Question feelings validated. Gestwicki (2016, p. 116) states, “The

Question #1:

            Throughout the course, I have gained knowledge that I
will be able to access when working with child care programs, parents, and
children in my role as Inclusion Specialist. This semester, I have learned how
to form positive relationships with parents and how strong partnerships with
parents and community resources greatly affects child outcomes. “Children
thrive when they feel continuity between family and teachers….” (Gestwicki, 2016,
p. 119). I am excited to share new knowledge and strategies with child care and
preschool providers on partnering with parents. I plan on developing a
professional development opportunity on the benefits, potential barriers, and
brainstorming options for developing that connection with parents. I have had
this request previously, but now I feel more equipped to tackle this subject
and guide others.

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            During the semester, I had many opportunities to be
reflective on my approaches to building relationships with parents. I identified
the barriers I faced, any biases I had, and have my feelings validated.
Gestwicki (2016, p. 116) states, “The education and care of a group of children
are serious responsibilities for any teacher in any school, requiring enormous
amounts of time and energy. The prospect of adding to this role of finding ways
to communicate and engage with families may be daunting.” This quote hit home
with me. In the past, I was reluctant to work with families. It can be awkward and
uncomfortable making communication difficult. I have come away from this class
with a better understanding of how to approach parents by figuring out their
needs, not only reaching out during negative episodes, contacting them at a
time or by a medium that is best for them, and so much more. This class has
helped me grow, and I am excited to implement my newfound passion and knowledge
of parent involvement.

            Part of my role as Inclusion Specialist is bridging the
gap between provider and parent. Oftentimes, the parent, and the provider are
in conflict about how to care for the child and behavior is a concern, which is
always a difficult subject for both parties to breech. I am feeling more
confident in my skills to mediate by focusing on the goals and success for the
child. Parents and teachers alike want children to succeed, and it works best
if they are working together rather than against each other. I want to share
with providers how partnering with the parent will help the child feel more
secure and decrease challenging behaviors. With the provider and parent working
side by side, we will be able to identify what each party needs in order to
assist the child in building the skills to decrease behavior. “According to
Epstein, Coates, Salinas, Sanders & Simon (2009) “. . . all research proves
over and over again that when families are involved, not only is the children’s
performance enhanced but they also have more positive attitudes about school.”
When children feel better about school and their teacher, the behavior
improves.

            Unfortunately, part of my role is assisting families who
have been expelled from a child care program due to challenging behaviors or
unmet needs. Indiana is currently working on their policy on suspension and
expulsion, but in the meantime, it is still an overused and inappropriate
practice. When locating a new child care program, I want to work more closely
with families and providers in creating a strong relationship and line of
communication from the beginning. “Early attitudes and behavior patterns will
determine later limitations on a relationship or what direction it will take”
(Gestwicki, 2016, p. 174). It is my responsibility to introduce the parent and
child to the new teacher and assist them in communicating needs, responsibilities,
and preferences. Parents know the child best so they will be the teacher’s
biggest asset. I am responsible for encouraging the teacher to tap into that
resource. I have a greater understanding of parent/teacher relationships. I
know I can improve my skills as a professional by utilizing the knowledge I
have gained on family involvement. I want to convey to teachers that
establishing a solid foundation of a successful partnership with parents will
benefit them throughout their teaching career.

Question #2:

            My book will be titled Empowering Parents through School Involvement.

            “When parents are
involved, students exhibit more positive attitudes and motivation toward school
and have a more positive self-concept” (National PTA, 2017). Students who
have positive attitudes toward school and their teachers behave in a positive
manner and also achieve greater success academically. Teachers and parents also
benefit from positive relationships by gaining a happier child who is eager to
learn. As Gestwicki (2016, p.120) states, “Children also gain feelings of
self-worth if they perceive that their families are valued and respected by
others.” When the child’s teacher openly involves the parents in the classroom
or in activities outside of the classroom and treats them with respect and
communicates positively, the child will feel better about themselves, therefore
reaching greater potential in the school setting. If teachers are treating
parents negatively, not displaying trust or having an open, positive relationship
with them, children will start to feel poorly about themselves, which in turn
will greatly affect their behavior and academic success in a negative manner
(Gestwicki, 2016). This quote belongs in the book in order to impress upon the
reader that self-worth, motivation and positive attitudes affect
student-teacher relationships and also academic success. It focuses on the
child and their sense of belonging and worth in the classroom.

 

“Parents
involved with school in parent-related activities show increased
self-confidence in parenting, more knowledge of child development, and an
expanded understanding of the home as an environment for student learning”
(Eldridge, 2001). Parents gain numerous benefits when
partnering with teachers in a collaborative relationship. “An immediate benefit
is the feeling of support in carrying out the responsibilities of parenthood”
(Gestwicki, 2016, p.121). When parents feel supported and gain new skills,
children and families are happier, more patient with each other, demonstrate
empathy more often, and are empowered to take on any challenge. Gestwicki (2016,
p.124) said it best, “Empowered parents function at their best,” which has
numerous benefits for the child. When parents have another trusting adult to
vent frustrations to, they relieve stress, which helps them function better as
a parent and able to handle those frustrations better in the future. As
teachers support parents and acknowledge their strong parenting skills,
parents’ self-esteem is built up. As parents feel better about themselves and
their skills, children earn more praise, positive attention and interactions.
Overall, parents, teachers and children benefit most from the implications of
this quote.

