HELPING PARENTS, GUARDIANS & CARERS BECOME INVOLVED
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PARENTS / GUARDIANS / CARERS!
The End of the Longest Term is Approaching.
It's time to start working on any questions you may have for your child(ren)'s Teacher.
My Post, 'Meeting the Teacher' gives you some ideas and suggestions to help you plan your questions. It's good to make contact, making an appointment well in advance.
Be sure your children know you want to hear all about their day in school,
the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!
09 November 2017 Update
Iseult Catherine O'Brien
Montessori Teacher & Supervisor | Volunteer Tutor with Second Level Students | A Member of The Tutors' Association
PARENTS, GUARDIANS, AND CARERS
TO BECOME INVOLVED
It seems many parents, guardians, and carers
are losing their confidence, especially in
Early Childhood Education
Nowadays, there are so many acronyms, complicated names for each age and stage of learning and development, class descriptions, and convoluted terms used by pre-school and early school years education systems and practitioners, that some parents are feeling excluded from their own child's / children's education. They may be INTIMIDATED by too complicated, too scientific-sounding, unexplained, terminology and shorthand descriptions. Some parents even give up asking for explanations, as they have lost confidence in their grasp of what is going on in their child's school.
A friend who works as a teacher with very young children, in New York, uses all kinds of shorthand descriptions and acronyms in emails to me when telling her news from work. I keep having to ask her what these names mean. I never know if it might be a description of a class age group, or a shorthand for a specific learning difficulty. She just forgets that not everyone knows all the terminology.
All professions have their shorthand usages, but in relation to education and educators, if they become the cause of parents, guardians, and carers feeling DISTANCED from their child(ren)'s teachers, feeling unable to have a discussion on their child(ren)'s activities, A REVIEW IS NECESSARY.
Parents, guardians, and carers (PGCs) can come to feel that their role as the primary educators of their children is UNDERMINED by the idea that they are unable to be as involved with their children's education at home, to the extent they would wish.
They can come to distrust their ability to play comfortably and naturally with their young children, fearing there is a 'proper procedure' for this play, about which they know nothing. PGCs' confidence in their innate skills may be compromised by their belief they are inadequate, not able enough to work 'correctly' with their young children.
This is soul-destroying for hopeful and dedicated parents, guardians, and carers.
No-one truly realises just how demanding, all-consuming, and plain scary, becoming a parent or carer is, until he or she becomes one. There is a seismic shift in a couples' priorities, as they grasp the breadth of their new responsibilities, while marvelling at their tiny baby or young child. Aside from the odd day, when any PGC may feel he or she just cannot do anything right, most parents / guardians / carers should be comfortable, most of the time, in the relationship they have with their babies and, later, in their relationships with their children as they get to pre-school, big school, and later stages.
The children and the PGCs MAY LOSE A HUGELY IMPORTANT OPPORTUNITY to get to know each other fundamentally, through play and simple activities with household items, like saucepans and lids, cardboard boxes, kitchen roll tubes, plastic cups and plates, followed later by paper and chunky crayons.
Some things really are beautifully simple!
This time spent with children is when both come to make their connection, and the PGCs start recognising small advancements in their children's skills, when committing time, every day, to spend playing and learning with their children.
Play IS Learning!
You might be interested in reading the Post by Matthew Simberg, Head of School at Montessori Seeds of Education. Matthew has a great way of making things easy to read and digest.
The Post is titled "An Understanding of the Communication and Collaboration Between Parent and Teacher", and could not be more timely, it's about all Parent and Teacher Communication, not just at Montessori level.
IN THESE EARLY YEARS, children examine the faces of the important people in their lives. THEY READ THE EXPRESSIONS, AND ARE WIRED TO TRY TO PLEASE, and so be SHOWN AFFIRMATION AND LOVE.
THIS TIME NEVER COMES ROUND AGAIN. This is the time when a lifelong, trusting, loving, bond is created. Most parents, guardians, and carers want to do a good job of caring for and teaching their children, but some may feel lacking in what they think are necessary skills.
