A Simple Idea to Begin Creating Caring Connections between Students, Teachers, and Families
It’s the first day of school. We – Mom, Dad, and son – are thoroughly ready and excited for E’s initiation into sixth grade. We take the traditional pictures at home and walk to school together to gather on the playground. Many other parents are present with their children taking photos and sharing in the excitement as they line up outside and await their teachers. “Do you know who their teacher is?” A classmate’s Mom asks me. “No clue,” I shake my head looking over the stream of students to the teachers who are exiting the building to meet their students. The teachers quickly gather up the lines and there are so many teachers and students that I can’t tell exactly who is responsible for my son and his line. With a quick hug, we, along with the other parents, say goodbye as the children are whisked off into the school building. We walk away slowly and I can’t help but wonder whether there was a missed opportunity that morning.
In re-imagining an ideal world, one in which parents develop a significant relationship with their children’s teacher so that care and learning is coordinated between home and school, I envisioned a different scene. What if teachers created a morning reception line, like there might be at a wedding? What if they lined up, perhaps with name tags and their grade level numbers written in chalk on the playground, each morning every day for a week one of the first weeks of school? It could happen the second or third or fourth week so there’s still time!
Family members could be alerted to this opportunity to meet and greet. Each day for five days, family members could plan to walk or park and come into the school building area to drop off their child and when they do, they could shake hands and share names and greetings with their child’s new teacher. “Hi, I’m E’s mother, Jennifer. This is E’s grandmother, Linda. And of course, this is E.” The school could set the expectation that the greetings would be a full name exchange each day so that the names become well-rehearsed and more easily remembered over those five days.
Taking it one step further, there could be one question posted each day in a highly visible spot so that in addition to morning greetings, each could answer a question to assist in getting to know each other. “Who else is in your family? People? Pets?” “What is your favorite thing to do on weekends?” “What school subject matter is your favorite?” “What unique talent do you possess?”, and “How do you best like to be communicated with (email, phone, in-person)?”
Perhaps you’ve seen those viral videos of teachers greeting students each morning in the way in which they want to be greeted — a high five, a hug, a handshake. And it’s beautiful to watch. We know those students feel seen and heard from the very start of each day. The teacher has immediately made a caring connection with the students. In addition, they are alerted if a student needs extra attention after a tough start before school.
But what if schools went that extra step and included family members in that greeting in one of those first few weeks of school? The benefits would be many. A caring relationship would begin between every parent and their child’s teacher. Names would be learned. Eye contact made, smiles exchanged, and fears allayed. My confusion and ignorance about who my child’s teacher was made my first week of school and in turn, my son’s much more nerve-wracking. Having personally experienced both the life-changing, incredibly wonderful teacher and the teacher who was unkind, I proceed with cautious optimism each year. “What kind of year is this going to be?” I’m thinking until I make that first contact is made.
In working with numerous schools, each one discusses their goal and priority of finding ways to partner with families to ensure they are substantively engaged in their child’s learning. This simple greeting, though it may take twenty minutes each morning in one of those first weeks, establishes a foundation for a relationship that will serve the learning agenda all year long.
Has any reader tried this at your school? If not, what do you think? Who’s game to try this out? I’ll be proposing this with our parent-school committee to see if I might start a teacher reception line for next school year. If you are inspired by this and are successfully able to start this practice at your school, video record it and send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll gladly share it with this community so we can all learn from your experience!
At the end of this month, I’ll be sharing many more ideas and best practices in a webinar with ReThink Ed on promoting valuable school-family partnerships throughout the school year! It’s entitled “The Power of Educators and Families; Joining Forces for Children’s Social and Emotional Learning.” Hope you join us! You can register now.
Happy back to school days!