Observations in the Classroom
Over the past few weeks, I have spent my Tuesdays in a Head Start classroom. One thing that has caught my attention recently is considering parent involvement in early childhood classrooms. Specifically, I have noticed the teachers struggle with parent communication in the room. Students are constantly absent or late and the parents do not take the time to inform the educators in the room when this occurs. I have seen students being dropped off at the front of the building and the guardian drives away before signing their child in, as they are required to do. This constantly tugs at me because it makes me question the lack of care that parents have for their child’s education. And as we all know, communication between the school and parents is an essential component to a successful educational experience.
The most striking moment that really brought this subject into question was my experience with a young girl in this classroom who was intently drawing a picture. I noticed it was a drawing of a large figure and a small figure surrounded by toys and the larger figure was holding a square that was later identified as a phone. When it appeared that she was finishing up, I asked her to tell me about her drawing. To my surprise, the student told me that the image was of her mother being angry and her crying because her mom did not want to be bothered and she just wanted to play with her. This was shocking to me and stopped me in my tracks. In my experience with early childhood classroom, I have yet to see a family picture that was so detailed and upsetting. A distracted parent with a child desperate for play and attention.
How do we promote parent involvement in the early childhood field?
All of these recent observations and experiences have called upon one main question, how do we promote parent involvement in the early childhood field? There is a fine line with this question because families are so busy in today’s world. The hours worked each week, the stress of relationships, the attention our technology receives daily and providing for our families have become a distraction from meaningful interaction and our children are paying the price for this. So, I went to the scholars to find support on the power of parental involvement in early childhood education and for meaningful ways to engage families in order to achieve this. I have found that parental involvement does not only affect the children’s emotions but also their success in schools. As educators, we must seek ways that will be effective in involving parents in their child’s education.
A valuable article that guided my research was, Multiple Dimensions of Family Involvement and Their Relations to Behavioral and Learning Competencies for Urban, Low-Income Children by John Fantuzzo. The research that was conducted through this article was actually completed with children and families that were apart of Head Start programs and found that home-based family involvement was actually the largest indicator of child outcome. This means that parental involvement in their child’s education served as a strong prediction for their child’s success in school. Parental involvement is measured by support at home, help and guidance with academics and by involvement in their school. This article supported my thoughts, observations and wonders. Children need support in their home as well as school in order to increase their desire to learn, their attention and ability to problem solve and persevere.
A valuable resource in the education field is The Cult of Pedagogy with the host, Jennifer Gonzalez. I looked into this website to find similar information about the value of parental involvement. The podcast that I listened to is Ten Ways Educators Can Take Action in Pursuit of Equity. A component to achieving this was building a partnership with parents based on shared interest. I appreciated this portion of the podcast because it talked about the relationship that a teacher and parent can have that is based on having the best interest of the child at heart and an understanding of one another. They discuss how parental involvement is frequently viewed as parents coming into the school to volunteer or participate in activities, but parental involvement is much more and begins with reaching the needs of their children in their home and supporting their children in the work that they do for school by checking with their child and the teacher to stay informed. This is definitely worth taking a listen to on the link below find out more about the value of parental involvement and it can be found at the fifth way to achieve equity in our schools.
So how can we as educators support parental involvement so that our students feel supported in the classroom and at home? As an educator it is important to be understanding of the challenge’s families face in today’s world. We must establish a relationship with our parents that is based on respect and trust for one another in order to best meet the needs of the child. We must communicate with our families weekly to check in. Too often educators only reach out to parents to express concern for the child when we should be sharing positive thoughts and comments more often. We should ask parents to share their thoughts and concerns as well so that they feel that their insight and opinions matter and are valued. It is incredibly valuable to send home newsletters and personal notes to keep parents informed on what is going on in the classroom so that they feel involved. The most important step to building a bridge towards parental involvement in the classroom is open communication between the families and the teacher. It is incredibly valuable to a child’s education and well-being for parents to be involved in their academics. Parental involvement increases student success, social skills, problem solving abilities and interest in learning.
A valuable lesson to all is to take the time to slow down and enjoy the meaningful relationships with the people in our lives, despite how busy and exhausted we feel because our children are affected by the energy of all the adults in their lives. Building a relationship between their school and home lives will help to assist the encouragement and support that they feel daily.
Ma, X., Shen, J., Krenn, H., Hu, S., & Yuan, J. (2016). A Meta-Analysis of the Relationship Between Learning Outcomes and Parental Involvement During Early Childhood Education and Early Elementary Education. Educational Psychology Review, 28(4), 771–801. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-015-9351-1
Fantuzzo, J., McWayne, C., Perry, M. A., & Childs, S. (2004). Multiple Dimensions of Family Involvement and Their Relations to Behavioral and Learning Competencies for Urban, Low-Income Children. School Psychology Review, 33(4), 467–480. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=sso&db=asn&AN=15598433&site =ehost-live&scope=site