Last semester, I encountered a wide body of research, including the work of Annette Lareau (2003), who did studies of families throughout a wide variety of economic and racial backgrounds. She found that the parents of racial minorities that were of socio-economic status largely remained uninvolved in their children's school life. They were more concerned with the children's "accomplishment of natural growth," wherein kids are reinforced in making social relationships with their family and friends at home with less emphasis placed on schoolwork.
It would be grossly unfair to assume that all of my failing students suffer from this caring deficit, but considering the demography of my school, this would not be too surprising. The saddest part is that I believe all of my students have the potential to do very well in my class, but they simply are not motivated or reinforced at home.
Just to provide another concrete example: It is my morning routine to pickup some Starbucks before going to school every morning. I rarely attend school during first period, so I am usually at the Starbucks when students should be in their classes across the street. However, one morning as I was waiting in the drive thru line, one of my students casually strolled out of the Starbucks and hopped into a van driven by a woman, who I presumed at the time was her mother. I watched her drive to the school to drop her off and then left the school. I asked my master teacher about the scenario and he confirmed that it was most likely her mother and that this is not the first time this has occurred.
So, the question becomes, how do I reach out to these parents? Remember, I am not a full-time teacher. I am merely a lowly student teacher, and I always have the feeling that no one has to take me seriously; it is a very intimidating feeling. However, I have made attempts to reach out to the parents. I have attempted to send them all emails (only one parent responded) and I have sent notes home with the students (the same parent being the only one to respond), but I am not sure how to proceed from here with only six weeks remaining in the school year.
Weinstein and Novodvorsky (2011) offer a wealth of strategies that I may attempt in the next week or so:
- Schedule conferences at flexible times to accommodate parents with conflicting work schedules.
- See if neighbors or friends can be used as a liaison.
- Arrange for home visits (with appropriate security).
- Make it clear that you value the language, culture, knowledge, and expertise of parents and family members.
Now, given the fact that I am struggling to spark any sort of contact with most of these parents, some of these may sound more difficult to carry out. I am also a bit nervous that the authors had to put in that line about "appropriate security," so that might not be an option as well. I feel that talking to neighbors or friends may be beneficial, but a lot of these students are bussed in and it may be difficult to coordinate that. I feel like another strategy that might help is simply reaching out to the other teachers and counselors to see what they have to say about particular students.
I do not believe confronting my students' parents and families to be an easy feat. I know some of my students have very diverse and difficult backgrounds that include divorce, adoption, etc. We will have to see how things go from here, especially since I am getting ready to plan the entire class lessons from here on out all by myself, but I am optimistic that I will be able to reach some of these parents effectively.
Hope everyone in the SD area is starting to enjoy this warm weather!