Opening Lines of Communication
Teachers, students, and families are some of the most important stakeholders in our educational system. When working together the three groups are high functioning and can serve as the foundation to an entire community and in the big picture are the bedrock of society. When out of tune, they can be nebulous, unfulfilled institutions.
Communicating with families
In an ideal world teachers would be given extra paid time to call or meet with all families of students to share the many experiences that school offers. In the real world the parent teacher conference is likely part of the response that teachers and famlies offer when the student is experiencing troubles. How do we achieve more of the ideal and less of the attempt to put things back into working order for the student? Identifying students in the classroom that need the most support should be some of the first actions teachers take in the school year. Once these students are identified teachers should be proactive in seeking out answers on how best to serve the student. This might mean a phone call home to introduce yourself, talk about your subject, and offer the parents an opportunity to share insights into what the student might be communicating at home.
Teachers as communicators
Teachers should work towards learning the culture of the student. Understanding basic fact such as place of birth is a good start. There are plenty of good approaches to this at the start of the school year such as a student survey however really good feedback comes in conversations you have with the entire class and the indivdual student. A student might seem lazy or uninterested in classroom activities but at second look there may be a lack of understanding the students culture. If the student feels misunderstood then they may see no value in the class and will spend minimum effort in maintaining average or below average work in the class. Authentic and real interactions with the students to learn culture is the ideal but a teacher can also communicate that you care with deliberate and planned interactions.
Managing student expectations
The ideal student would have a genuine interest in their own learning. However, variables such as maturity level and social anxiety can cast a heavy toll on a students ability to see the value of a good education. To counteract this teachers need to communicate high expectations in ways the students can understand. Our tired tropes of creating volumous assignments and homework for the students to complete don’t often communicate high expectations to students. Instead they offer students the picture of school as an endless task of completing work in order to advance and be promoted. When a teacher offers organic opportunity to create something unique for the student this is creating high expectations.