I recently visited an amazing United Way Model Center for Early Excellence in Miami. Amongst their goals for parents are to develop advocacy skills, so parents become active in their child’s education. They told me of their frustration that the parents often hit a brick wall when the children go to Kindergarten.
The parent/family component of Total Learning is essential for student success. We are working hard to establish parent/family support in several ways:
- We work with the school team to assure that the parent and family voice is heard in the school, and that parent engagement is a priority.
- A family worker is assigned to every 2 or 3 Total Learning classrooms. This individual makes home visits to every family and conducts an intake survey, through which level of risk is determined. When an area of risk is identified, the family worker collaborates with community resources who provide specific support. Our family workers have arranged for everything from socks and adult companionship for a child walking to school, to heating, rent, jobs, and English Language Learning! They are also in the classroom, interfacing with teachers to identify any emerging problems and nip them in the bud. The teachers say that it’s SO important to have the support in a large class with lots of behavioral and parent needs.
- We collaborate with the family resource centers to provide culturally responsive educational workshops and other support for families, including Music Together infant and toddler classes that bring families joyfully into the school, and family events that bring the whole family into the school to build community and trust. Workshops for K-4 parents are a favorite time for many parents, but other times and events accommodate working parents. Sometimes a meal is provided to take that pressure off working families.
- We work with teachers to engage parents in pro-child behaviors at home, including reading to and with the child, making space for homework, using positive language to increase pro-social behaviors, and setting expectations for respect and self control.
- We encourage formal and informal parent education throughout the community, with children (museums, concerts, community events) and alone (English Language learning, developmental needs of young children, etc.)
Ideally, the action we take in school lead to parents who learn to advocate for their child, and know what their child is entitled to. When they know what the expectations are, and how they can proactively impact their child’s chances for success, we take steps to creating a community of learners with common goals, and have help to be sure our work results in success.
Attached are a recent document: Culture Counts: Engaging Black and Latino parents of Young Children in Family Support programs, from the alliance for early success; and a Parent Guidelines handout for use at a parent meeting.