I remember when we began in the first phase of Full Day Kindergarten, we were so conscious about "selling" the program, making sure that families understood how valuable play was and how learning could happen through play. Over the past 4 years, I have learned that building partnerships with parents and involving them as much as possible in their children's education "sells" the program for itself.
Our parents see the value of play based learning through documentation, project work, artifacts in the classroom, and the stories that we share with them. When children are excited about learning, the passion they bring home tells so many stories!
Sometimes I forget how different schooling is now in comparison to 10, 20, or 30 years ago. As educators, we sometimes lose track in the midst of all of the educational jargon how important it is that we educate families about our methods of teaching.
Ultimately, I want parents to understand that traditional approaches to teaching have evolved. Although direct instruction is still a part of our teaching, we approach learning in a more balanced way. We encourage children to be thinkers, problem solvers, and innovators rather than empty vessels that we want to fill with our knowledge.
We can get at many valuable academic skills through children's curiosities, interests, and inquiries. This means that teaching and learning will look different from year to year in a classroom. We no longer have "units" that we teach the same each year as we know that all children are different...they wonder about different things, they need different things, and they know different things.
When Sylvia, a parent in our classroom, approached me this year with questions about the education system, inquiry, and spelling I knew that she was trying so hard to wrap her head around what it all looks like and how it actually works in a classroom.
I realized quickly how difficult it was to verbalize all of my thinking and to bring in solid research to back my beliefs up. Sylvia asked questions to understand, she asked questions because she wants to support her son at home, and most importantly she asked questions because she cares.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed or defensive as either a parent or an educator when your are trying to understand something new or questioning something that you are unsure about. I think the most important piece is to listen each other in order to understand, rather than to only reply.
Sylvia and I spend a couple of hours together, enjoying Starbucks and talking back and forth about the approaches to education in today's society. I left feeling excited that a parent truly wanted to understand. I also left with more questions than when we began. Sometimes having to explain your thinking and beliefs challenges you to think more deeply about them as well.
I look forward to blogging a bit more about some of the things that we talked about - especially the concept of spelling...how do children learn to spell without tests? what words should children learn? how do they learn to spell? does spelling matter? how does a student who is not formally instructed in spelling look when they reach Gr 3 or Gr 6? All such valuable wonderings that have me thinking, researching and reflecting deeply.
I am honored and proud to share the following blog entry by one of our dedicated, curious, and passionate parents. I do hope that her honest reflections resonate with you as they do with me. I hope that Sylvia inspires you to think deeply about how your communicate, connect, and collaborate with parents.