COLLECT kitchen paper rolls, clean egg cartons, washed plastic tubs from yoghurt ~ small and big, big wax crayons which are moved from their cardboard box to a sturdy tub with a lid. These can be added to the blocks, Lego, and other construction material kept in a big box. This is the child(ren)'s resources box, and they should be encouraged to play with it's contents after their snack when they come in from pre-school or school.
TELEVISION DOES NOT GET TURNED ON, AND GETS TURNED OFF IF TURNED ON BY A CHILD OR OTHER PERSON!!
(Please see my Post, Beware the Light!! which details up-to-date studies on the long-term deleterious consequences of over-use of blue light emitting devices, including televisions, mobile / cell phones, iPads, Tablets, Kindles and all related items).
When it is time for this play to end, the children replace all the material in the resources box. Renew the kitchen rolls and egg cartons,when they get really ragged but please ask first if they are finished with them. (They may have become a vital monocular for searching the Heavens or a secret messages receptacle!)
PGCs have to be confident, or fake it, and take the youngster(s) to the local park and let him or her have a go on all the material in the playground. You have to be brave, and smile, as the child decides to cross the log bridge suspended from chains!
Even very young children are getting far less free play time, and they are spending far too long sitting at their tables in school. They are not getting enough exercise, especially boys. Please see my Posts, Children's City Lives and Nature in the City for ideas on what you might do as a family, to encourage physical activity and learning, and to introduce planning as a group for your weekend activities.
ALL CHILDREN NEED THREE HOURS DAILY OF FREE PLAY INCLUDING PLENTY OF RUNNING FOR THEIR PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH.
Frequently, families do not get to have an evening meal together because of work commitments. One parent, guardian, or carer, could take it in turn to go for a walk in the evenings when you get in from work along with a child. If you have a few children, try to make sure each one gets at least one evening's walk.
This would be a great opportunity for a child to off-load any worries of the day, and for the two of you to chat through the subject. Keep walking until you get to a solution which eases the child's worries. He or she has to be confident that you are ready and happy to listen closely to a problem, and keen to help work it out.
If you get in from work too late to go for a walk, make bath-time your chat time.
If your offspring are too old to be bathed, and tucked in, knocking on the bedroom door, and leaning on the door frame when 'come in' is shouted out, making a relaxed comment on something about your own day and asking if anything's happening with your teenager, is a good habit. Follow up on a project undertaken, or plans for a social outing. Asking about exams or marks attained for an essay at bedtime is really not a good idea! You may get a "nope" 99% of the time, but he or she does know your are ready to listen when needed. The day will come.
During the week, visits to the park or play outdoors may not be possible, but children NEED to expend their build-up energy and any possible frustrations. They do not get sufficient exercise in school. Think of a physical and tiring game that could be played at home. How about moving the dining table against the wall, and making a slalom course of the chairs for the child(ren) to weave and run through? This might be done best in bare feet, especially if you have downstairs neighbours!
SCHOOLS NEED TO BE MORE WELCOMING
Some parents, guardians, and carers, being acutely aware of the lack of educational chances available to them in their youth, but having made a success of their careers, can still feel INTIMIDATED by just being in a school building. Equally, some people had really unpleasant school experiences, with memories that flashback in technicolour, and although a school gives them the jitters, they try very hard to hide their discomfort, as they want their children's schooldays to be as rich and as enjoyable as possible.
I know that there is rarely a day in the school calendar that is not packed with the many and various activities. However, I think schools that do not already have one, really need to work out how they can introduce an Orientation Day for the parents, guardians, and carers of potential students.
HOW should it be done? Perhaps, a standard, introduction / junior infants / first elementary classroom ~ or whatever it is called where you are ~ should be left 'as is' on the day after the last day of the school year. It would be useful for the school to have prepared FAQ sheets which they email or post to the parents, guardians, and carers, along with the time and date of their Orientation Day.
The FAQ sheets should be read through to and with the children before Orientation Day; the children may have questions the PGCs would never think of! PGCs would come by arrangement, in groups, get to know each others, and spend an hour walking around the classroom, examining what they care to, and talking to a teacher / teachers, asking any extra questions they may have, plus having a brief tour of the general facilities, all in the one hour time frame.
