It has been discussed extensively through academic courses and with my mentor teacher the importance of furthering community through communication and collaboration with parents. I felt in order to succeed in this significant aspect of teaching, it was vital that I attended and participated in “Curriculum Night” at the beginning of the semester. This night served many different purposes including, explaining the structure of class, incorporating face-to-face interactions, and providing parents an opportunity to share additional information regarding their student. We had parents provide information we may not know about their student, an academic struggle their student has experienced in the past, and one way we could help their student. This provided unique information about each student and gathered detailed information that could assist in understanding and working with each student. In addition to these invaluable benefits, it was vital that I established a relationship with parents as the student teacher. I used this opportunity to speak to all the parents in attendance about my background, why I gravitated towards teaching English, the design of Seattle Pacific University’s graduate program in regards to my commitment to being in the classroom throughout the academic year, and my excitement to work with their students. It was important that parents understood my passion for teaching and my unique attributes. Also, select parents utilized this opportunity to speak with me individually and allowed me to further my understanding of their student. My involvement in “Curriculum Night” was imperative in order to reach further and more in-depth levels of connection and communication with parents.
In addition, my mentor teacher has included me in the pertinent communication between parents and himself. This allows me to create a greater understanding of each student, which can alter my approach with individuals. For example, I was involved in a recent email correspondence between a concerned mother. She explained that her son had been excited about school last year, but had seemed to lose that fire this year. She cited several transitions and situations that may contribute to this recent disengagement. This knowledge is instrumental in daily interactions with students and provides insight into a student’s behavioral shift. The correspondence included information that provided a platform for me to find common ground with the student and further our relationship. In addition, I completed a “Teacher Questionnaire” for a student on the Autism spectrum with Asperger’s syndrome. Unfortunately, I was not available to meet for his IEP meeting, but the challenges and observations I offered were used in the meeting, which included his mother, to discuss strategies to approach some of the apparent obstacles.
Most importantly, I have furthered my relationship with families through phone and face-to-face conversations with parents. For example, I was included in an email correspondence and an after-school meeting with a student and one of her parents to discuss some inconsistencies my mentor teacher and I had noticed. Through this dialogue, we made the parent aware of late assignments, important upcoming assignments and their respective due dates. We collaborated to develop a plan to prioritize these assignments and get the student up-to-date with the workload. This led to the student turning in an essay for peer edits, a process she had not been able to participate in until that point.
Furthermore, my mentor teacher and I identified select students that required a call home to open the communication channels and create strategies for some of the deficiencies we had recognized in the early stages of the semester. I called all these parents with varied levels of success. Some parents picked-up the phone call, others called back after a missed call and others I left a voicemail with no response. Nevertheless, I was able to have meaningful and informational discussions with several parents. For example, one mother and I spoke extensively about her student who we had identified as struggling to meet deadlines. She explained to me that her student had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), which was not officially documented within the system, and organization has been an issue throughout schooling. She elaborated that she had utilized an aide in the past to assist in organizational issues and said with the information I had provided, may utilize that service once again. I explained some of the upcoming major assignments and our expectations for those assignments. She followed-up our conversation with an email explaining how our discussion had encouraged her to view her student’s grade and evidently exposed an organizational issue. She said she had had a conversation with her student and there was a plan constructed for the current paper. This initial contact had opened the channels of communication, revealed relevant issues and developed a plan of action. As expected, some other conversations with parents were less in-depth, but still served the purpose of informing parents on our concerns and upcoming assignments that should be addressed with the student. One conversation resulted in a student who had been avoiding completing a rough draft to submit a copy the following day after a conversation with the father. Though these calls had varied outcomes, they proved to initiate dialogue with parents and begin the collaboration between home and school that is necessary for learning.