Education is not a singular verb. It has many layers and cannot be carried out in isolation. It is not possible to simply look at the input/output exchange of teaching as a way of measuring its success, we must look at the whole child. It is this holistic view that begins in early childhood, since families are often referred to as the child’s first educator, and in the Reggio Emilia approach to learning, the environment is considered the third teacher.
As children navigate the education system from an early age and then onto school, we see more people contribute to their learning, but the constant foundation is their family. The role they play in nurturing their child’s intellectual, emotional, and social development is crucial and a strong emphasis must be placed upon forming strong partnerships between them and their educators.
Psychologist Bronfenbrenner looks to the individual as being at the center of their world, with various spheres of influence surrounding them. The microsystem that is directly outside of them include family, friends, neighbours, work, and school, thus pointing to the notion that those closest have the greatest impact on the child.
If family and school hold the greatest weight of influence on the child, then it makes sense for them to form a partnership for the benefit of that child.
There are various studies that support the notion that family-teacher collaborations are one of the most important factors to a child’s educational success. Epstein (1995), as cited by Keyes, refers to six major aspects of family involvement with communication being fundamental to the other five areas – familying, volunteering, decision making, learning at home, and collaborating with the community. It is therefore possible to see that when families are engaged in their child’s school life, there are positive educational outcomes for the child.
According to a New York Elementary School Assistant Principal, KneoWorld has been the vehicle for facilitating this partnership.
“The teachers loved it! KneoWorld gave us assessments right at hand. The families get it. It’s really powerful and also strengthens the connection between home and school. KneoWorld rocks…”
Similarly, a mother whose child started to learn English via the KneoWorld platform saw the difference the activities made to her skills. She said that she learned about the power she as a family has to influence her daughter’s learning.
“We know that there is a connection between positive attitudes and positive outcomes and that consistent reinforcement is powerful for the child’s learning journey.”
Forming relationships between teachers and their students’ families requires patience and resilience and we have to be prepared for push-back or hesitation. Some families may feel that they want to keep school and home-life separate, while others may welcome the exchange of information. The key is to understand that without working together, there is a real possibility of children facing additional challenges. It is also essential to ensuring that those with additional needs have access to the support they require.
Levinthal de Oliveira Lima, C. and Kuusisto, E. (2020) also refer to the challenges of working as family/teacher partners. They refer to the differences in types of familyal engagement as discussed by Goodall and Montgomery. Where families are involved with the school itself, communication is on a basic level, but sets a positive foundation for future interactions. The next point moves teachers to listening to families about the child’s homelife and sees them as “active contributors to children’s academic future.” It builds upon that first foundation with trust while offering a bigger holistic view.
The final point is where families are actively engaged in children’s learning with both parties having open channels of communication. This has a multitude of benefits including raising children’s self-esteem and motivation for learning.
They conclude that any partnership between families and teachers is based upon authentic interactions and a sense of team.
“It goes beyond interacting as a teacher and families – rather, refers to interacting as whole individuals that are sensitive about each other’s needs, beliefs, and ideas and instead of competing with each other, unify their strengths for the common goal of the child’s success in life.”
Additionally, as Loughran, S (2008) states, family-teacher relationships must start with good intentions in order to maximise the benefit of their interactions. Since families come in all different shapes and sizes, with varying paces of life, she stresses the importance of being prepared for this, offering strategies to promote two-way communication flow.
The key elements of which are ensuring that communication is precise and well-thought out, that respect is offered, and participation encouraged, as well as being flexible to the needs of all families.
She says, “I believe that every family very much wants to know that you, as a teacher 1) knows their child and 2) first and foremost, likes their child. This is where the family/teacher relationship really begins.”
Inquire about how KneoWorld can bring out the best in your students and families here.