Thursday, June 26, 2014

Get a Grip: We Need to Focus This Conversation about Including Parents

Marc’s latest post reinforces what I have been thinking: We need to focus our conversations about teaching and learning on—guess what?—teaching and learning, not on who’s in the CCSS club and who’s out.

One overlooked segment of the interested population is parents. I was reminded of this by a recent New York Times opinion piece entitled, “But I Want to Do Your Homework” by Judith Newman. Please read this piece at[%22RI%3A9%22%2C%22RI%3A17%22] You won’t be sorry. It’s not only amusing, it also makes an important point: Many parents want to participate in their children’s education, but they don’t know how.

Heaven knows, we educators could use their help, but for this to happen there are problems that need solving. Children both want their parents’ help, but they also fear that their parents don’t know the “right” way to help them. Parents, in turn, are often clueless about so-called newer approaches to learning. It’s no fun to learn that your understanding of math, science, and social studies is hopelessly out-of-date.

I remember when I was teaching seventh grade American history and the parents of one of my students came for a parent-teacher conference. I told them they were both doing very well in my course, but I wasn’t so sure about how their daughter was doing. They—competent professionals with graduate school degrees—were doing my assignments, even after a long, hard day at work. That’s dedication and caring, but it’s misguided. Instead, I suggested that they could have conversations about the content of what their daughter was learning and supplement it further, but not under any circumstances do the assignments for her because they were designed to stimulate their child’s thinking. That was why she was in school, right?

Enough about me. Someone else has already come up with a grand solution to this problem, and that person is Paula Rogovin. Her book, Why Can’t You Behave? The Teacher’s Guide to Creative Classroom Management, K-3, is one of the most sensible, down-to-earth guides for teachers ever written. It is not just for primary grade teachers either. Her chapter 4, “Family Involvement” has the information we need to move forward in this CCSS era. Among the many suggestions she offers is Family Homework. Here’s how she describes it:

This is our main vehicle for keeping families informed about our curriculum, about issues to discuss with their child, about class and school activities, and about ways they can help at home and in the classroom.

This is one promising idea. We need to include parents in their children’s education, not make them feel inadequate or give them the idea that the curriculum is mysteriously inaccessible and out-of-bounds for them.


  1. I love the idea of "Family Homework." One way to get everyone thinking about how we read nonfiction in different ways for different purposes is through this concept of homework. Over one week, the family could experience the same content in different ways, reading several piece alongside the student related to the curriculum unit. Explore content, invest authentic questions, and TALK to one another at the end of the day, instead of arguing over what is done/not done, and the "right' way to do it.

  2. Loved the NYT essay! Great points in your post, too, about parent involvement. As a librarian, I always advised reading aloud--good at any age, regardless of what the homework assignment is.