One thing I learned about Pre-K in my ECS 100 Field Experience is that ‘Family Days’ are a planned piece of the curriculum. Parents or guardians accompany their child to school on these days and do activities and art work together. The classroom teacher commented that even though the Family Days are supposed to be mandatory, it is usually the students who can benefit from the program the most that don’t have an adult join them.
This really makes me step back and think about my family’s involvement in my education. Throughout my Elementary and Secondary career, my parents never missed a single Parent Teacher Interview. My mom, who was a good student in school, always encouraged me to do my best (although I am not one who needs prompting to study) and praised me when I excelled. Ironically enough, my dad (who dropped out of school in Grade 10 and later got his GED on his own) expects the most out of me. I know that it makes him extremely proud that both my sister and myself are high achievers academically. Both of my parents (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc…) praised me when I did a good job and were always there when I needed to be quizzed on topics for an upcoming test. It is their continual support in my schooling that allows me to be a confident and capable learner.
So what happens when a child has minimal support in their home life? I think it is our job as teachers to not only assist these children in the classroom, but also to try and foster good relationships at home. Teachers should try and involve parents as much as possible, so they are always aware of classroom happenings and updated with new things their children are learning (this is one objective in my Professional Teaching Goals included in my portfolio). Involved parents are especially beneficial in the primary grades when students are learning to read. Encouraging reading at home and helping their child practice sight words can make a world of difference!
If students aren’t getting the help they need at home, or lack a positive older role model, a teacher could consider having “Reading Buddies,” where students from older grades meet with the younger students and take turns reading. If a child isn’t getting help with their sight or spelling words, teachers could record themselves saying or spelling the words and send these recordings home on a tape, CD or USB stick (provided the child can use these technologies by themselves). Another option would be posting the recordings (or videos!) on a blog or other website (again, provided the child can access these tools independently at home).
I think the phrase, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” comes into play in this situation. It is our jobs as teachers to foster positive learning experiences and to help our students in any way we can (even when this requires additional work that we may not have to do under normal circumstances). In the long run, though, an hour spent making a recording or providing extra help is well worth it when the student becomes a capable reader or has mastered a skill they were previously struggling with. It is in the job description, after all.