Part of what makes a school successful are relationships. Teachers who collaborate with each other are likely to have students who perform better academically and behave better socially; administrators who support and trust teachers make for a happier learning environment; parents who feel involved (but not entitled) feel that school is a safe, welcoming place for their children.
No, I do not have any data that confirms this – I live this each and every day.
While there is no such thing as a “perfect” school, there are schools out there that are doing many amazing things. So often, teachers, parents, and administration focus on the negative aspects of their school. Everything from homework policies to behavior norms are often questioned by all parties. It can be draining for everyone involved. Most importantly, it can seriously impact our students, and not in a positive way.
However, I challenge schools to set all of the strife aside and focus on building community, which can alleviate some of the drama that comes with the daily stresses of the school. Students need to see teachers outside of the classroom, doing normal, every day things. Contrary to what students believe, teachers do NOT live at school – we have lives! Similarly, teachers and parents who communicate outside of parent-teacher conference times about things other than their child’s inappropriate behavior in your classroom will likely foster a partnership that will essentially help their child in school!
Two years ago, my school made each grade level host a Family Night. While teachers grumbled at the thought of staying until 7:00pm on a Friday night, the tiredness was overshadowed by the energy of the community during these events. While some events had low attendance rates, teachers and staff kept persevering. Eventually, more parents and students attended Family Night. More staff even stayed late too!
Seeing parents, students and teachers dancing, singing and just having conversations about things other than their child’s grades and behavior is a healthy part of education. (See the above video of myself and fellow teachers lip syncing!)
While I am unable to attend every Family Night and event my school hosts, I try my best to make it to the ones where I know my students and parents will be in high attendance. It also helps when students beg me to attend events, games, practices, etc. A little arm-twisting is sometimes needed!
The next time little Johnny is inclined to act up in class, perhaps he’ll remember that time I ran next to him as he struggled to finish the mile in track practice and he’ll think twice; when I phone Jenny’s mom because she did not complete her homework, we’ll both recall eating burgers and discussing our shared love of baking at the school BBQ – no one will place blame or point fingers; we’ll work together to find solutions.
How does your school foster community between families, teachers and students?