by Tovi C. Scruggs, M.Ed.
A successful parent-educator relationship displays first-hand for the child that an entire team of adults is on his side and working to co-create his greatness and genius.
When parents and educators work well together and share the common goal of fully developing a child, everyone benefits. This working relationship does not outgrow you or your child; it is expected to last until your child graduates from high school.
From the age a child enters school until he leaves school, his two most paramount and time-consuming “worlds” are those of home and school. As a child ages, he will spend more time in his academic world than he will in his home world. It is crucial that a positive relationship exists between the two worlds, as they should not operate in a void, one separate from the other.
In my opinion, the spiritual principle “there is no separation” comes to mind as a concept for visualizing the home and school connection for the success of a youth. Further, parents and educators can provide each other with unique insights and different perspectives about the same child, culminating in a more complete understanding of that child’s abilities, strengths and challenges.
The educator will know more about curriculum and the school culture, while parents will know more about the child’s personality, tendencies, patterns and family life. Further, as a child grows and matures, an educator can provide valuable insight into how the youth is developing a personal work ethic, work habits and working relationships that may often look different than those displayed at home.
To launch the home and school connection in a positive way, the attitude a parent displays about school is crucial. This goes far beyond the “you need to do well in school” speech that parents often deliver.
Because young children, particularly, identify strongly with their parents, the display of attitudes, values and innermost feelings are contagious. They become embedded in the child’s mind at the deepest levels. In my experience as an educator, I have found many youths’ views about education, success in school and respecting adults is often influenced by both the verbal and non-verbal expressions and feelings of the parent.
If a parent’s experience with school was miserable, that parent might feel anxious about his child’s school experiences. The child will sense this, and it could impair his ability to throw himself wholeheartedly into learning. Further, for the child’s sake, the parent needs to put the past in the past and “start over” – assuming that the child’s teachers, school and overall experience will be positive and happy.
Even if a parent didn’t like school, the best way to help the child is to endorse his experience: Get involved, be positive and trust his teachers. He will get the message: “School is important; I want you to engage fully.”
After the right attitude and outlook has been set, it is important to address the “nuts and bolts” of the home and school connection. In addition to the full-time job that many parents have outside of the home, parents must look at educating their youth as their second full-time job. A parent does not have to take on the role of educator himself; however, it is crucial that the parent see his role as facilitating and overseeing the education of the youth as a full-time job.
Face it: It’s a responsibility and an expectation. Many times, youth do not have the discipline, experience or skill-sets to facilitate themselves in being successful in school without the guidance of a parent at home and a caring educator at school. Remember, “there is no separation.”
I have listed some skill-sets to help ensure that youth do well in school:
Meet and greet: Plan a time to sit and discuss your youth. Discuss areas of success, improvement and growth goals. This is best done three to four times each year. A concerned educator would never avoid meeting or communicating with a parent.
Use routines: As adults, we can govern and design our own routines. Work your youth’s routine into your own for the ease of time, learning and spending time together. Make lunches together, get clothes ready for the next day together, read together, set the next day’s materials by the door together. By doing routines together, a parent is also teaching his youth how to be organized and establish and follow his own routines that support organization that, in turn, support school success.
Have high expectations: Let youth know that they don’t have to be the best as long as they are doing their best! Reward solid efforts as well as achievements.
Monitor schoolwork/homework: Offer to help, but do not do the work. Look through the youth’s notebook or folder at least once each week to monitor progress, feedback and assignments.
READ! Youth must read in every subject that they study. Please support good reading habits by going to the library, reading more for recreation, and always making sure that your youth is reading at least one book outside of his school books. Reading is like any other skill – you get better at it the more you do it. Further, parents can ask teachers for good general comprehension questions to ask about your youth’s reading. You can do this in the car or in line at the store: Ask your youth to tell you about the information he’s reading. Dig deep: Ask character names, details, setting, character relationships etc. Make him think about what he is reading. This will improve verbal expression, articulation of ideas and reading comprehension skills. It helps to train your youth to look at reading to gain understanding.
Support the school: Parents should attend school meetings, volunteer at least three times each school year and participate fully. This shows youth that parents are connected to educators and the education process. This shows youth that everyone cares and “there is no separation.” Further, be sure to start off the school year by getting a school calendar of dates, and then placing those dates onto your own personal calendar. There is no need to accidentally schedule something or be caught off-guard with a school event that has been on your personal calendar since September.
Be connected: Talking about the school day with youth shows that you care. Asking “How was school today?” can often be felt as generic. An authentically connected parent may want to be more specific, such as, “Share two good things that happened during the day;” “Tell me about math class today;” “Who did you laugh with today?” Have fun of thinking of one creative thing you can talk about with your youth about school.
Create a “Super Study Area”: This is my favorite recommendation to parents who want to bridge the home and school connection. A “Super Study Area” will help a youth learn how to study and take homework time more seriously. This is something that really works, costs a little bit of money, and can ensure academic success for years to come. I provide this information to parents upon enrolling their youth at ASA Academy. The concept is not my own and is taken from the book, “Full Esteem Ahead.” A “Super Study Area” can be made in a corner of any room in your living space (but avoid areas of distraction and family traffic). Here are the steps to a “Super Study Area:”
Provide your youth with a good desk and comfortable chair. Second hand shopping or asking works well for this.
Make sure there is plenty of light in the room. Besides ceiling light, consider additional light such as a desk lamp.
Use a file box or small two-drawer cabinet to provide your youth with places to file letters, papers, projects, special documents, pictures, awards etc.
Provide some shelves, stacking baskets or crates for books and materials. Be sure there is a dictionary and thesaurus.
Stock the desk in an organized and useful way. Stock with supplies such as paper, lined and blank, pencils, pens, erasers, scissors, glue, tape, a calculator and a hole-punch.
Provide a special calendar that notes homework, projects and special events to be posted above the desk area.
If it’s within your budget, provide a computer and printer in your home. I don’t recommend having it at the youth’s desk unless he is disciplined not to “surf/play” on the computer when he should be doing other assignments.
Lastly, the “Super Study Area” really supports a youth’s success because it conveys the importance of school and the structure to achieve from home. In addition, it is important to cement the homework routine effectively with set hours each night that will be spent in the “Super Study Area.”
When a healthy relationship exists between home and school, parents and educators value the expertise that each of them brings to the compelling life-work of educating youth. When parents and educators work together to build the foundation of home and school as a team, everyone wins. Build the bridge of home and school with awareness, caring, discipline, structure and love because “there is no separation.”