by Amy De La Hunt
As back-to-school season ramps up, parents are busy shopping for supplies, coordinating physicals, figuring out school day schedules – and, squeezed in among all these responsibilities, maybe doing a few more fun summer activities. Meanwhile, teachers are organizing their classrooms, preparing lesson plans, attending orientations and learning who they’ll have as students.
These two busy worlds intersect soon (if they haven’t already) as the teacher reaches out to welcome new students and their families. It’s easy to overlook the importance of this little message and parents’ response to it, but research shows that developing positive lines of communication now can set the tone for a successful home-school partnership the rest of the year.
Children’s transition to school is most successful when their parents and teachers are interconnected. In fact, the more information about their child parents share with the school, the more they influence the school’s ability to educate their child.
Parents know many things about their child the teacher doesn’t:
- Their history, including life-shaping events and special personal relationships.
- Their temperament, habits, likes and dislikes.
- The family’s culture and practices, including caregiving routines, communication styles, beliefs about learning, and expectations for the future.
- The extended family structure.
Teachers, for their part, hold the crystal ball that gives parents a peek into:
- What the child will be learning during the coming year.
- What day-to-day classroom life will look like.
- Which other specialists and educators will impact the child’s learning.
- How the school’s routines will play out over the weeks and months ahead.
If all of this sounds familiar to parent educators, there’s good reason. The helping relationship parent educators and families develop is based on a mutual sharing of information, observations and goals related to the child – which mirrors the relationship parents will build with their child’s classroom teacher. Within PAT, the child’s path toward school readiness within PAT parallels the family’s growth and development that better prepares them to be effective partners with their child’s school and teachers.
Parents and classroom teachers need not do a huge brain dump right now, when everything feels so frenetic. There’ll be plenty of time to discover each other’s communication preferences, ask questions and set goals once the backpacks are purchased and the bulletin boards are filled. Instead, both sides can star with expressing their sincere desire to partner in the learning process. Thanks to the groundwork laid by parent educators, PAT families can be confident they have the tools needed for this new relationship.
Amy De La Hunt is Curriculum Development Manager for Parents as Teachers.
Some of the material in this post first appeared in the PAT curriculum We’re Going to School! A Parent Involvement Approach to School Transitions, available from the estore.