Haven’t you heard this before- “the parent is the first teacher”. C’mon teachers, who do we blame for those students who come into our classrooms with— well, you know. In thinking about all of the teachers in a students’ lifetime, I thought about how many of them have to do professional development. And, wouldn’t that be a great idea for parents? Seriously! Now, I would not dare suggest a PD session on parenting, (not my lane) but on how to be a better teacher- I’m here for it!! My Mama- one of the greatest teachers I know.
Quick story: When I was in grade seven, I hated World History. The teacher was cool, but those timelines, wars, and all that jazz- I couldn’t wrap my mind around it at all. I earned a D in the first quarter, prompting my mother to intervene. Oh yes, she had much to say. She was very encouraging- not of the grade, but my lack of enthusiasm about World History. She explained history in a way I could really relate. She said that events or things that we treasure today can be researched and traced back to historic events. She told me to think of it as a sitcom or something I watch on TV how events link onto others. To be honest, she specifically referenced All my Children and how Erica Kane’s love life was the cause of so much drama in Pine Valley. She explained to me that World History is just the same-as one situation ends, another is created, based from the history of the one prior. Now, if my fine teacher would have explained it to me this way ( ix-nay All my Children), then I surely would have gotten a better grade. Seasoned educators would call this connecting the skill to the familiar, but my mama, she wanted to make sure that D became a C, or better. History for me became the reason why things exist. Whenever I learned something and wanted to know more about it, I would go home and look it up in encyclopedia (no Google back then). This led to many ‘a night reading encyclopedias. Not only did this help my analytical skills, but it also increased my sense of discovery. I became the family’s fact finder, and the love of learning new stuff still fulfills me today. This has also helped me to become a better teacher, especially for breaking the ice with my global students. If I’m able to connect with something they know, I’ve pretty much got them wrapped around my finger.
Think back to your childhood. who taught you how to get dressed, brush your teeth, make up your bed? It was likely your mom or dad, and as children get older, learning from parents will evolve from “how can I know this” to “why should I know this”. How hard is it for us to explain why a noun is a person. place, or thing and a verb is an action word? From our perspective, these are the simple rules to grammar, but from a child’s perspective, the question of why I need to know this is most times unanswered. That’s where the “parent teacher” comes in. Just like making up your bed TEACHES you how to be more responsible and more cleanly, parents should be just as involved in explaining that proper grammar usage will help with properly communicating things desired. If parents were more active in the “why factor”, educational programs would be so much easier to implement. That’s what learning is all about- determining who, what, when, where, and why, making sure that it becomes something valued, useful, and applied to production. We can’t always depend on parents to instinctively know what to teach, but I do believe that teachers will have better classroom experiences if “the why factor” is reinforced at home.
Now, I know in some school settings it’s a challenge to get parents to come to most school events that don’t involve immediate information about their child- school plays, report cards, etc. My advice- use the time you have. Open House nights, orientations, anytime you know the parents are coming, find the time. Those are the times when you should really set the tone of your interactions with the students and what ever involvement from the parent for the year. Write down your expectations, do a Parent PD while they are there, and make yourself available for questions anytime.
As it turns out, this is a topic that has some historical background. Check out these sites that agree with me about PD for parents:
https://www.parent-institute.com/tip – this is actually a PD session for teachers to engage parents in student achievement, BUT a wise school leader can take the information and help their teachers develop a workshop for parents.
http://www.nationalpirc.org/engagement_webinars/webinar-professional-development.html – this webinar series features discussion from representatives from the National PTA.
https://www.ecu.edu/cs-educ/opd/upload/Parental_Involvement.pdf – This presentation by Dr. Diana Lys pretty much explains to teachers how they can engage parents. this can (should) be converted to a parent workshop.