23 Apr 2015
Miss Leong Sou Cheng, an educator at an international school, shares about an effective partnership between parents and school teachers.
Knowing how and when to partner teachers is important for your child’s education. Research has shown that children with involved parents have a better learning attitude and performed better. In teacher education, parent-teacher collaboration forms a big piece; beginning teachers attend courses to learn how to engage parents, and are assigned mentors to guide them through their first year. Schools in Singapore recognize the value of cultivating this relationship, and teachers constantly try to engage parents. However, a partnership is a relationship, a two-way street. Unless there is mutual involvement and respect, what a teacher does alone will only have limited impact.
Today, more than 95% of schools have PSGs or Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs), as compared to 17% about 20 years ago. Evidently, much has been done to encourage parent-teacher partnership. Especially in primary schools, the partnership has improved considerably with more opportunities for dialogues, communication and involvement. Punggol View Primary School, for example, implemented the Three-Directional (3D) dialogues to engage parents effectively in discussion. Haig Girl’s school also hosted Parent-Child-Teacher Conferencing (PCTC) to facilitate meaningful discussion between children, parents and teachers. Going beyond school dialogues, then-Principal Mr Ong Kong Hong from Teck Whye Secondary School used Facebook as a “less formal platform for networking, sharing and discussion” to bring the school community together. He also hoped that in time, teachers would take on a more proactive role in partnering parents.
Despite the availability of various mediums of communication and support, they are sometimes not utilised meaningfully to achieve the intended purpose. Parent-teacher partnership seems to decrease exponentially as a child grows older. Parent involvement, if any, tends to be most active only during specially arranged parent meetings concerning bad behavior or poor academic performance. When that happens, the already tenuous relationship between parent and teacher is strained; so more will be needed for its reparation, and positive collaboration is difficult.
The Reggio Emilia philosophy considers the child, the teacher and the family as “inseparable and integrated” elements that are essential to the educational experience. The well-being of these three elements are interdependent; each of these elements will not only affect the achievement of the child at school, but also impact the quality of teaching the classroom and the relationship dynamics at home. During the early years of a child, parents are usually highly visible in the learning environment, and understandably, they gradually retreat into the background when their children become teenagers. However, active participation is integral to the success of a child in school, and parents must always make their presence felt, and learn how to leave the right presence.
A teacher and a parent has the same goal – they both want a child to learn. The irony, however, is that the relationship between a parent and a teacher is sometimes sensitive and fragile, fogged with unnecessary judgment and misunderstanding. The same concern, which is the child, is also the same source of judgment, often biased. Constantly, and without basis, they find themselves judging each other, further obscuring this relationship with doubt and suspicion.
Children are clever; they recognize the power struggle between the two important adults who can directly affect their well-being at home and in school. Good children want them to like each other, but troubled ones, the opposite; they know they can benefit from animosity, and would play one against the other to get what they want. Am I saying that children can be manipulative? Yes, and your child know the right strings to pull, because he is smart. Yes, and we have all tried to hoodwink our parents.
Teachers, like parents, want the best for their students. Your child’s teachers are no different, and that makes you a team, not adversaries. Parents, never forget that you are and will always be the first teacher in your child’s life. When you work as allies, your influence is potent.
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