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How Parents and Teachers Can Work Together to Achieve Goals and Continue Learning
One of the most common questions parents ask is, “What can we be doing at home to help our child?” Most parents want to be involved and support their child’s learning process, but they are unsure how to make this happen. They need some practical guidelines to get them started. Similarly, educators want parents to continue helping the student learn at home, but are often unsure where to begin. Here are some practical guidelines for promoting continuity between the classroom and the home.
The key to any relationship is open communication, and this rule applies to the parent-teacher relationship. Whatever system you use—progress reports, phone calls, emails or behavior and work journals—you should be communicating often.
If you are a parent, regular communication will ensure that you are kept up to date on important due dates, classroom events and any challenges your student is facing. You should also regularly ask for updates on your child’s progress toward individualized education program (IEP) goals. Ask to see work samples and test results.
If you are a teacher, communicating with parents will ensure that you are not solely responsible for a child’s learning, and encourages parents to continue lessons at home. Your notes should be specific. For instance, what did the child do well? In what areas is he or she struggling? How can he or she practice at home to help solidify a concept? Also, any time you collect new data on progress toward goals (such as test results or work samples), you should share this information with parents.
Keep Goals in Mind
IEP goals should always serve as the guideline for learning at home and at school.
If you are a parent, one of the best ways to assist your child is to identify areas of need and potential goals. You see your child in the grocery store, at restaurants and at the movie theater. He or she may be able to solve long division problems, but not calculate a tip or make change. Bring this up to his or her teacher and request a goal that would help your child acquire these skills. You can also monitor progress on your child’s current IEP goals at home. Keep a copy of these goals in your home office, or wherever your child completes his or her homework. If your child doesn’t have homework, practice the targeted skills listed in the goals.
If you are a teacher, don’t write goals simply to have them in the IEP. Goals should target specific skills that students need in order to progress academically and socially. Ask parents for their input, and really listen. Pay close attention to each student’s progress on his or her individual goals. If one goal is mastered, it is perfectly acceptable to ask the parent to continue to practice and maintain that skill at home with the student so that you can use classroom time to work on other areas of need.
Be Prepared for Homework
Homework, when properly used, can be a valuable tool to promote learning outside of the classroom.
If you are a parent, task completion is one of the easiest skills to practice at home. Establish a routine with your child that makes completing homework an expected and required part of his or her afternoon. Designate a specific time and quiet place to work on homework. This can be your dining room table, or the library down the block; the important thing is that it happens every day. If there is little or no homework, your child can read or work with you on goals for an hour. Remember, the earlier you begin to establish this routine, the easier it will be.
If you are a teacher, it is important to keep in mind the purpose of homework, which is to extend learning that has already occurred in the classroom. It should not be utilized to teach new skills, nor should it be tedious or without purpose. If at all possible, it should be individualized for each student to target specific skills or IEP goals.
Watch for Teachable Moments
Remember that learning isn’t just about “The Three R’s: Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic.” Human beings are constantly learning and adapting.
If you are a parent, one of the best ways that you can assist teachers is to look for real-world, practical applications of concepts learned in class. For example, if your child is learning fractions in school, have him or her apply that skill by reading a recipe to you and measuring ingredients while you bake cookies. If he or she is learning about American or World History, discuss your family’s history and how your ancestors were involved. Encourage your child to read anything and everything out loud, from menus to newspapers to street signs, and praise his or her efforts and progress. Solidifying academic concepts is all about making learning meaningful to your child. Who better to do that than the parents?
If you are a teacher, don’t be afraid to alter your lesson plan when a big news story breaks or you discover that your students are really struggling with the practical application of a skill. Allow them to watch the news coverage, discuss it and write about it; or, take them out of the classroom to apply social skills. It is perfectly acceptable (and even advisable) to change your mind or slow down if your students need it.
Most Importantly, Make Education a Priority
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is extremely important to show students that their education matters.
If you are a parent, this means that your child should attend school regularly. He or she should be on time, and come to school prepared with all the supplies that he or she needs. Your child should be expected to finish academic tasks, and extracurricular activities should be conditional upon the completion of homework. You should talk to your children about school every day, ask open-ended questions and be as involved as possible.
If you are a teacher, remember that you are representing the world of education, so hold yourself to a higher standard. Dress and act professionally. Arrive on time. Smile through the tough days. Strive to make education appealing and learning fun. Be the best version of yourself so that your students will want to be the same.