Partnering With Families from a Distance
by HighScope | April 6, 2021
COVID-19 has given educators the opportunity to hit the reset button and think of parents and families as true partners in early learning. We can help to engage families and children in learning outside of the classroom by building relationships based on the strengths of the child, the uniqueness of each family, and the idea that school and home play equally important roles in a child’s education.
Social distancing and virtual learning have also presented challenges to the way that teachers and families would normally interact and engage with one another. We want to help you build trusting relationships with families amidst the changes we’re all experiencing.
Try these tips to take your relationships with families to the next level!
FIND FREQUENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR COMMUNICATION
- Build authentic relationships with families by having open and honest conversations and becoming a trusted resource they can count on.
- Briefly discuss what the child did at school and what is occurring at home during daily interactions at dropoff and pick-up times.
- Use conversations to further define curriculum content and extend learning at home with concrete examples involving their child. For example, sharing how their child tallied the number of items that sink or float demonstrates how they are learning the mathematics graphing skill. Drawing correlations between specific content-based skills gives families a better understanding of how children learn and how the curriculum supports active learning.
- Share messages and learning moments with families by using HighScope’s teacher-friendly COR Advantage child assessment platform. COR Advantage is designed to support teachers in documenting classroom moments and sharing the images and videos they capture with families through text, email, or the dedicated parent app.
ENSURE CULTURAL SENSITIVITY
- Build cultural understanding among teachers and administrators to create authentic relationships with families.
- Create culturally relevant programs by learning about families’ cultures, traditions, and norms. For example, how do families celebrate birthdays and national holidays? What do families like to do together? What constitutes their “family” — are family members biological relatives only, or kith and kin? What language or dialect do they speak at home with friends and close family?
- Consider language and cultural differences when determining the best method of communication for families.
- Equip the classroom with diverse, open-ended materials that support active learning and reflect children’s interests, home language, and culture.
- Ask families to have their child bring in items from home that represent their home, family, and/or culture. Children can share these items with the class.
PROMOTE ACTIVE LEARNING AT HOME
- Value the role of the family as a child’s first teacher. This allows family members to gain confidence in their abilities to support their child’s academic development and growth.
- Provide a space for parents to reflect on and share their values and goals to better understand their core belief system and the relevance of evidence-based parenting practice for their family.
- Use home visits as an opportunity to get to know what resources your children and families have access to daily. Consider scheduling virtual visits if home visits are not possible.
- Use the information gathered during home visits to individualize learning throughout the school year. For example, if you discovered a child’s love for robots, have robot books available in a lending library for families to read at home or send children home with recyclable art materials for the family to create a robot together.
WELCOME FAMILIES INTO THE CLASSROOM — VIRTUALLY
- Capture videos of dropoff and pickup time and the daily morning message board.
- Provide a virtual community environment for your families by creating a Facebook group.
- Schedule virtual events that family members can enjoy, like workshops on topics suggested by family members.
- Be sure to provide families with tips and materials to download after events to help them support the curriculum and further extend their child’s learning.
Engaging parents as partners in children’s learning is part of a high-quality early childhood education. At the same time, we must acknowledge that this is a whole additional domain of work on top of teachers’ responsibility for instruction, classroom management, and responding to children’s social-emotional needs.