When Parents and Teachers Unite
As an individual in early childhood education, you are expected to be involved and constantly aware of your children and their progress through their early years in your classroom. This includes emotional development as well as cognitive development. What you may not be aware is that your excellence as a teacher depends not only upon your involvement with your child, but your partnering and supportive capabilities of their families as well.
“Early childhood professionals can play a critical role in the attitudes parents develop about their child’s schooling. Teachers of the very young often establish the first connections parents have to school situations and thus influence parents’ attitudes toward involvement. These first connections may be respectful and supportive or distant and antagonistic.” We are the first link parents make to the wide, somewhat frightening, world of education and letting their child develop social, as well as educational, practices.
Reaching out to parents is an essential part of establishing a connection to your children in your classroom. The parental figures are the most important individuals in these children’s lives. How you respond, react, support, and acknowledge them, makes or breaks your reputation and your impact as a teacher. You should get to know the families of your children as well as the children themselves. It is important to understand family dynamics as well as being aware of emotional events, how the child interacts with the familymembers at home, and how the family revolves around one another.
Your position does not end with the child; we are often the only recourse parents have for difficult questions. You will hear questions that are funny, serious, odd, and you have to take each one of them seriously. It is hard for a parent to come to someone and say, “I don’t know this…” Parents are not given an instruction manual and sometimes do not have a suitable history to pull from when making decisions regarding their child. We can answer questions about head lice, we can answer questions about potty training, we are the helping hand that gives an exhausted single mother a hug and tells her, “You have this. You can keep going. I am proud of you.” We tell the fathers about how well their son did today during potty training and we put a smile on their tired faces. We are the bread and butter of our communities and we should be proud of this fact, and we should always strive to be better.
As excellent teachers we should provide a warm, nurturing, and clean environment in which parents feel comfortable and safe just like their children. Find a time that works well for you and establish a routine to speak with parents individually and let them know about how their child did that day. Talk about the things he created and the breakthroughs she made. Make papers that you can fill out during naptime and give them to the parents as a snapshot of their child’s day. Always ask the parent how he or she is doing. Get to know how they handle difficult situations at home. Listen when the parents speak to you and understand the implications this has on your teaching strategies and how you should shift to meet their children’s needs accordingly. Always ask how they slept, if they didn’t sleep well, ask why? Make eye contact and always be sincere. Give them your full attention and let them know that you care about their child as well as their family.
If a parent comes to you with a question, take them seriously, always, and take the time to do a little research for them. An overwhelming show of support and helpfulness to your parents lets them know you do not think less of them for coming to you, and you appreciate their trust.
Parents are an untapped potential and most are just waiting for a chance to be useful and involved in their child’s life. Invite them in, ask for volunteers, if you need things in your classroom for projects, i.e., bags, toilet paper rolls, yarn, you should ask your parents and many of them will jump at the opportunity to help. Invite them in for a book reading, to talk to the kids about their jobs, do art projects, or planting projects. Parents love their children and they will love being a part of their early education.
Give parents the opportunity to become an asset to your class, and take the time to become an asset to their family. Your life will change and you will impact your students in ways you never thought possible, changing their lives and their families’ lives, in the process.
-Barbour, Ann, Ph.D. “Earlychildhood NEWS – Article Reading Center.” Earlychildhood NEWS – Article Reading Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2014. Link: http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=644
-Furger, Roberta. “Parents Are a Secret Weapon Just Waiting to Be Discovered.” Edutopia. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2014. Link: http://www.edutopia.org/secret-weapon-discovered
More on early childhood education: