The other day, I read this great blog post by Sue Dunlop, where she talks about parent engagement and what that might really mean as we get ready for the start of school. As someone that’s very passionate about parent engagement, I definitely took an interest in Sue’s post (and even commented on it), but it also made me think more about our finalized Kindergarten Program document. Parents (and when I use this word, like the document, I also mean guardians and family members) seem to play a bigger role in the current learning environment than even in the previous document. I love the fact that parents are encouraged, in different ways, to …
- join in with the classroom learning.
- share their skills with the students.
- share their culture as part of the classroom.
- communicate regularly with the educator team.
- and extend classroom learning at home.
It was this final point that really got me thinking differently. It’s not a new idea to get parents to try “to extend the classroom learning at home,” but it is a new idea to use these examples of learning as proof of children meeting an expectation. Now the home environment can play an important role in the assessment and evaluation piece that happens at school.
At first, I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. I’ve become so accustomed to the idea that homework cannot be used for marks, as we don’t know how much support the children received with it, and the finalized document made me feel as though I was going to be doing just that. This was, until I read the expectation examples, and then my thinking shifted.
- Maybe a dad shares that his son counted each of the plates as he helped set the table.
- Maybe a mom shares that her daughter read the street signs as they were out for a walk, and then made connections between the letters in these signs and the letters in the names of her friends.
- Maybe parents share that as they were out playing at the park, their children invited other children to join in their game of Simon Says, and they took turns being the leader.
It’s through these types of examples that we see how children apply what they learn at school out in the real world. And, if as educators, we really believe in these home/school connections, what role does “trust” need to play in our relationships with parents? I also wonder if the fact that there are no marks in Kindergarten, changes how we view these anecdotes from home and the role that they may play in assessment and evaluation.
Thinking more about the updated “parent role” in this finalized document, made me think about the home/school connection in other grades. It was then that I thought back to conversations that I had with parents when I taught the junior grades. A couple of moms regularly shared with me what their children did at home and what supports they provided to help them learn. These conversations helped me …
- explain more about successful approaches we used in the classroom, and how these same strategies might work at home.
- learn new ways to support learning in the classroom, especially for these particular students.
While the anecdotes shared didn’t make it in a subject box on a report card, often these examples formed part of the dialogue in the Learning Skills and helped when determining Next Steps. It’s with this in mind, that I can’t help but wonder how much more “reciprocal sharing” is possible between home and school and the value that this may have for students.
In my recent post on The MEHRIT Centre’s blog, I speak about my shift in thinking thanks to the finalized Kindergarten Program document. Along with this academics/social skills shift, I wonder if I also need to make a home/school shift. While I’ve always loved strong parent/educator connections, and worked hard to develop these positive relationships, I think that I drew the line when it came to assessment: seeing educators as solely responsible for this component of learning. Now my views are changing. What role might parents play in assessment and evaluation? What could this mean for students and educators? As I get ready to go back to school, I’m thinking about these questions and eager to discuss them more with my teaching partner. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these wonders of mine. What have you tried already? What might you try now? I’m excited about a school vision that really does have families and educators working together to support children.