State 8 Standard 7.1 – Communicating with Families
Teacher communicates with families about students’ progress on a regular basis, respecting cultural norms, and is available as needed to respond to family concerns.
Five months into my student teaching and already I feel like I am looking at the world of education in such a different way than ever before. Prior to September, I viewed my impending career as a single-role system where I teach the students during the day, they go home and complete homework, and come back the next day to repeat the same process. However, the life of a teacher is much more strenuous than what I anticipated – teachers have multiple roles to fill for the students that walk through the doors of their classroom every day. Not only do we pour information into our students’ minds, we also act as their cheerleader, encouraging them to reach their full potential; we’re the comforter for the students with rough home backgrounds; we’re guides for students with learning disabilities. The list can continue for miles, and seeing the length my mentor teacher goes to ensure the mental health and progress of her students has been remarkable.
For the state 8 standards, standard 7 states, “Teacher communicates with families about students’ progress on a regular basis, respecting cultural norms, and is available as needed to respond to family concerns.” According to a New York Times demographic analysis, in the Highline School District, almost 40% of the population is black and Hispanic students. In my class alone, I have almost ten English Language Learners (ELL’s) who have or currently need pull-out programs to assist in their language acquisition. Respecting cultural norms is a standard necessary and expected every moment with and without our students to understand the needs and realities of my students. English Language Learners and Response to Intervention article by Scott Baker elaborates the importance of connections with communities your students may be involved in as well as having these statistics in mind in approaching intervention and learning strategies for students, “Nationally, Hispanic students in elementary school settings represent about 17% of the elementary school age population in the United States. This means that Spanish-speaking ELLs represent approximately 9.2% of the elementary school age population. Among Hispanic students in elementary schools, approximately 54% are classiﬁed as ELLs”.
How would an educator be able to properly take on one of their many roles if they do not possess the necessary knowledge to keep into account when interacting with your students? Personally, I subtly began approaching this standard when I began my internship through writing a letter to my students’ families and posting it on my mentor teachers class website. To be a teacher is also to have a want for connection with students and a seeking for understanding conceptually where students are from and how that will affect their behavior and performance in the classroom. Something my mentor teacher has explained to me is that it is expected of teachers to participate with their student’s even outside of the classroom hours; soccer games, talent shows, choir concerts – you get asked to be there for it all. Additionally, through making these connections, you also create a rapport with the students’ families. My mentor teacher has told me many times about how she is in personal contact with almost every students’ parent’s in the classroom – whether that is through email, phone calls, text messaging, parent conferences, or writing in a notebook to be sent home for checking student behavior, she knows almost every student’s backgrounds in my classroom and allows her to make additional progress with having the families on her team for the benefit on the student’s academia.
This standard has quickly become a responsibility that I have taken on in my classroom. One of my students who has severe behavioral problems requires a note by the teacher every day to be sent home to have the parent read and sign. This sort of communication seems minimal at the moment; however, because it is a daily task required at the end of the day, it is allowing me to track this student’s progress and provide feedback through referring to past notes me or my mentor teacher has written.
In my piece of evidence, I chose to refer to the letter I wrote at the beginning of the year to my students’ families. In the letter, I attempt to reach to my students’ personal lives by addressing who I am as an individual, professional, and teacher and opening the gate of comfortableness with communicating between parent and student teacher:
“I cannot begin to express my sense of gratitude for being given the opportunity to work with this class. The upcoming year will come with many accomplishments along with many trials, and I can’t wait to start the amazing journey that is ahead. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, and/or concerns.”
Overall, communication with families and respecting cultural norms is a necessity for the classroom and should be implemented in any way it can be. I am excited that I get the chance to build my communication skills and grow from writing parent letters to calling parent phone numbers to personally contact student families in regard to progress academically, socially, and emotionally. I respect my mentor teacher’s strides for excellence in involvement and understanding of our student’s lives and allows a perspective for the student that wouldn’t be achieved otherwise.
English Language Learners and Response to Intervention Improving Quality of Instruction in General and Special Education Scott K. Baker and Doris Lu Baker