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Strategies for Collaborating with Families in Middle School Education

Instructor: Sharon Linde
Teachers need families to be on their education team and partner in educating children. This lesson explains the importance of family collaboration and gives ways to effectively communicate and foster relationships.

Why Is Collaboration Important?

The Smiths are a typically busy family with two working parents and three children involved in sports and other out-of-school activities. The parents try to attend as many school functions as possible but are often unable to squeeze everything in.

Their oldest student, Josh, is in 7th grade. His parents spend much less time and energy on Josh's education - he seems old enough to navigate on his own and will learn independence by figuring things out by himself.

As students age, it's typical to see a decline in parental collaboration, where parents work with teachers and schools in their child's education. But educators know Josh is still a student much in need of support and participation from his family.

Benefits of Family Collaboration

Research shows that families who are involved in their child's education have more successful students. They have higher graduation rates, better attendance, and get higher paying jobs later on.

By not participating in building a family-school partnership, Josh's family is missing out. This collaboration has many additional benefits such as:

  • Minimizing the impact of pressure from other sources, like peers or social media
  • Working as a team to tackle behavior or academic issues
  • Teachers gaining perspective about the child from those who know best - parents and caregivers
  • Utilizing parental knowledge and talent to benefit programs and supplement learning. Josh's dad is an engineer, so could help promote and develop the robotics program.
  • Building a supportive community to surround the student with care

Strategies for Collaborating with Families

How can Josh's teachers convince the Smiths to become partners in their child's education? Simple solutions, such as regular contact with parents and parent conferences, help to bridge the gap. But sometimes a more intentional systematic approach is necessary. The building of a parent-school partnership happens when the administration, teachers, and other professionals work together to facilitate collaboration.

Teachers can:

  • Establish a routine system to communicate with parents so they know when and what to expect.
  • Seek out parents when making decisions and solving problems
  • Establish a trusting relationship by visiting families in homes and learning their names

Administration can:

  • Bring staff together to determine what collaboration efforts are working and which aren't
  • Provide professional development opportunities for staff to develop collaboration efforts
  • Host staff meetings to address and educate cultural differences and respect

Finally, the school can establish a family-outreach program designed to educate and involve parents. This teaches them how to participate in school decisions and gives them a voice, which in turn makes them feel ownership for their student's education. It can include workshops that educate parents on current school practices, or gatherings to address problems.

For example, parents may be invited to a 'Math Night', during which they actively learn what their students are doing in math class. Or the school could host a gathering to address a growing issue with cell phone use during class. Instead of only the administration taking on the cell phone problem, they invite parents in to help make decisions that will organically solve the problem.

Factors that Impact Partnerships

Like we saw with Josh's family, sometimes parents feel too busy to be partners in their student's education. What other factors impede this relationship?

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