Very few things are accomplished alone in education; we do not operate in silos where a student’s life at school and life at home have no overlap. Parents and educators must form meaningful partnerships that are based on mutual trust and respect; this will directly impact an increase in student performance.
I have often heard parents say that schools have changed, and I have heard teachers and school administrators say parents and students are not as available as they once were; there is probably some truth to these statements. Instead of focusing on the nostalgia of times that once were, we ought to focus on building meaningful relationships in schools that form lasting partnerships where the schools, parents, and students each benefit.
Before I dive into my perceived benefits of what I call “bridge to learning”, I should take just a moment to explain what I think a partnership is and what it isn’t. A partner considers how actions taken will positively or negatively impact the other person. A partner does not ignore the other person, act independently when dealing with important matters, or defame the other person behind his or her back. Partners and those associated with them benefit from a positive relationship, which is why it is important that parents and educators build a bridge to learning by becoming partners in their student’s education.
Benefit to Schools
A parent-school partnership offers the school multiple benefits. First, parents will be more eager to assist the teachers or staff when a need arises. No parent wants to only hear from the school when there is an issue or when their child is in trouble. Next, by engaging in regular communication, the school can share positive and beneficial programs that the students forget to share with parents each evening. Since I have worked in many of the same schools my children attend, I can tell you they “forget” to share many valuable programs and events such as assemblies, speakers, health fairs, clubs, and multiple opportunities to extend learning. A final benefit of the partnership for the school is direct input by parents into school improvements and decision-making committees. Schools offer so many committees on which parents can serve; there is no benefit to the school when the same few parents serve on these committees each year.
Benefit to Parents
As a school administrator I have heard parents say countless times that they want to help their child with school, but they do not know how, or they do not know where to start. This is it; this is where parents should start if they want to contribute and help their child be successful in school. Parents do not have to spend hundreds of hours serving as part of a PTO or in a booster club to make an impact for their child. Parents don’t even have to know upper-level Mathematics or Science. By being a partner with school administrators and teachers the parent can send emails or notes to clarify expectations and ask teachers when they can help the student with homework problems or project questions. I have yet to meet one teacher or administrator who has indicated he or she would not welcome the opportunity to get to know the parents of our students better. In fact, I know many teachers who would welcome the support from home.
Benefit to Students
PK-12 public education is about preparing students for success after graduation. Parents and educators are both charged with equipping the next generation with knowledge, skills, character, attitude, and a work ethic that will benefit themselves and society. When parents and educators form partnerships, they build a bridge to learning for each child that lasts long after he or she earns a diploma. Through these partnerships, students witness how adults set aside any differences they may have and set their focus on the shared goals they have in common. These goals are focused on student academic, character, extracurricular, and social success. Students are more accountable to the school when their parents and teachers are partners; this allows students to successfully meet the high expectations of the school and be more prepared for life after high school.
As you have undoubtedly observed, I am a proponent of working collectively in public education. It is true that we all have our areas of expertise, but we can share in tremendous success by taking time to work together and forming bridges to learning in education.
Brandon Enos, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Cushing ISD