“Documentation
makes it possible for parents to become intimately and deeply aware of their
children’s experience in the school” (Katz & Chard, 1996). It
is extremely important for teachers to keep documentation on each student
throughout the year. Developmental screenings, academic test scores, milestones
checklists, anecdotal records, samples of completed work, videos or picture
documentation of skill progression, a portfolio are all examples of
documentation that will help the parent understand how their child is
developing and their overall success in school. “Sharing the portfolio at
conference time provides real evidence to parents of the process of learning”
(Gestwicki, 2016, p. 235). As teachers provide informal observation notes on
behavior, parents learn to trust that the provider is making note of successful
and disruptive behaviors of their child. A parent will feel positively about
the teacher and their interactions with and the attention they are giving to
each child. By providing documentation, teachers and parents are able to deepen
their relationship and understanding of the child (Gestwicki, 2016). When
parents and teachers are on the same page, children benefit in many ways. One
way they benefit comes from parents and teachers working together to meet the
needs of the child. Teachers and parents can develop a clear plan for behavior
or development from the documentation collected.

“The
antidote for a stressful, chaotic environment is an environment built around a
nurturing, home-like routine that is not overstimulating” (Klein, Bittel, &
Molnar, 1993). At the beginning of the year or as a
teacher comes into a new classroom, the first item on the agenda should be
getting to know the parents and the child, including culture and home routines.
Teachers can send out questionnaires, schedule a meet and greet or simply
strike up conversation at pick-up or drop-off times. Teachers should not make
assumptions about what home life is like or put any other culturally
stereotyped assumptions onto the child and family with what little information
they have informally gathered through observations (Gestwicki, 2016). “Jumping
to conclusions that arise from stereotyped assumptions about a family’s culture
can be avoided when teachers take the time to form relationships that lead to
real knowledge of families” (Gestwicki, 2016, p. 249). As teachers gather this “real
knowledge” (Gestwicki, 2016, p. 249), they are able to be more nurturing,
understanding and sensitive to each family’s unique needs. Just because the
population at the school is predominately one race or another, doesn’t mean
there aren’t different beliefs, morals, or otherwise acceptable standards of
living for each family, which comprises their family culture (Gestwicki, 2016).
Students are the overall benefactors of the importance of this quote. When teachers
are sensitive to their individual needs and classroom routines are respectful
of their home life, children perform better and build stronger relationships
with teachers.

“Tell
Me, I’ll forget. Show me, I may remember. But involve me and I will understand”
(DiNatale, 2002). As parents are invited into the classroom
to volunteer or work with the teacher, they start to gather a greater
understanding of what’s going on in the classroom. “Parents have often equated
school with purely cognitive learning and are sometimes surprised and dismayed
to learn that good early childhood classrooms emphasize more than academic
learning” (Gestwicki, 2016, p. 259). Through these opportunities to work
together in the classroom, parents are gaining a better understanding of
overall child development. They are able to observe and understand how children
interact, behave and learn. This is particularly important for parents who have
no previous knowledge about child development. “They can observe typical
behaviors and skills for a cross section of children the same age . . .”
(Gestwicki, 2016, p.260). As I shared before, parents who are involved in the
classroom gain more self-esteem and positive parenting skills because of this
understanding. Teachers are modeling, explaining and involving them in the
learning process and throughout daily routines, which gives them the best
takeaways for positive discipline, activities to try at home, and development.
Parents and children benefit from this quote. When parents are growing and
learning, children have more success in all areas of development.

“In
your communications as an educator, include positive comments about the child’s
successes and express your respect for the parents’ efforts in helping their
child develop as fully as possible” (Ray, Kinder & George, 2009). This
will create more parent buy-in during daily conversations or conferences. “It
is important to indicate to parents at the outset that you like and appreciate
their child” (Gestwicki, 2016, p. 239). Teachers should make it clear to
parents that they have paid attention to their child by sharing positive
observations first. “A positive opening comment also removes any lingering
concern a parent may have about the purpose of a conference” (Gestwicki, 2016,
p239). As teachers share positive remarks and observations about the child,
parents can let their guard down and relax to fully participate in the
conversation. Positive remarks help the parents feel like they are successful
parents who have contributed positively to their child’s development. When
parents feel empowered, they are more willing to share and be involved
(Gestwicki, 2016). As parents become more involved, student performance in all
areas increase. Conversations between parents and teachers will be more successful
when positive outcomes and comments are shared first. In a roundabout way, this
benefits everyone as parent-teacher relationships are strengthened with mutual
respect, the child will also benefit from the strong relationship and united
front.