It is not a complicated math problem. Research shows that when teachers partner with families to support children’s learning and mental health at home, students then realize they are part of a team of champions focused on their success.
Some of our 2020 Teachers of the Year, the best-of-the-best at their respective campuses, offer practical advice, below, on ways families can help build strong school-home partnerships.
“When students see that school is everywhere and anywhere, not just in a classroom setting, they become active participants in the learning process,” said Sarah Chu, Nottingham Elementary’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, now teaching in the Gifted & Talented program at Bendwood School.
“When the students, teachers and parents succeed -- it’s a win-win situation for all,” she said.
In Spring Branch ISD, we believe in fostering family engagement in our schools and classrooms, as evidenced in our Family Education, Engagement and Empowerment (Family E3) Framework.
“Engagement is extremely important to a student’s success,” said Becky Mustachio, art teacher at Spring Forest Middle School. “Students engage when they feel embraced. We all play a role in the success of Every Child.”
Two-way communication -- a critical piece to the equation
“Communication is key. Whether it be phone calls, emails and or messaging through itslearning,” said Iain Pace, Gifted & Talented teacher at Bendwood School, about the ways he connects with families. He added that responding in a timely manner is also very important for both teachers and families to keep learning on a forward path.
Communication at home also strengthens academic and personal growth. Parents should supplement classroom teaching by reviewing assignments and lessons in the itslearning Parent Portal (student learning platform) in order to converse with their kids about what they are learning.
Grade-Level Guides offer questions for families to ask students about their learning in each subject and include activities to do at home to support classroom lessons. Encouraging kids to ask questions in class, whether in-person or during a Zoom lesson, is a life skill families can do to help grow Limitless Curiosity and a love of learning.
“One of the biggest challenges we face (especially with our distance learning students) is getting them to engage through conversation during a lesson,” said Crystal Fain of Stratford High School. “It would be helpful if parents asked their children what questions they asked during the lesson that day or how they engaged with their teacher.”
Pace also suggests that parents should have their kids show them completed schoolwork, especially important for distance-learners.
Parents can access course grades, homework, and attendance information in Skyward Family Access using login information provided by campuses.
Literacy, literacy, literacy!
Literacy, a central focus of SBISD, is essential to the mastery of each subject in school and to success in life. Developing a love of reading at home builds vocabulary and multiplies literacy skills. By reading with children at home, families become partners with teachers who regularly build reading and writing practice into lessons.
“I would recommend they read with their kids, listen to their kids read, talk about what they’re reading, or even be in a book club with their son/daughter,” suggests Kristie Shankles, Wilchester Elementary. Suggestions for starting a family book club are here.
Social-Emotional health partnerships
Another essential building block to student success, also a key priority of the district, is the social-emotional health of students. Parents can support teachers’ efforts to provide healthy learning environments at school by also providing care and respect for their children at home.
“Families should work together to create a safe space for students to express their successes, their fears, and also their goals,” said Jason Campbell, Northbrook High School.
“If it is understood that a student may or may not always receive the best grades due to the ongoing crisis, both students and parents could begin to create realistic expectations for the future," said Campbell. "The students’ mental health is much more important than studying for the upcoming quiz each week. Families can help the students to do their best, ask questions when they don’t understand and learn how to be better than they were yesterday.”
We can’t do it without you
Teachers and families in SBISD should keep lines of communication open and help connect the dots between classroom lessons to practical applications at home. When families and teachers are partners in championing the success of their children, great results are possible.
“Student academic and social-emotional growth increase significantly when everyone takes an active and present role in student learning,” adds Letonya Taylor, District Alternative Education Program (DAEP) teacher.
Resources for Family Engagement
- How to access three useful tools with one login: Skyward Family Access, itslearning, SBISD Daily Health Screener
- Grade-Level Guides
- Note: besides subject matter information, be sure to click on the Social-Emotional Behavior tab on each page for age-appropriate, at-home suggestions.