Parents in the Classroom Part One

Today was a great day at school as I had my first parents in the classroom event. During my three social science periods I invited parents to stop by and take part in the activities I had planned for the class. On average I had about 50% of the parents in each class show up which was higher than I had originally anticipated. The class periods were only 45 minutes long, so it really flew by and was over before I knew it. While parents were there they sat with their child as well as a another student and worked on a couple of Ancient Egyptian “games” that reinforced some of the content we had been discussing lately.

I had a mix of moms and dads and in some cases both parents came in. As the parents were working with the kids, I roamed around and mostly observed the activity in the room. The best part of what I was seeing was the interaction between the parents and their kids. Now, I know these types of interactions happen at home and probably in numerous other places, but this was in the student’s school. How often does this happen? I even had one mom lean over and tell me, “I didn’t plan on learning anything new today…boy I was wrong.” It really was a great morning for all of us involved.

A few of my colleagues asked me why I did this and some with raised eyebrows and skeptical looks.  For me, there were a few reasons why I decided to do it and plan on doing it again.
  • The simple presence of a parent in the classroom shows a child that their parent values the work they are doing in the classroom.
  • Watching a child work with their parent tells me a great deal of the type of relationship they have and helps me learn that much more about my students as people.
  • Events such as this help create and nurture positive parent-teacher relationships that will always help in the long run.
  • It opens me up as a teacher and shows parents they do have a place in my classroom and I do value their involvement.
  • This allowed parents the golden opportunity to embarrass their child just by being in the same room as them and their friends in a middle school!
  • It gave parents a chance to learn with their child in a way they might not have had in a long time.
  • Finally, if I am going to say I value parent’s involvement in their child’s education, I have to back it up and this is just one small step towards doing that.

I highly encourage every teacher to look for ways to include parents in their class and even open the doors and let them in. You might need to set parameters that these days are not a time to discuss their child’s progress, but don’t hesitate to bring them in. Parents are truly an important part of a child’s education and simply saying that is not enough. If we don’t open the doors and let them in and provide them the opportunities to join, we are just talking and that never helps anyone. After the parents left, I sent an email asking for some feedback and here are just a few of the comments I received:

“It's always nice to see the kids in school and get to see how they interact at school and with friends.”
 “Time flies when you're having fun!”
“Junior High is a new environment for my children so it was good for them to realize parents involvement in their educational classroom setting continues beyond the elementary level.”
 “It would be wonderful to be able to participate again, and as a parent , I truly see the value of such an experience.”
“Thank you so much for the opportunity to be a part of your class!”
"Sometimes it feels like parents are intentionally kept out of the classroom/school building - what a treat to get to be included in that today."

16 comments:

Sara said...

Kudos to you for including parents during the school day and sharing about it. I agree with you that it is so important we back up our claim that we value parental involvement. Inviting parents into the classroom truly allows them to see the learning environment and the learning process. To me, this takes teaching transparently to a whole new level when parents are directly involved.
I would love to know more about what the parents and students were working on today. What was the parent's role? Learner? Volunteer? Collaborator?
Thank you for continuing to share your philosophy through practical examples.

- Sara
@ICETeacherSara

Anonymous said...

Our district has: WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students)

h mathews said...

LOVE this!!!

Valerie Harris -5463 said...

What an great idea to involve the parents in such a wonderful interaction IN the classroom. Keep up the great ideas!

Kristen Beck said...

Josh,
As usual you write something that is exactly what I need at the time. I have been battling parents this week about my student driven classroom practices. They are actually complaining because I am not lecturing and giving kids a step by step process to solving math problems. So, you write this, and I work this weekend to create a plan for inviting the parents in. I really appreciate how you openly share what is going on in your classroom! I'll be sharing this with my principal also.
Thanks,
Kristen Beck
@teachteKBeck

Laurie A. Couture said...

