Shall we dance? How to be a good partner in the classroom

Below is a guest post from Jenni Brasington, Director of Consultative Services for Scholastic FACE. Click here to read more from Jenni on edu@scholastic, our blog about education and learning.

Do you ever get tongue-tied when it comes to creating meaningful conversations with your child’s teacher? Even the most gifted conversationalists among us have been known to clam up when sitting across from our child’s teacher.

Opening the door to an educational partnership with the school can be difficult, especially when you are not sure how to take that initial first step. Trust me: it happens to the best of us, even those (like me!) who have worked in education for quite some time.

Initiating these conversations reminds me of navigating the dance floor. How many of us feel most comfortable watching from the sidelines, rather than being an active participant?

Leaping on to the dance floor is a bit scary, especially when you may not know the latest moves, and can’t place the music. However, with a little practice, we can all leave our wallflower days behind. It’s the same with talking to teachers; all it takes is some conversation starters and a little practice.

Below are five easy questions that will help you start the year off right with your child’s classroom teacher:

  1. What would you like to know about my child?

  2. In what specific ways can I assist with learning at home?

  3. What opportunities exist for me to share my time, talents and treasures with the school community?

  4. How can we work together to make sure my child is successful this year?

  5. What is the best way for us to communicate regarding my child’s progress?

In the classroom, as on the dance floor, great partners are essential.

Educators, here are a few ideas to help you put your new partners at ease.

  1. Listen more than you talk. This strategy reminds me of the line from Hamilton: “Talk less, smile more.” We can learn and observe much more when we actively listen and focus on the conversation. 

  2. Remove any physical barriers (desks, tables, stacks of files, papers or books) that get in the way of the conversation. 

  3. Let your partner take the lead. A collaborative relationship between home and school greatly benefits students. Letting families take the lead on the conversation is an excellent opportunity to hear a different perspective, encourage buy-in and commitment, build relational trust and solidify the partnership. 

  4. Start and end strong by “sandwiching” a positive anecdote at the beginning and end of the conversation. Difficult information is easier to hear when surrounded by the positive. 

  5. Start with a box-step, because not every partner is ready for the Tango. Just as we differentiate and individualize for students, we must also do the same for families. 

With the start of a new school year, keep these ideas handy and put them into practice often. Remember, becoming Fred and Ginger won’t happen overnight. However, the more we implement effective and authentic strategies to engage families, the stronger our partnerships will be.

 

 

Dance image via Krisztina Konczos; classroom via misskprimary.