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Guest Blog for The Reading Tub: Bridging the Gap Between Home and School

I always love guest blogging! A few months ago, I met a new blogger friend, Terry Doherty. Today’s post was written for her blog The Family Bookshelf, which is connected to her website The Reading Tub. Make sure to check out both the blog and the site as a resources for book lists, reviews and ideas for creating a literacy-rich environment at home. A special thanks to my new friend Terry Doherty for supporting EdGeeks! Later this week, she will share ideas on literacy in the home…stay tuned!

Bridging the Gap Between Home and School

“Better parents can make every teacher more effective.”

-Thomas Friedman, NY Times

When things don’t go the way we want, we look for someone to blame. Right now, education in our country is not where we would like it to be. I have met some inspiring teachers throughout my career, as well as some who I have found…well, uninspiring. I can say the same of the families I have come across. There is always a range. I don’t think placing blame necessarily does anything for the problem – the problem is too large. What we can do in an effort to be proactive on the matter is try desperately to bridge the gap between home and school, which will support families and teachers in building a partnership rather than working independently.

I am a special education teacher by trade and the bulk of my experiences have been in Collaborative Team Teaching settings. A CTT class is wonderful for many reasons, but first and foremost because a team works together to provide support to a group of students. A teacher is never alone in regards to decision-making in a CTT class, because there is a team of teachers, related service providers and often paraprofessionals working together. I propose that we approach the parent-teacher relationship as a co-teaching experience.

Let’s take a logical approach to this issue. The hours in a student’s day are split between their home environment and their school environment. If families and teachers are working alone, chances are they are not thinking alike. Consistency is key in the success of a student. Consistency can be in reference to the teachers in a school, the adults in a family, but I’d like to think of the bigger picture…consistency between the home and school environments.

Fact: Working together to support a child has a greater effect than working alone. That being said, bridging the gap is easier said than done. Creating EdGeeks.com is my small contribution to the cause but let me put forth some ideas for ways that teachers and families can work together to improve a child’s education:

How Families Can Bridge the Gap

How Teachers Can Bridge the Gap

  • Put time into reading any notices sent home by your child’s teacher
  • Support your child with their homework in whatever way you can
  • Ask your child’s teacher for feedback on your child’s in-classroom performance
  • Ask your child’s teacher how you can support his/her work in the classroom
  • Show that you take your role as a parent seriously by using educational resources such as websites for learning
  • Assign family reading time as homework to boost family involvement
  • Invite families in for a parent-teacher night and discuss a particular topic
  • If a family asks for help, try modeling for them as you would for a student
  • Loan materials to your families (ie: books, math games, etc.) so they can practice skills at home
  • Send out an invitation for family members to come spend a period in the classroom

 

Consistency

Why is consistency key to a student’s success in learning? Because without consistency, we send mixed messages to our youngsters. For example, when I taught second grade math, there was much confusion in regards to strategies for adding 2 and 3-digit numbers. The school’s curriculum guided students through a variety of strategies that did not include “stacking,” which is the good old-fashioned vertical way that many of us learned to add in school. Families would always come to me and say, “I taught my son/daughter stacking last night because that’s the best way.” It was challenging for me, but even more so for the students. They were learning one strategy at home, and then being asked to use the opposite strategy in school. Both their parents and their teachers were telling them that their way was “the right way.” This resulted in chaos, confusion and inefficiency for many students. I remember making that topic a “must discuss” during parent-teacher conferences that year. My co-teacher and I modeled the strategies for families so they could walk away understanding how to support their kids at home in math. I highly recommend choosing a focal point or a strategy to share at teacher conferences. Although it is a short amount of time, it can be valuable when focused.

Here are some other situations where a lack of consistency between home and school can be detrimental to a student’s success.

Teacher Says… Parent Says…
“It is so important that you get your homework in on time. If it is late, I will deduct 5 points.” “Don’t worry about it, it’s not a big deal if it’s one day late. I’ll talk to your teacher.”
“I don’t care about spelling on your first draft, that’s why we edit.” “You can’t hand in your writing with all of those mistakes.”
“You must always be sure to show your work when adding, even if you already know the sum.” “Why are you wasting time…you already know the sum. Just write it down.”
“Your homework is to complete the worksheet.” “Your teacher must have showed you what to do. What was the strategy your teacher gave you?”
“This is how you multiply two-digit numbers.” “This is how you multiply two-digit numbers.”

 

If you were a child, whom would you listen to?

Tough choice. Bridge the gap.

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