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.
I have been quietly following your blog for a couple of years now and your wonderings have inspired me to comment with a parent perspective. I hope that this is okay with you.
I firmly believe that building a strong relationship between home and school and reciprocal sharing are absolutely in the best interest of the students. Over the years, my kids have had a couple of teachers who have shown genuine curiosity in the learning that they do outside of school and they have been able to leverage that knowledge into a more meaningful and engaging learning experience for them inside the classroom.
The message from schools that work done at home cannot be graded has been consistent in our lives from kindergarten until now as my eldest enters grade 8. As a parent, it has felt to me that the underlying message is “we don’t trust you parents to not interfere or be honest about your involvement in the student’s learning”.
If there is to be a genuine home/school shift in relationship and communication, I believe that it must be built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect.
I don’t know however, if I feel comfortable as a parent having a role in assessment and evaluation if it falls within the current model of report cards. The only example that comes to mind would be something like counting minutes reading for reading logs. No thank you.
That being said, if eventually practice shifts toward an e-portfolio type mode, then I believe that there would definitely be a place for parent support in students documenting their learning. I think that it would be great to have a central place where, for instance, a student could share the paragraph that they wrote at school and the game they coded at home.
It has always felt to me that learning at home and learning at school have occurred in two different silos. Reflection and wonderings from blogs such as yours give me hope for a future that might break down those silos and I believe that will be in the best interest of the students.
Thank you for your thoughtful blog.
Thank you, Amy, for your comment and sharing this parent perspective. As someone that does not have kids of my own, I don’t always know what parents might think and how they might feel, so it’s very beneficial to me to hear these voices. This line of yours really stood one to me: “If there is to be a genuine home/school shift in relationship and communication, I believe that it must be built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect.” I totally agree! I always felt as though parents and I had this “mutual trust and respect” before, but now I’m thinking about how many times I made (or thought) that “report card assessment comment,” and maybe I wasn’t as open as I could have been. My thinking is definitely changing!
Your comment about report cards is a great one! The new Kindergarten “Communication of Learning” is far more of a portfolio type model (or, I think maybe better called, a Learning Story), and I can see how information that parents share could be used as part of this story. I wonder though if a portfolio in any grade would allow parents to share their thoughts and experiences from home, and then teachers could pull on these when writing report cards — whether as examples in the subject comments or in the Learning Skills. What do you think? I’d be curious to know if others have tried this before and how it’s worked.
Thanks for pushing me to think even more about this important topic!
Hi again. Thanks for your thoughts. It has been interesting to see your reflections over the years on improving home/school communication and to see how you use so many methods to connect with parents. In my experience as a parent we have not been privy to much of what goes on at school day to day. We have not yet had a consistent blog or Twitter feed to check but I continue to be hopeful that one day it will become the norm. I can only imagine with the student experience in your class being so open and transparent to parents that trust and respect built between home and school shines through the relationships that you have nurtured.
My kids came from a Reggio/emergent curriculum background in preschool and daycare and the documentation of their thinking that came home on a regular basis was very useful to my understanding of their lives at school. I love how your descriptions of the new curriculum reflect that Communication of Learning. Do you think that this will translate up to higher grades? At what point do you think it may collide with the paradigm of needing to measure a percentage grade in order to apply to post secondary education? I can say that for me, a learning story would be much more meaningful feedback than a list of comments related to curriculum expectations such as: “He can estimate and record the capacity of containers using the standard units of the litre and millilitre.” Being able to look at the google Drive from home and the ability that the kids have to share what they are doing at school has helped but I do believe that it would paint a more complete picture of the student as a learner if the sharing could go both ways. It will certainly be interesting to see how the nature of assessment evolves over the upcoming years.
Thank you so much for your reply, Amy, and for all of your kind words! I’ve loved connecting with parents and students over the years, and I think that this transparent sharing is so beneficial to everyone. I find that parents share so much with me as a result, and even if their sharing doesn’t necessarily make it on a report card, it does help me when planning/programming for their child. What they share also helps me have a better understanding of why their child may say and do certain things, and what I can do to support them. I think of the work that I’ve read of Stuart Shanker’s, and the importance of asking the questions, “Why this child? Why now?” It’s as we bridge the gap between home and school that we often get an even better understanding of the answers to these questions (and what we can do next).
I must say that I do love the Learning Stories, and I know that pedagogical documentation is huge in Reggio-inspired environments. Having taught up to Grade 6 before, I realize the marks are a reality for school right now, and it’s hard to know if this is going to change. Up until this year, I think that some Boards in Ontario still had marks for Kindergarten, but thanks to a provincial Communication of Learning for Kindergarten, this will no longer be the case. I’d like to think that maybe the need to give marks will slowly change in other grades too (at least until some time in high school when they’re a necessity for college or university). That said, pedagogical documentation is encouraged in all grades, and something that I did even when I taught grades other than Kindergarten. Even though marks might be a reality, I think that these Learning Stories can still exist beyond K. Have you seen this Pedagogical Documentation Monograph for K-12? http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/CBS_PedagogicalDocument.pdf I think it’s really something to think about. Curious to hear what others have to say about this too. Thanks for continuing this important conversation!