Engaging with families

This week semester one at university began. I am doing a paper based around engaging with families. One reading I had to do was the BES (best evidence synthesis) on the complex nature of influences on achievement from community and families. It was a long read, but worthwhile. If you don’t have the time to read the whole thing (I just skim read most of it) it is worth looking at the summaries of influences right at the beginning (a couple of pages long) and the table 8.1: ‘Synopsis of conclusions from evidence about what major influences and their degree of impact on children’s achievement.’

The paper highlighted the challenges of separating out what factors caused what,and was seemingly contradictory in some places. Often this was because the influence could go one way or the other.

While the list of negative impacts was substantial, so too were the major positive impacts. Now this was a focus on factors that in many cases were out of the school’s control (quite the contrast to many parts of Hattie’s meta analysis, barring those parts which refer to home influences). A close reading demonstrates the role of home-school connections in ameliorating some of these.

This is something that I have heard time and time again – relationship, relationship, relationship. It comes through in Hattie’s meta-analysis and has almost gotten to the ‘commonsense’ teaching stage.

What challenged me in reading this (and other readings) was what these relationships actually consist of. For starters, the relationship is not just between child and teacher, but parent and teacher. That’s a given, isn’t it? Consider what your home-school partnerships are like, and where they position the various parties involved.

p.170 identifies key principles of successful partnerships

  • Non-judgemental
  • Teachers and parents as complete equals, rather than teachers being positioned as the ‘professionals’ (I’m still ruminating on that one), because of the knowledges that parents bring
  • Using ongoing opportunities for integration
  • Encouraging parent to parent communication
  • Supporting parents to make changes (e.g. helping their child at one, what literacy is)
  • When implementing initiatives that are ‘innovative’, to do this on a small scale initially and build on it (wise advice that could have been great last year).

In that list there are aspects that again seem like a no-brainer, but when I reflect on what actually happens, how easy is it to judge a parent, or to just take a step onto that track. When I am questioned about something I am doing, how easily I have felt my hackles go up – you’re questioning me? Can’t you just accept what I am saying? I’m the trained teacher here (despite firmly believing I should be able to justify my practice and be completely open about it). I may not say these things aloud, but the fact is that I still think that way at times.

The final thing that struck me was the impact (particularly in the early years) of access to resources on achievement. This just goes to reiterate the importance of addressing the poverty issue to make a shift in our society.

Signing off for now!

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