Our guest author is Sarah Johnson, a practicing public school educator in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She has taught in elementary classrooms, coached new teachers as a Peer Assistance and Review consulting teacher, served as an Academic Content Coach, led professional development on School, Family, and Community Partnerships and helped launch the Parent Teacher Home Visit project in Saint Paul Public Schools.
It’s October. For some that means apple orchards, leaf viewing, and pumpkin spice. For educators, it also brings Parent Teacher conferences . . and a dread of all the candy and unbridled enthusiasm for that last day of the month, but that’s a different blog. Over the years I’ve seen educators approach conferences with a variety of perspectives and approaches: some excited to update families on the new learning, some worried about how families might respond to a concern, and some exhausted from the preparation and longs days. Thankfully, it’s quite rare that some take Ted Lasso’s view, shared when he met Rebecca’s mom, “Boy, I love meeting people’s moms. It’s like reading an instruction manual as to why they’re nuts.”
During my 29 years as an educator in various roles in Saint Paul Public Schools, the approach I have learned is that meaningful family partnerships* are integral to student success. Cory Jones, one of the founding teachers of Parent Teacher Home Visits explains it like this, “With a great curriculum, with a great teacher, if you leave out the home the results for that individual student will be lower.” He’s right, families and schools need to be on the same team. This October, I’d like to encourage educators to take this parent-teacher season and challenge themselves to create opportunities for meaningful family engagement year-round. If you’re an educator leading a system instead of leading a classroom, then I challenge you to find ways of supporting and structuring these opportunities year-round as well.