Courtesy of Child Care Exchange
“For many of us who teach young children, abstract and well-intentioned discussions of ‘parent involvement’ have become commonplace. Yet many of us hold parents at a safe distance, not truly involving them in the life we share with the children in our programs; not building genuine partnerships with them. Too often, we construct boundaries around our classrooms — literally and metaphorically — that keep parents out, at least in any meaningful way.” This caution was raised by Ann Pelo in her article “From Borders to Bridges: Transforming our relationships with Parents,” from the Exchange Essential article collection,Communicating Effectively with Parents.
In this article, Pelo shares a variety of ways to create bridges, including having families and teachers in a classroom meet “to reflect on the values we hoped to nourish in the children and in ourselves, and on the ways in which we can begin to live those values in our classroom practices. We created a value statement together:
“We want children to feel rock-solid safe. We celebrate their uniqueness and want them to be affirmed in their individuality and encouraged to pursue their passions and interests and to cultivate their gifts. Hand-in-hand with this, we want children to experience community and relationship, to be at ease with a range of people, to embrace difference, and to deepen their compassion for others. We want there to be room for children’s emotions, for exuberant play, for conflict and collaborative problem solving, and for quiet introspection. We want the children to learn to act for fairness. We want children to see their lives reflected and affirmed in many ways, so that they develop a sense of their history as thinkers, players, and friends. We want children’s family bonds to be nurtured. We value transparency at Hilltop, so that there are many windows into children’s lives here and a sense of seamlessness between home and Hilltop.”
Pelo concluded, her article: “As we aim to create programs that deeply respect children, we must open ourselves to authentic partnership with their families, moving beyond trivial or superficial ‘parent involvement’ to genuine relationship. Our efforts to grow these relationships are efforts at bridge-building, so that children encounter many bridges that link home and child care, family life, and the life of our school communities.”