One of the most challenging things about teaching in early childhood education surprisingly has nothing to do with children. Building an effective & secure bridge of trust, communication, and deep understanding between teachers and families really requires a lot of willingness and acceptance. This is often quite the task. Take for example, when a child chases and tries to catch a butterfly in the park. It’s beautiful & elusive, and the child has the best intentions. It’s really an admirable feat when it is captured.
Teaching young children demands a well-oiled machine made of multiple parts – the relationship between families and educators is an essential one. Many times, parents or caregivers feel it’s “them” versus “us.” That we, who spend most of the day with their children can dismantle cultural and familial foundations with academic or so-called “Americanized” intrusion is a common feeling in ethnically-diverse communities like many in the Bronx. I am very aware of subtractive schooling because my parents battled against it themselves to keep our identity alive in me. Instead, progressive educators seek to collaborate with parents and caregivers by utilizing the unique and singular lives of the family to form a healthy and fruitful fusion of traditions, practices, and beliefs. The goal is to use funds of knowledge and familial identities to inform curriculum which will propel the child’s learning by making it personal, meaningful, and allowing content to make sense.
Early in the school year, it is important to remind parents and caregivers as to why they are integral parts of their children’s school experiences and why being present and involved is so influential. It is also necessary to clearly relay how their involvement offers support to both their child and the teacher. As the year unfolds, giving parents and caregivers concrete information about why and how they may extend some practices begun in the classroom, can offer cohesive and consistent messages to scaffold appropriate development and learning. For instance, having children help around the house just as they do in the classroom, having them follow a routine at home, and leaving behind things like bottles or pacifiers as they grow.
As educators, we often forget that families do not know us and are yet entrusting their most precious, most delicate family members to us— we know we’re reliable, trustworthy professionals— but do they? It is part of our job to make parents and caregivers feel sure that authorizing us to take care of their children and facilitating their exploration of the world is the absolute best decision. Our demeanor and our environment should connote an undeniable nurturing that families will want for their children’s educative experiences. Just as we provide appropriate materials and content to meet our children where they are in their development, we must also get to know families to attempt to meet some of their needs and help fulfill their goals for their children. Throughout the year, our lessons and our specific educational goals should be inspired by the children we serve but also by their families— seamlessly interlacing familial and cultural characteristics that will effortlessly demonstrate the value we place on them.
We should offer ways to communicate that are accessible for everyone— it’s a relationship we need to make work. We can use phone conversations, notebooks, email, face-to-face conferences, newsletters, workshops, whatever means necessary to make sure we’re on the same page. It all starts with a clear conversation to allay fears and establish goals and expectations for everyone. Letting parents and caregivers know that you want the best for their children just as much as they do is powerful. It is also a big ice breaker. To know that a professional is dedicating time and thought into educating your child in achieving their optimal potential is a great starting point. In early childhood education— the saying, “it takes a village,” has never been truer.