A parent is a child’s first teacher. It is through a parent’s teaching that children first learn to speak and say “Mama” and “Dada.” It is through a parent’s teaching that children learn that the word “stop” means a sudden halt in their tracks because they are doing something displeasing. But when children move beyond infancy and toddlerhood to enter school, the value of a parent’s teaching and involvement doesn’t stop. In fact, it actually should intensify! Students whose parents are involved in their education are more likely to
attend school regularly and earn higher grades and test scores, regardless of family income or background. Parents are important partners in the classroom. As we head back to school this year, we should commit ourselves to work together as parents and teachers.
I See Both Sides
As both a parent and an educator, I have multidimensional interests in what is needed for our students to thrive. I have both a preschooler and a seventh-grader now, so I constantly switch between my mommy hat and my educator hat. With my 3-year-old, I look out for the alphabet letters of the week my child will introduce me to and how he is able to show enjoyment for the learning he is experiencing at school. With my 12-year-old, I can analyze her ability to move past the procedural knowledge she has learned in her early years of education and see how she is able to build conceptual knowledge that will carry her into high school and college. I’m sure my children wish they had been dealt a different hand than to have a mom who serves as an educator! But such is life, and this momma is all in.
I have been in the education field for over 14 years, serving as a teacher, coach, mentor and professional development provider. When I became a National Board Certified Teacher, I took an even closer look at the home-to-school connection. As a part of my portfolio, I had to show how I was engaging families in my student’s education. To be honest, when I first saw this requirement, I was a little skeptical because I didn’t want to have parents sitting in my class all day or calling me all times of the night. But through the process, I learned that parents were my biggest advocates. They knew their children in ways I didn’t. I learned that one phone call to Grandma Stanley would straighten Kelsey up and get him back on task. When Johnny’s family let me know about his fascination with comics, I picked up graphic novels to pique his interest in the classroom in a whole new way. You see, my alliance with the home helped me to become a part of the family and truly a partner in educating the whole child. I found the bridge from the classroom to the home, which created a unified front to support my students’ educational aspirations. Unfortunately, too many families are missing a great opportunity to impact change in the state of schools and in the lives of their children by not being more involved in their child’s education.
Parents as Teachers
I became a teacher before I had my first child. Once my daughter entered into school, I knew that my voice from home would not be the only sound in her ears anymore. She would hear the voice of other students that, at times, could either be gentle and kind or harsh and demeaning. My daughter would hear the voice of teachers that would vary from confusing to uplifting. All these voices play a role in my child’s development as a student and a human being. Being knowledgeable about the variety of voices in all their forms helped me to authentically understand the importance of my role as a parent to a student. It was important for me to embody some of the characteristics of the parents I encountered in my own classroom. My parents taught me how to collaborate with them by being consistent with communication about their child’s progress and goals. I learned that parents are the best advocates because at the end of the day, [pullquote position="left"]they just want what’s best for their children. For some parents, the goal was to have a rich academic environment. For other parents, the goal was to have a safe place for their children to thrive and learn how to work with others. There were even some parents who wanted tips on how to become better parents. I still haven't found the silver bullet to that answer but what I do know for sure is that families and teachers need to work as a team! When students see that teachers and families are working in unison, they come to the realization that they have their own support team and cheering squad to champion them in the academic race.
Monica Lewis is a National Board Certified Teacher who worked in Chicago Public Schools for 10 years before moving to Detroit. Monica is the recipient of several awards for her dedication to teaching and was selected as the inaugural Chicago Foundation for Education Teacher of the Year. She currently works as a consultant for the America Achieves Fellowship for Teachers and Principals.