Program Standard 5
5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being.
5.1 Element – Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport
5.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher-student interactions are friendly and demonstrate general caring and respect. Such interactions are appropriate to the age and cultures of the students. Students exhibit respect for the teacher.
During the completion of my coursework for EDU 6942, I learned the depth and intricacy of how teachers can foster and manage a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students. For students to feel comfortable and fully included in any classroom setting, teachers must create an atmosphere of caring that establishes strong relationships with students and with their families. Teachers must take into account the physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being of each and every student and that cannot happen without the support of those children’s families. The basis of this practice is establishing a good rapport with families through constant outreach. Students are much more likely to have their academic needs met when their physical and emotional needs are addressed first. Students need to know that they have a network of caring adults in their lives and that their teachers and families are working in tandem to provide that to them. Epstein (2010) asserted, “With frequent interactions between schools, families, and communities, more students are more likely to receive common messages from various people about the importance of school, of working hard, of thinking creatively, of helping one another, and of staying in school” (p. 82). Although these connections are essential to student success, developing strong relationships with families will take effort.
While reading articles on the importance of integrating students’ home lives into their school lives, I learned of all the different elements that need to be present to create effective and open communication. Outlined in the three artifacts attached is my synthesis and analysis of the reading on this topic which was posted to a discussion board with my peers. In this unit of study, I learned that the most crucial element in developing communication is respect. This does not just mean respecting the opinions of students’ family members but also recognizing and appreciating all the different ways that they contribute to their child’s education. Henderson and Mapp (2002) stated, “When school staff engage in caring and trusting relationships with parents that recognize parents as partners in the educational development of children, these relationships enhance parents’ desire to be involved and influence how they participate in their children’s educational development” (p. 45). These authors pointed out that sometimes parents and teachers perceive differing levels of family involvement in a child’s education because there is a breakdown in communication (p. 49). If teachers do not directly see families participating in their child’s education, they can mistakenly assume that the involvement is low. However, many families contribute to their child’s education in a variety of ways that should be recognized and celebrated. Once teachers open up productive communication, the relationship between students’ home and school lives can strengthen.
Establishing a strong connection with families is fundamental for a teacher’s success. During my classroom observation, I witnessed the importance of developing open communication with parents. There was one student in this classroom that was going through significant turmoil at home and it was impacting his ability to focus on academics. Ellerbrock, Abbas, Dicicco, Denmon, Sabella, and Hart (2015) stressed, “When students face challenges outside of school that interfere with their ability to focus on academics, a caring classroom community can provide emotional support and help students focus in the classroom” (p. 49). This student was experiencing high levels of stress which was impacting his physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being. The teacher I volunteered with, explained to me that she was working with this student’s parents to help him succeed and deal with his stress. She was only able to collaborate with these parents because of the rapport that was established early on in the school year. She frequently called home throughout the year not only to report on difficult situations but also to inform his parents of everyday achievements. This teacher informed me that it is essential for teachers to take the time to celebrate students’ accomplishments, no matter how small, with their parents or family members. Without this level of dedication and cooperation, this student would not have received the same level of multilayered, coordinated support in both his home and school life.
Witnessing this intersection of school and home and the impact it had on this student demonstrated to me the importance of developing strong relationships with families. The articles that I read during my coursework provided me with strategies going forward but ultimately I will have to learn through experiences with actual families. This practice will take hard work and determination but will always start from a place of respect and recognition. I will strive to open up communication with families so that I will be able to understand all of the diverse and unique ways in which they support their child’s education. Once a good rapport is established, I can constantly work to cooperate with families to ensure their child’s success and well-being.