Monday, July 9, 2012

Forming Partnerships Early

I was hanging out with some of the neighborhood ladies last weekend, and the talk shifted to the upcoming school year. Two members of the group had children attending kindergarten in the fall and began to talk about what they were doing to prepare the kids for the upcoming school year. They talked about school clothes and school supplies and making sure they knew their letters and numbers and how to write their name and the heartache they will feel when they put their kids on the bus that first day.

Then they talked about their fears. They talked about how they were fearful that they taught their kids too much. That if they taught them more, their kids would be bored in school and wouldn't enjoy it. Now, I live in a pretty nice neighborhood. Our four bedroom house dwarfs in comparison to the other houses that surround it. I was kind of shocked when I heard that they were deliberately holding them back for for fear that they would not enjoy school if they knew more. I figured they would do everything in their power to make sure their children had every academic advantage before they went to school.
I can't fault them because I know that we as educators are often still teaching a "one size fits all" curriculum. I know we will welcome children into our schools for the first time with very little background knowledge and be expected to have them on grade level by June. It's very easy to not work with those who may come to us reading two years above grade level because of these students. I know this is better than it used to be, but there are two components working against us:
  • Some teachers still teach everyone the same way - or they differentiate just to show they are differentiating.
  • The parents who have the means to adequately prepare their kids for school aren't because they remember what it was like when they were in kindergarten, and they do not realize the change taking place.
We as administrators are quick to expect so much from our teachers and parents, but don't always provide the training to help them do this. When working with your teachers, make sure they have a clear understanding of the initiatives you are trying to implement. Model your expectations during your faculty meetings and provide frequent checks for understanding throughout the school year and during breaks as well. In working with parents, extend invitations of programs and events to parents of children who may be attending your school the following year so that they may understand the benefits of preparing their children to the best of their ability rather than just preparing them to be average.

I think the majority of people believe that it does take a village to raise a child, but we still struggle with the process from an academic standpoint. It is up to us as leaders to develop a framework for our building and community, and then work with all stakeholders to implement it.

What are you doing differently this year?

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