Jane Winter – Professional Development Leader at CIEC (University of York) and Schools Advisory Teacher
Research suggests that involving families in children’s learning can have a positive effect on long term outcomes.
However, the relationship between school and home does not always go smoothly. There can be stress and anxiety on both sides as teachers feel that there are unattainable pressures put on them from parents who can be worried that their child is not reaching their full potential. Moreover, not all parents have positive memories of either school or teachers; it is no wonder sometimes that they are keen to protect their own child from the difficulties that they faced.
Consequently, when I first started teaching I dreaded meetings with parents and kept interactions to a minimum. Over time, however, I learned that the more I interacted with families, discussed their children’s progress and involved them in learning activities both in and out of school, the less I was confronted with worried and disappointed parents.
Instead, as mutual trust grew, I began to see working with families as one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.
Sometimes I felt that the impact for individual children was immediate and tangible. For example, there was one dad who was obviously nervous whenever he came in to school and clearly expected his son to enjoy education as little as he had.
A turning point was a hands on science event which I persuaded him to attend with his son. He might not have many formal qualifications, but during that evening he helped his son make a fantastic marble run that was the envy of many other families! Moments like this have the potential to raise self-esteem, build relationships and transform expectations and outcomes. From that time, as he realised that we were focussing on what he and his son could do rather than making negative judgements about them, he began to show a real pride in his son’s progress and obviously enjoyed coming in to school to celebrate his success.
For my part I realised that organising family science challenges and science evenings was not as difficult as I had thought that it would be, and the benefits to children, families and teachers definitely made them worthwhile.
In November, I will be running two sessions on a CPD activity at the National STEM Learning Centre in York – Supporting SEN pupils in the primary STEM subjects.
I look forward to working with course participants to think about manageable and worthwhile ways that they can work with families in their own schools, as well as demonstrating ways of working with teaching assistants.