Building Relationships with Your Community

The Carnegie Corporation of New York has said, “We know that when families are engaged in their children’s learning, students succeed,” and I would wager that almost every educator has heard the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Educators are familiar with this proverb because they play an integral role in the “village” and educators know that family engagement is a key. Tell an educator that a key to their success is relationships with the community and many will probably say, “Obviously, and… what’s your point? So are the lesson plans I have due, the papers I have to grade, and the progress report notes I need to write.” We know family and community relationships are essential, yet when do we make time to build them and how do we go about doing so?

If you find yourself wondering when you can fit in building relationships with your community, I would offer one idea to remember and one question. Remember: A village is a group of people; YOU are not the village, but one member of it. Question: Are you trying to go at it alone or are you currently involving others in various aspects of your job? Many times I find that when we (educators) wonder where relationships with families and community members will fit, it is because we are trying to do everything ourselves and forget that relationships are often built in the midst of doing the work together.

Before we dive into the strategies, here are two key ideas..

  1. Everything we do either contributes to a healthy relationship with others or detracts from a healthy relationship with others. Every action is either a relationship builder or a relationship breaker.
  2. For the purposes of this post, I define our “community” as:
    1. parents/guardians and families of our students
    2. our colleagues
    3. important stakeholders to the area surrounding our school

TASK 1: BUILD A COMMUNITY WITH THE PARENTS/GUARDIANS AND FAMILIES OF OUR STUDENTS

Make this chart and then sort the following ideas and strategies for building relationships with parents/guardians into one of the three columns.

**Note: This list is not comprehensive, nor should you attempt to do them all. The purpose of the task is for you to decide which strategies feel both feasible and align to the values in your classroom.

Parents & Guardians.png

  • Contact all parents/guardians for initial introductions and to open the lines of communication
  • Create a communication plan or tracker
  • Home visits
    • These offer a more casual setting
    • Possibly bring a treat
    • Can be to share positive news with families or for students who need some extra motivation to make better choices
  • “Bring a Family Member or Mentor to School” Day/Week
    • They can visit and see a day in the life of their student (or one class period)
    • Older students — family members or mentors can assist with clubs or group activities
    • Younger students — family members or mentors can be class readers or work as center or lab helpers
    • All ages — family members or mentors can speak to classes about their career or an area of expertise
  • Data Check-Ins (keeping parents/guardians up-to-date on their student’s data)
    • Edcite makes this efficient by offering the parent report in Edcite Schools, which emails parents an assessment report with their child’s score and standards assessed. Without an Edcite Schools license, teachers can print an assignment Summary Report to send home to parents.
  • Weekly or bi-weekly progress reports
    • Behavior
    • Academic
  • Newsletters
    • Include class or student pictures (check with your school to determine if you need a media release form)
    • Include shout-outs to both students and families
  • Save contacts in your phone or in an app that allows you to send parents/guardians information in the moment

TASK 2: BUILD A COMMUNITY WITH OUR COLLEAGUES

Make this second chart and again, sort the following ideas and strategies into one of the three columns.

**Note: This list is not comprehensive, nor should you attempt to do them all. The purpose of the task is for you to decide which strategies feel both feasible and align to the values in your classroom.

Colleagues

  • Ask principal (and other school leaders) for advice, to observe, for feedback on how to strengthen your craft
  • Intentionally build a relationship with a mentor teacher OR if you have a lot of experience, intentionally seek out and build a relationship with a newer teacher
  • Invest in relationships with non-teaching staff — front office staff members, janitorial staff members, para-professionals
  • Observe other teachers
  • Help with or plan an event
    • BBQ
    • A team outing to a local venue
    • Happy hour

TASK 3: BUILD A COMMUNITY WITH STAKEHOLDERS IN THE SURROUNDING AREA

Make this third and final chart and sort the following ideas and strategies into one of the three columns.

**Note: This list is not comprehensive, nor should you attempt to do them all. The purpose of the task is for you to decide which strategies feel both feasible and align to the values in your classroom.

Stakeholders.png

  • Attend a local sporting event.
  • Join a kickball/volleyball/etc. league.
  • Attend a school board meeting.
  • Become a member of the local library.
  • Attend a local church service (possibly with your students)
  • Find out who the key decision-makers and key stakeholders are for your community and
    • Meet with them
    • Meet with their assistants
  • Host a fair to connect families and local businesses
    • Older students — career fair
    • All students
      • clubs and community opportunities for young people
      • have the library come and speak about the programs and resources they offer
      • 4H clubs
      • Boys and Girls club
      • Big Brother, Big Sister

Perhaps you have, at times, felt like this…

grumpy cat meme.png

However, there are plenty of ideas and resources available to support you in this endeavor and even how-to guides. So, ask yourself, “What is stopping me from implementing the strategies in each ‘I have not done, but want to do’ column?” Then eliminate those barriers and make it happen! Why?

Because investing in a community of people will lead to a community of people investing in your students’ success.

Who How Why.png

Other Resources:

village.png


meghan thompsonMeghan Thompson joined Teach For America in 2008 and began her career in education as a 9th-12th Special Education Teacher in Charlotte, NC. In 2010, she was a member of the founding team at Henderson Collegiate (a school that has ranked in the top 3.5% of all NC public schools for the past 4 years). In 2014, she was a member of the founding team at Democracy Prep Baton Rouge and throughout her time at DPBR served as a middle school ELA teacher, middle school math teacher and the Middle School Campus Director.

 

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