Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Connecting and Communicating with Parents in FDK

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.

A Parent's Reflection
By Sylvia West

When I was asked to write a piece for the blog, I was rather nervous. Its been some time since I've written anything more than a friendly email. 

This all started when my friends with older children were sharing their frustrations about the newer approach to teaching and learning. With no spelling and much of the math basics being lost. I myself became concerned because I remember doing math drills and spelling tests all through grade school. I couldn't wrap my head around these basic skills being taken out of the classroom. 

I asked my sons teacher if she could help me understand what this new curriculum was all about. Many of my friends shared their negative reactions to me questioning the teacher. They seemed to believe I was being confrontational and disrespectful. Thankfully, Tracy was very open and understood that I simply wanted to make sense of things so that I could help with my sons education from home. 

I was given a great deal of background on the changes made, as well as some studies and other materials to read. With all of that, I have been encouraged and excited about this approach. I do see the value in what is to be accomplished. It's nice to see some creativity is being encouraged in the curriculum. 

I still have my concerns of course. Currently my son is in his second year with a pair of wonderful educators and I know that he is thriving in their environment as they are passionate about their role in my sons life. 

I have reservations as he graduates each year. Not all teachers will be so open to my questioning. This new approach leaves many things rather open to interpretation. 

There are many with such a negative stereotype towards teachers. I have always fought to stand up for educators because I believe they have a difficult job. Teaching our children as they grow and become the next generation of our work force and care takers. I believe these stereotypes have developed because we've stopped working together. We've lost sight of the difficulty of an educators role and as parents we've not been as involved. 

I am so grateful for the opportunity to ask questions and understand the curriculum so I can better assist my children from home. I want them to stay excited for school and continue to explore and learn. I am thrilled they've had such a great start.

A Video from Our Classroom:
Parents as Partners

We thought it would be great to share a video that features parents in our classroom from last year. Check out the link below to hear more about collaboration with parents as well as their thoughts on the Full Day Kindergarten program.

Thank you so much to the Atkinson Centre for capturing this beautiful video and memories. Thank you also to Sylvia West for your passion and curiousity, as well as bravery in sharing your thinking with the world! 


  1. What an incredible parent. It is so nice to hear a parent's perspective and so important for us as teachers to slow down and take the time to acknowledge our families needs and understandings.

  2. Thank you for sharing this remarkable story of how parents and teachers can work together to provide the best possible education for our students. It takes courage to be open to facing challenges and to challenge in a repsectful manner. I commend you both on your courage. There are lessons to learn in developing partnerships with parents, early childhood educators and teachers. I believe that when we act with courage and committment each and every day important things happen.

  3. Hey, you did a great job! Keep it up. My son goes to Phoenix preschool and I noticed that he becomes more active now; we get many valuable academic skills through him. I am very happy for him, and he enjoy playing and learning new things.

  4. Blogging is the new poetry. I find it wonderful and amazing in many ways.