a rhyme individually.
  • By the initial letter of their name or telephone number.
  • By inviting them to say “good-bye” to a puppet.
  • By giving them each a turn with an interesting gadget.

There are endless ways to guide children through the day, yet both beginning and seasoned teachers constantly
think about ways to make the day go more smoothly. The ideas in this article make transitions easy. Simply
provide clear directions for the children to follow and present your ideas in a manner that is interesting and
meaningful to the children and you will make every day terrific!