The Importance of the School-Home Partnership
Teaching and parenting are often confused, and it is clear to me why. As a parent, we teach all the time. We teach our children their first words and how to walk, how to tie their shoes and ride a bike, and how to be respectful and kind.
I consider myself a strong educator, but my skills as a teacher often don’t translate to parenting. As a parent of children who need to always be working on basics, I am never more aware of the difference between parenting and teaching as I am trying to get my daughters to do some math or reading, especially during a vacation. I long for the patience and enthusiasm I have seen over and over again from the teachers that work here at GUS and wonder why the enthusiasm I can muster for my own students doesn’t come as naturally with my own children as it did when I taught them their first word? For a moment, I am stressed, but then I remember one of the reasons we have chosen GUS, and why I am sure so many of you have, because at GUS, we don’t have to do it alone.
At GUS, educating your child is truly about a partnership between school and home. Much of my time is spent helping families understand, develop, and use that partnership.
Sometimes, there are things a parent needs to reinforce at home and sometimes there are things parents need us to help with here at school. In the middle school especially, we find the balance is key to growing strong independent learners and thinkers. We cultivate our relationship with parents in formal ways. The Parents’ Association (PA) has been wonderful about creating opportunities for parents to hear directly from teachers not just about our academic program, but also, about what you can do at home. This year, PA meeting topics have included social-emotional support, academic support, and civility. All of these events were excellent. Not only did they provide some amazing insight into what happens here at GUS, but also some valuable takeaways for parents. We have so many shared values and goals, when we work in partnership, our young people will find more success.
One of the strongest ways we nurture the home-school relationship is through parent conferences in grades 5-8. Students are encouraged to attend these conferences to eliminate the “telephone game” that often follows a conference when parents share what they heard from their child at home. Taking out the middleman and making it an inclusive conversation really reinforces that home and school are a united front. Students are able to take more responsibility for their learning and practice having important conversations about how they are doing and what might need change. Not only do students need to hear both praise and constructive feedback, but it’s important that they hear it with their parents present. This allows for important conversations at home and really points to our shared desire for positive academic outcomes.
The most important aspect of the home-school relationship, and this is probably true of any relationship, is trust.
There has been a lot in the media about the 'snow plow parent' and this article talks about other parenting styles that have also have come up in the past. The real problem is not the parenting, but the lack of partnership between school and home. When parents feel their child is known, understood, and valued, there is trust. In the absence of trust, parents feel the need to step in. What we try to cultivate here at GUS is an understanding that we want what is best for you child too. On back to school night, one of the most important messages is that you don’t have to wait until you are invited to reach out to a teacher or administrator. We always welcome the opportunity to talk. These informal conversations, just like conferences and PA meetings, help build trusting relationships and often serve as valuable reminders that we are all on the same page. Sometimes it is the school that will request these meetings. Always remember we share because we care. An effective partnership between home and school requires two-way communication and when we work together, we can do great things for our young people.
It is a special gift to share in the growth and development of these children. People always ask me what separates GUS from other schools and I often comment that our kids could go to any school and fit in fine, but our parents are unique. Our parents want something different for their children and have found it here at GUS. As a GUS parent and an educator, I am so grateful for the compassionate and loving teachers that work with our children. It is easy to trust such gifted educators, so dedicated not only to their students, but also to their craft. Together, school and home can create a magical childhood that leads to a life of possibilities. Thank you for sharing your children with us.