Teacher-Family Collaboration, The New Normal?
I work for Educa, a company that encourages best practices in the early education sector. Educa is out of New Zealand where it’s commonplace to not only self reflect, observe and grow as individuals but also as educators. People are encouraged to “live to learn” as opposed to “learning to know” and then moving on.
In New Zealand children from birth are encouraged to explore, take risks, inquire and lead the way on their own journeys with support from educators as opposed to being directed on what to do and when to do it.
I have lived in the United States my whole life. I went through the public school system here, as did my children. Everything we learned was based on the curriculum that was in place – then taking a test and then moving on. Parents trusted “the system”. Quite honestly – I didn’t know how to write a good essay until college!
My kids go to school where we are consistently being told that they are looking at the “whole child.” Yet they stick to the curriculum, the tests, the Regents, the SAT. All for the common goal of getting into that precious college of choice.
I have noticed a few positive outcomes from being locked down for the last month… at least from my vision of the early education sector.
Early educators are spending more time taking online professional development classes. Educa’s webinars are blowing up with attendees – both live and recorded. Parents are eager to not only find activities for their kids but are also observing, looking for the learning that happens during play.
This is something that educators actually know is a best practice but have not always been able to communicate to parents who are programmed to look for “report cards.”
For many years early educators have been forced to move away from what they know is healthy and better practice for kids – letting them play, take risks, explore and develop and have been tied instead to checklist assessments that they need to provide directors, the state, the city and the parents.
They have responded by then seeking out “curriculum” for all when each child is unique, growing at their own pace.
Collaboration Is Happening
So here is the light at the end of the tunnel.
If during this pandemic, educators have more time to learn and grow. And if parents have more time to learn and grow and actually put into practice ideas sent by teachers. And if parents and educators are actually collaborating – albeit in reverse (like in the movie, “Freaky Friday”), parent reporting to teacher and getting feedback. Then is there an opportunity here to retain that connection, to go back after the virus and be in a better place?
Can we leap forward to a place that we know is better for kids developmentally? Provide more opportunity for collaboration and discussion between educators and parents? Provide positive outcomes for kids?
I think we can. I think we are doing it.
At Educa the practice of writing “learning stories” is one that we encourage – observe, look for the learning, think about opportunities and possibilities … We often have to coach teachers on this practice and relay what we are doing to parents and then encourage feedback.
A New Normal?
I believe that the practice of “learning stories” is happening more organically due to the pandemic. Parents are needing to observe and describe learning in stories, to get feedback from the teacher, to help continue their child’s education at home.
Educa has seen a surge in communication between teachers and parents. And a surge in parent stories. My guess is that there is more teacher-family collaboration going on now than there was before COVID, in person!
In my perfect world – when we go back to “life as we knew it” there will be interaction, hugs and in-person connections. But we will also continue to use what we know can work – learning stories and communication.
Parents will have a richer understanding of what this means and will engage more with educators.
Educators will have a more rewarding experience because of this parent connection and feedback.
And ultimately, our children will thrive and grow because of it.