Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Everyone Has Value, Everyone Matters

I wish that I could come up with some catchy phrase of the day like "Time Out to Learn Tuesdays" or something 10 times more clever, but honestly this is just a plain post with a a plain truth....Everyone has Value, Everyone Matters.  This post was prompted by what I am learning at Summer Camp...that's #PTCamp to be more specific.  #PTCamp is an online camp for parents and teachers that spans a period of 6 weeks and focuses on the developing meaningful partnerships between schools and families.  Over 100 participants from around the globe are reading Beyond the Bake Sale and tweeting, voxing, and ApprenNet-ting (not sure if that is actually a word) about how to foster strong relationships among all stakeholders in schools.
Why read a book about how to foster meaningful partnerships? "The evidence is consistent, positive, and convincing: families have a major influence on their children's achievement.  When schools, families, and community groups work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer and like school more."
How do you start? "First, we have to absolutely believe in our souls that families want to support their children and that their support can make a significant difference in a child's educational experience.  Second, we need to prioritize reaching out to families."
     I had the privilege of hearing Angela Maiers along with others present at ISTE on the power of the words "You Matter". As I was thinking about the book study, I thought about the power of the words "you matter" and the connection that parents and teachers could make if only we entered every interaction with that thought foremost in their minds.  No longer would we be on the defense in a parent- teacher conference or assume that we knew more about someone
else's child because of all of the letters behind our name; no, our thinking MiGHt aCtUAllY ShIFt. The book's authors emphasize that "everyone has something to offer"...hmmm, is it because they matter?  Do they have insight that needs to be shared to maximize the learning experience for the child? Maybe, just maybe... If I would enter into the parent-teacher relationship with the attitude that everyone has something to offer and everyone should get something positive out of the relationship, I would avoid the totally inaccurate and very lopsided, "I know best" thinking.  How might the year might progress if my first conversation started with "You are your child's first teacher; tell me about your child." Or, what if small groups met and parents were encouraged to talk about TheIR DrEAms and EXpeCtAtiONs for their child's future and teachers and administrators followed up with discussions and evaluation of the school's curriculum to determine how it was connected to the families' dreams?  Would that change the culture of the school???
    Last week I heard someone ask (via Voxer), "What if the administration doesn't support this type of partnering?"  While I am blessed to be in a school that values people and believes that everyone matters, I can imagine that this is very real in varying degrees in many schools.  So, I say, start right where you are.  One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is when God asks Moses, "What's in your hand?"  It is a question I have asked myself more than once, I can assure you and I have come to think that another way of saying it could be to ask, "Where do I have influence?"  Every teacher can say most assuredly that he or she has influence in the classroom...so, StARt THeRe!
     I love that the book, along with the participants in the study offer practical suggestions.  All of the ideas focus on developing relationships.  If I truly believe that people matter like I say I do, then it only makes sense for me to invest in people.  How?  Honor them with my time, my words and my talents.

  • Visit the homes of students.
  • Invite them into my home or at least the classroom and not just on Back to School night!
  • Make positive phone calls to parents monthly to keep them in the loop on overall student progress.
  • Go outside of the building to greet and talk with parents.
  • Create a warm, friendly environment by ensuring that the number of student projects and celebrations of student accomplishments outnumber warning posters about alcohol, drug abuse and dropping out.
  • Host a class meeting, grade-level social or book club.
I love these ideas make sense!  My favorite quote from these chapters were really words of wisdom that can guide my behavior in any interaction:  

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