Josh,

I commend you for going outside the box and this is certainly a great project at subverting the system. However, it is still playing with the system. Having parents come in for one day while children work in groups is not a drop in the bucket towards freedom compared to unschooling or democratic schooling such that occurs at Sudbury Valley School. Children need to be in full control of their learning and learning should not be separated from their lives. Children need to BE with their parents, not have them stop by for a little while one day. My son is 17 and has never been "embarrassed" by me. He and his friends think nothing of hugging their parents and saying I Love You to them in front of each other. Josh, the school system is set up to oppress youth and keep them boxed up in a building doing things a teacher tells them to do or must "approve". That can't ever substitute for the freedom of unbounded living and learning when children are out in the community, learning based on their own interests. I admit that I have not looked into your bio prior to asking this question, and I apologize for that. Have you considered starting or working in a democratic school? What about helping Lisa Nielsen get some public funding to create unschoolish learning centers in communities as alternatives to school? Your passion is so needed in those types of efforts to get kids OUT of schools and INTO the communities and into something other than chairs, school paperwork and consumerism, pop culture, media and TV...

-Laurie A. Couture

Josh Stumpenhorst said...

Laurie,

Thanks for taking the time and reading this post. You again make generalizations about parents. First, not all parents have an interest in home schooling their children. There are a whole host of reasons, but the reality is they don't and there is nothing wrong with that. Second, some parents simply can't stay home and school their children. For example, even if I wanted to home school, I need to work and provide for my family. I respect parents need to work and provide for their families. This is why I treat the students in my class as my own children.

While you think I am simply working within a broken system, I know I will never change your mind nor will I continue to try. No, I will not leave the "system" because if I do, who is left? How can I selfishly give my own children a good education at home and ignore those in my school? If all the so-called good teachers leave, who is left with the children? I will stay and do the best I can do every single day and include parents in any way possible and make learning great for every kid that walks through the doors of our classroom.

Terri-Lewis said...

"Family participation in education was twice as predictive of students’ academic success as family socioeconomic status. Some of the more intensive programs had effects that were 10 times greater than other factors" This is a quote from :http://www.michigan.gov/documents/Final_Parent_Involvement_Fact_Sheet_14732_7.pdf

I support all parental involvment, volunteering, booster clubs, etc. When a student sees their parent is interested in their education, research has shown that are much more likely to succeed in school. As students grow older, it seems parental interest is not as high. I can not remember the last time a teacher has asked parents to spend time in the classroom. In early grades, parents are asked to come and read to children. But, parental involvement actually in the classroom ends in the early elementary years. Junior highs usually offer a night activity to meet teachers and learn about curriculum, but they usually do not offer any time in the classroom with their children. I believe my 13 year old would like me in the classroom. I believe as a parent I would have a better understanding of what my child was learning and the new learning enviroments of a eighth grade classroom. Participating in any level of school activities shows children that their parents are interested in their education. We live in such a busy lifestyle, we need to catch are breath and remember how important it is to our children that we are involved and do care. Thanks for the reminder.

Chad C said...

Having parents in the classroom during the school day might be beneficial in elementary school and early on in junior high, but I do not think it would be a good idea for teachers that work in high school. I usually agree with your blogs, but I kind of have to disagree with this one. I work with a lot of students with special needs who have over bearing parents. I feel like the parents would be critiquing my every move, or that their child would act differently. Students might also act differently in class when their parents are there. For example a student who is very opinionated and talks a lot might be quiet and not participate when their parent is in the room. I think that parents can show involvement in their child’s education by regular communicating with teachers, attending curriculum nights and parent teacher conferences, and supporting their child at home with school work on a nightly basis. Overall I think it might put more pressure on both the teacher and student. Thanks for the blog.

The Doctor's Fez said...

I believe that parents should be included in their children's education to the maximum extent possible; however, I just think that there are too many variables to account for in such a situation. I keep thinking of overbearing parents undermining the teacher, or kids acting out from frustration or embarassment that their parents are absent. I know that you successfully pulled this off, and I commend you for doing so, but I do not think that many teachers/parents would be able to handle the situation in a way that benefits the students most. Call me a cynic if you like, but I just keep thinking that there is more to lose here than to gain. So many things can go wrong with parents in the classroom during teaching time. But, in the end, I most definitely applaud you for doing this and succeeding as well.