The PGCs will have seen where their children will sit, and will be more comfortable with the idea of their young children starting Montessori / kindergarten / pre-school / nursery school. They can sit at the evening meal, that day, and describe to the children the posters and drawings on the walls of the classroom, and how close by is the lavatory. They can describe the bookshelves, the Nature Table, and the Science Table. After the evening meal, the parents, guardians, or carers might try drawing a simple plan of the classroom, putting in tables, chairs, and bookshelves. They could explain that every classroom is a little different because each has a different teacher and different students. They could go on to talk about the various facilities they saw, and they could tell their children to ask them anytime, if they have a question about the school.
An excited and enthusiastic parent, guardian or carer, describing a classroom, and all it contains, is a wonderful and very positive introduction for every child, to his or her future education!
Books and Other Materials
Schools need to be more welcoming to parents, guardians, and carers ~ to give them opportunities by arrangement, directly before or after school hours, for example, to look through their child's class library, and borrow a few books to read with their child. A sign out / sign in again, system would be very simple to manage.
Once they discover together with their children which books are the favourites, and the PGCs have the details of authors and illustrators, and names of the publishers which produce popular choices available to them, they will have confidence choosing books with and for their children, in the local Library or a bookshop. An ever expanding shelf of books, is one of the greatest gifts PGCs can give their children. Going shopping together for books, having to make a decision between a food treat and a book, helps children learn to value their books, and the time spent choosing and reading them with their PGCs.
Children should be brought to their local Library from their earliest days, and from around ten months onward as participants, so that they grow up knowing about choice, and advice from librarians. They should always be along for the ride from earlier, to get used to seeing their PGCs engage in discussing books, films, and any workshops that are planned by the Library staff. Library staff are a great resource for all PGCs, from age suitable books, interesting suggestions, to information on child and parent yoga classes, readings by authors, cultural events coming up in the neighbourhood.
If this is a place where PGCs are obviously at ease, children will have no fear.
Time Available and Regular Communication
Schools need to recognise that some PGCs just cannot take time off work during the working day, or need a good deal of notice, as they may have to take holiday leave, to attend meetings in the School. Equally, PGCs need to recognise the intrinsic importance of attending all P/T meetings, for their children's sake, to learn how they can help their children in their work, and to build relationships with the children's teachers.
Emails from teachers to PGCs, and visa-versa, are a very useful way to help PGCs stay in touch with their children's progress, especially when personal meetings are very difficult for the PGCs.
People get caught up in their own very busy working world, and all parties have to try to understand the realities for each other.
Easy to Understand
We all use shorthand in our workplace, and it is generally understood by everyone in the job. However, we would be unlikely to use this same shorthand with clients, as we would not wish to embarrass them into asking what we mean, or have them not ask, which leads to a block in the clear communication flow between the parties.
In business, this is a scenario companies work hard to avoid, because a clear understanding between supplier and client is crucial to the success of the partnership.
MAKE IT EASIER FOR PARENTS, GUARDIANS, AND CARERS TO UNDERSTAND
How many pre-schools and primary schools produce an annual Handbook for parents, guardians, and carers? Apart from expensive private schools, not many. Budgets are tight.
PGCs NEED TO KNOW the names given to each school year, from the introductory year upwards; approximately how many children are in each class; and the specific names for their child's / children's developmental ages and stages.
PGCs need to know what would have been in The Handbook, which should include a good quality, comprehensive, glossary of general educational terminology, the meanings of acronyms, and their full names, and a brief description, of fairly common conditions or learning difficulties children in the school may have.
The dates and times of the Parent / Teacher meetings for each class, for the academic year, should be listed in the Handbook, including how long is allowed for the parents' / guardians' / carers' session with their children's teacher(s).
Also included should be the School Rules, in full detail, plus the consequences of infringement for students, parents, guardians, carers, teachers, and all school employees, both permanent and temporary.
The Ethos of the School should be made clear to All.
MAKING IT EASIER TO HAVE A DISCUSSION
The School should list the names of the principal, school secretary, teachers of each class, plus all the Special Needs teachers, and all ancillary teaching and other staff.
