I believe it really does take a village to raise a child. If we break down our priorities into basic needs for every child, we can easily come to common ground with parents: We want children to grow up to be successful, happy, and healthy adults.
Pointing the finger at teachers and saying we aren’t doing our jobs when a child doesn’t score well on a once-a-year exam isn’t working. Pointing fingers at parents and telling them they aren’t doing enough to prepare their child for school isn’t working.
What is working? Knowing your students and their families, and inviting parents to be part of our classroom learning experiences. For my birthday and for Valentine’s Day I received gorgeous bouquets of clearly home-grown flowers from a family. Friday, I asked the mom if she would bring me one flower from her garden today to help me introduce our new theme of growing things—I told her we would be learning about a flower: stem, leaves, roots, and petals. She said yes. However, she didn’t bring me a flower...she brought in four different kinds of leaves with a full grown fruit of that plant; a vase with a flower whose roots she had carefully cleaned and placed in water so they’d be clearly visible; a bouquet of different flowers with different types of stems and leaves, and of a variety of colors; she brought in a selection of roses with the thorns cut off so children could handle them; and a geranium in a giant pot.
I don’t think there is any one right answer to the question, “Is parent involvement the missing link in education reform?” I think that parents are an essential element in their child’s success, and it’s up to me to tap into them as the resource they are to find the unique and special attributes they have to offer. It seems so simple, yet it doesn’t happen often enough.
Cheryl Suliteanu has taught elementary school students in Oceanside, Calif., for 15 years. She is a National Board-certified teacher with certification in English as a New Language, a Teacher Leaders Network member, and a virtual coach/facilitator for the NEA-Priority Schools Campaign.
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