King R said...

This is a very brave idea. Inviting parents into the classroom truly lets them participate in student learning environment and learning process. Like other postings, I too would like to know the parents role in the classroom. This is an idea that could revolutionize parent-teacher conference. I welcome the idea.

Steph said...

Although I think that there are many benefits to having parents in the classroom, I must say that in many districts (especially those with higher percentages of low income households) I do not think it would be as realistic to have so much parent participation. I know that in the district I work in, a few teachers have reached out to parents several times and received maybe one or two responses of parents actually available and interested to come in. So, I guess I just question how to get parents more involved if they either work full time and are not able to take time off to come into the classroom or if you just have several parents who do not seem too interested or just do not respond to invites. I definitely see the advantages of having parents in the classroom to interact with their kids, I just don't know if it is always a realistic opportunity for many parents.

Anthony Ndoca said...

I agree that it would be nice to have our students’ parents be a part of the classroom. However, I disagree with having parents in the classroom for one specific reason. Working in (and attending) a high poverty school, has taught me that administrators, led by guidelines and mandates from the state, are widening the gap between the students that have parents that take an active role in their students academic life, and those who do not. Although I can make a case for “Parents in the Classroom” being advantageous for our students, I feel as though having parents in the classroom does more harm to the students that don’t have a family member that can attend school for a day. Some effects on the classroom dynamic from my own perspective would be jealousy, and eventually, anger from some students. Additionally, because not all kids are kind to less fortunate students, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be made fun of in class because my mother couldn’t come to “Parents in the Classroom” because she is in jail, or because my father hasn’t been around since I was born. With that said, because I love the idea, I would be interested to know how you would tackle these proposed issues.

Jamie said...

I do like hearing about positive parental involvement. However, I believe that sometimes when parents come in it disrupts the students' day, especially students with developmental disabilities. I work with students with autism and almost every time a parent comes into the classroom, the student has a meltdown. They usually think that since their mom or dad is there, it must be time to go home. Or they become so distracted that they are unable to complete the work that is required of them at that time. I suppose students without disabilities or those who are higher functioning would not have these difficulties.

Erin J said...

Bringing parent’s into the classroom is a wonderful idea! It is too often that students go home and parents ask “What did you learn in school today?” And as well all know the students reply with “Nothing” Now we all know this is not true, and the parents know this is not true, however this does not stop parents from getting frustrated at not knowing what their child is actually doing for those six hours in school. By giving parents the opportunity to come in to their child’s classroom and experience what they are learning, it gives them a window into what their child is doing each and every day.
In addition, bringing parents into the school also gives student’s the opportunity to show off how much they have learned/achieved and allows them to show off their classroom, friends, and teacher to their parents. Children feel proud to have their parents in their classroom and be able to share their school life with them.
One of your reasons for inviting parents into the classroom was so that you could see the relationship between the parents and the student’s and get to know those individual students better. I had never thought about how observing a parent/child relationship could give more information on a child’s personality, thoughts, behavior etc… I thought inviting the parents in the classroom was a great idea, and it will be one that I will use myself when I enter into teaching.

LetUsThink said...

Parental involvement in the classroom is always a good idea. At the very worst, it needs to be well organized and coordinated to achieve whatever goals you are setting. I deeply lament that there is not more parental involvement in schools, but that is due to a very strange duplicity on behalf of school districts. They want you involved when it comes to fundraisers and money-generators, but they do not want parents in the classroom. Some poor educators hide under this aegis of mixed messages. They know that while they can count on the parents to give them treats, toys, and expensive tools for the classroom, they can deny the same parents access and direct involvement in the classroom.

There's such an extensive list of reasons why parental involvement is critical, points which according to the National Board of Education range from reduced susceptibility to alcohol and drugs, to an improvement in school performance, work habits, classroom participation, social interactions and overall improved comfort in the school setting. Children whose parents visit the classroom have the best test scores and the lowest instances of absences. They are also graduating and going to better schools, and going the farthest in their education. These are facts that we should all consider when debating whether or not we will be involved with our children's classroom.

Kudos to this teacher. Well done.