Family-school-community partnerships

Family-school-community partnerships are a shared responsibility and reciprocal process by which schools and other community agencies and organizations engage families in meaningful and culturally appropriate ways, and families take initiative to actively support their children’s development and learning. Partnerships are essential for helping students achieve at their maximum potential, and greater efforts need to be made to actualize and support such collaborative efforts.
These could include:
· Annual school fairs, to bring school and community together, showcase school and students, honour strong school supporters, and establish partnerships with local businesses, organizations, institutions, leaders and influencers. Such fairs should also bring wrap-around services for the school community, along with fun and entertainment.
· Wrap-around services should be a cornerstone of school-community relationships, with the school being used as a venue for the community to access resources and services that are not available locally. Such services could be sourced through Government, professionals, organizations and businesses, and be assisted by local organizations and PTAs.
· Parents’/Community/Family Evenings in which parents and the community are invited to spend time with school staff and their children in understanding curricula, viewing exhibitions of their children’s work and innovations, listening to students perform, participating in related activities, and exploring ways of collaboration and cooperation.
· Parenting classes offered by schools. Parenting education promotes the use of positive parenting practices, such as using positive language, planned discipline, and family routines. It also encourages nurturing behaviour and increases parents’ knowledge of child development and communication styles. Such classes enable parents to be better informed and more involved in their children’s education, and positively impact the overall education dynamic in schools.
· Parents’ conference at the end of each term, whereby parents go to the schools to discuss their children’s grades, overall performances, needs, and strategise to foster students’ overall school life. This is also when parents would receive their children’s report cards.
· An outdoor reading garden. Students and the community can construct such a space, which could include flowering plants (and planting of trees, if space allows) and rocks; a seating arrangement or alcove, possibly under a shade; and a wall with artwork done by students and community members. Classes can be time-tabled to use this garden periodically, as is possible.
· The Big Brother/Big Sister institution. There are so many benefits to this, including many that have been outlined as goals of the 1000 Men mechanism launched by Preside Irfaan Ali.
· School visits/talks by members of the community and further afield. This takes many forms: career days, motivational talks, rap sessions (which take various forms, such as role plays, how-tos, simulations, focus groups, and so on, especially by entertainers and influencers) and achievers sharing their experiences, especially the challenges and how these were overcome. Lived experiences are a powerful motivator.
The education process has students at the crux, but there are also certain mechanisms that should be built into the education dynamic. One such is a students’ council. Student councils offer numerous and obvious benefits, including fostering activism, advocacy, and leadership among students. As well, they can be involved in representing students’ views to the administration, fostering students’ rights, making suggestions for better student life, and organise for student initiatives such as a monthly student newspaper, field trips, cultural observances such as Eid or Diwali, and entertainment initiatives such as the whole school Christmas Party.
Another is the involvement of students in the behaviour modification process via a monitor system and peer mediation.
As well, an after-school homework centre would help those students who struggle with homework, which can happen for a variety of reasons. Such a centre can also be involved in remediation and reinforcement.
In terms of the classroom, teachers can set up the “buddy system”, so students who are absent can reach out to their buddies to know what homework was given and what lessons were taught, as well as to get information and any handouts provided during instructions, as well as anything else they would need to know. Cell phones now make reaching out easy.
(Guest Editorial from CaribVoice)