If PGCs wish to set up a meeting with a class teacher, for example, there should be email addresses or, preferably, a contact point on the school's website, where messages could be left requesting a meeting with a named teacher, suggesting some convenient dates and times, details of the topic to be discussed, plus contact information. The teacher can then get back with a date and time, and both parties can have a relaxed, prepared, meeting, where questions can be asked and answers given.
The school should also have a specific email address or, preferably, a section on its website, where parents can leave a message informing the school that their child, in a named class, shall be absent the next day due to illness, or whatever reason. All contact details for the PGCs should be held by the school so that the message can be checked, if felt necessary. This system would be efficient, as messages could be left late at night, and available first thing in the morning, thus avoiding a rush of telephone calls when the school opens. Teachers can all check the emails or website to see if any of their students is listed.
Parents, guardians, and carers should feel free to ask advice on age and ability appropriate educational equipment for their child(ren). Some of the products on the market are very expensive, and help with choosing the best quality, best value material, is a reasonable expectation.
WHEN PARENTS, GUARDIANS, AND CARERS ARE INVOLVED
When parents, guardians, and carers feel part of their children's school life, as a result of proactive initiatives on the part of the school, EVERYONE BENEFITS. 'Parents / Guardians / Carers' Evenings, including interested grandparents and other family, dedicated to one school year at a time, preferably in a relevant classroom, where the family members can wander around, examining the bookshelves, artwork produced by the children, posters on nature and astronomy, and other subjects the children are studying. The year teachers would come prepared to display a variety of materials, naming them, and explaining their purposes and benefits. PGCs must feel free to examine the materials, ask questions, and ask for advice on what they could do at home with their children, to complement the school's and teachers' work.
PGCs may feel diffident with teachers, while silently, proudly, giving their children an educational start in life they had not enjoyed. PGCs and teachers need to believe that this is A JOINT VENTURE, and for it to work best for the children, the relationship between the PGCs and teachers has to be open, professional, and enthusiastic.
INFORMED PGCs are more confident when playing and learning with their children. Teachers should have a list of useful books, pamphlets, or websites, to give parents and carers back-up and support. I know of schools that cannot afford a website, and this is a great disadvantage to students and staff.
When teachers take the initiative, and invite PGCs to come to the school for information evenings, they become more engaged with the school, and become a support for the teachers of their children.
ENGAGED PGCs are much likelier to get involved in fundraising for the school, and may have some innovative ideas on how to attract funding or investment.
INVOLVED and enthusiastic PGCs are of enormous benefit to any school. They bring many and varied skills, which can be used for the benefit of the current students, and as part of the long-term improvement in the educational options offered by the school.
Perhaps a PGC, with the appropriate skills, would design a top quality website for the school, being given lists of all the required elements from everyone working in the school, and suggestions from other parents and carers. Perhaps a PGC who works with a printing company, could help get a discount on publishing the school Handbook, and other material.
NO-ONE stays working as a teacher, hoping to retire rich! If someone has been with a school for quite some time, he or she has invested more than school hours, plus preparation and correction time. He or she has dreamt, imagined, and planned for improvements in the classrooms and in the school in general.
EQUALLY, most PGCs wish for the best possible educational opportunities for their children, always bearing in mind their abilities and personalities. These are people who WANT to get involved, to be asked to help, to offer any skills or crafts they have which would benefit the school.
PGCs or grandparents who are very knowledgeable gardeners, for example, would be a great asset from pre-school upwards, but perhaps they do not realise what a resource they could be to the school!
In an atmosphere where the joint enterprise is central to the thinking of PGCs, family, and all school staff, GLORIOUS OUTCOMES ARE POSSIBLE!
IT IS ABOUT BEING INVOLVED. It is not about signing a cheque, thinking 'that's all folks!'. Especially when times are tougher, the personal contribution of time and skills from parents, guardians, and carers, are what make a school great!
Calling Parents, Guardians, Carers, and Teachers ~
Do you have a view to give on this Post?
If you wish to give a criticism, either negative or positive, your comments should be most welcome.
If you see any errors, typographical or factual, or if you disagree with any of my ideas, I should be very glad to hear from you.
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