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Children are more successful when teachers develop a two-way relationship with parents and guardians and support family connection with the school. This helps teachers to understand children’s home life and culture, communicate children’s progress and classroom experiences, share themes, and encourage extension activities at home.
These relationships can help:
Teachers understand that “young children experience their world as an environment of relationships, and these relationships affect virtually all aspects of their development,” according to the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Positive early relationships between the teacher, child, and family are vital to the foundation of healthy development and greatly influence a child’s ability to achieve success later in life.
Families are key to young children’s comprehension of their feelings, thoughts, and expectations of others, as well as the importance of cooperation and sharing. However, some children may be in families and communities in crisis and experiencing trauma. Teachers who are sensitive to difficult circumstances can provide a calm, safe, predictable atmosphere where children can relax and be ready to learn.
Because the developing social-emotional centers of the brain are directly influenced by children’s living and learning environments,1 it is critical for Transitional Kindergarten (TK) programs to develop partnerships with families and communities that foster ongoing, caring, and goal-oriented relationships.
TK is full of new experiences that can cause excitement, and a little nervousness, for both children and families. When schools create an environment in which parents feel welcome and their family and cultural assets are recognized, these actions pave the way for productive communication that leads parents to support and advocate on behalf of their children and their schools.
According to the Flamboyan Foundation, “A strong body of research shows that students do better in school and in life when their parents are engaged in their education. Teachers are only with children an average 14% of their time, so it is essential that families reinforce messages about learning outside of school.”
Family engagement contributes to:
Family-school partnerships support student learning at home and in your classroom, and overall play a critical role in student achievement. Your school community can lead family engagement through various strategies that send a message to families that they are welcome partners in the school. School/teacher efforts to support family engagement bridge the high expectations of families and teachers and strengthen family-school relationships and the overall communication that guides families to be strong partners in their child’s education.
Key elements of effective family-school partnerships include:
There are many approaches you can use to create opportunities for productive conversations and interactions with families to support student success. Below are some ideas to explore in your TK program.
Find opportunities for face-to-face meetings or conversations to maintain ongoing communication about student progress, and what parents can do at home and in school to support their child’s learning.
Help parents identify the key questions they should ask during a parent-teacher conference.
Develop homework or classroom activities that involve families and celebrate the assets of their home culture by:
Help families understand how they can be helpful in the classroom through becoming an official volunteer.
Below are six areas of family involvement from Dr. Joyce Epstein, a nationally recognized leader on parent involvement, with the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships at Johns Hopkins University.2
|1||National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2009). Young children develop in an environment of relationships. Center on the Developing Child. Harvard University. Working paper 1. http://developingchild.harvard.edu/activities/council/|
|2||Epstein, Joyce L. (2005), Developing and Sustaining Research-Based Programs of School, Family and Community Partnerships: Summary of Five Years of National Network of Partnership Schools Research, Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships|