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Collaboration: More than Academics
Even as the theory that raising a child takes a village is frequently held up as one of the great truisms of the age, there is very little planning when it comes to actually making this idea work in real life. Parent and teacher partnerships, even at the preschool level, are known to be crucial. Daily communication, as could be the case with daily preschool reports, is perhaps the most successful form of collaborating.
That being said, many of these communications may focus on that which the student accomplished, or failed to finish in the classroom. In some cases, these daily briefings may include requests for assistance with study units, suggestions for at-home reading, and also a preview of the next chapters of the curriculum. Due to the heavy workload placed on some teachers with larger preschool sizes, the daily communication may be little more than a form letter with occasional personal notes jotted down.
Unfortunately, this does not appear to leave a lot of time for discussing character formation and the development of a strong moral fiber. As indicated by Dr. Reesa Sorin at James Cook University, parent teacher collaboration must encompass sufficient detail to help all involved to understand the child’s needs and experiences. Then one could use this information to draft an action plan to help shape the preschooler’s development as well as academic learning.
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Nuts and Bolts of a Deeper Parent Teacher Partnership
It may sound odd, but a child’s character development is an area where even angels may fear to tread, much less preschool teachers. A parent must show a readiness to receive input and a willingness to at least consider a preschool teacher’s observations with regard to the child’s character development. In her article on how to enhance parent-teacher collaboration, Debi Kellerer points out that approaching the teacher as a like-minded partner instead of a confrontational rabble-rouser worked for her in the middle school years of her son’s education. The same holds true for preschool parents as well.
Only if the preschool teacher is unafraid of sharing observations, praise and concern alike, can there truly be the kind of parent teacher collaboration with preschool children, parents, and other caregivers that is needed to positively influence a child’s character development. As a parent, this means becoming a visible helper in the school at large and the preschool classroom in particular. This interaction must be devoid of taking over or offering unsolicited advice, but should be marked by taking direction from the teacher and expressly supporting her role of authority.
Getting to know the teachers and children on this level may be an eye opening experience in its own right. Moreover, it helps grownups to gain a new appreciation of what children deal with on a daily basis. Be sure to verbalize expressly that you want to know about your child’s character: the good, the bad, and even the ugly. Explain what your vision is for your child’s character and be open about adverse character traits you are trying to correct at home. For example, share with the preschool teacher that your child has a hard time sharing his toys with his sister, but that he is wonderful helping his aged grandfather with finding things the senior may have misplaced in the home.
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Handling the Feedback
Even though children’s character formation and development sounds like a noble goal that any parent would and should thrive for, there are some pitfalls. For example, it is easy to make this request when your child is a perfect little angel, but it might be a bit more challenging when you are afraid of what you might be hearing about your little less than perfect child. Accept feedback, mull it over, and then see if it honestly applies.
Keep preschool teacher communications about the child’s character development private and do not share with your child what the teacher is telling you. Instead, approach the issue in a more roundabout manner by talking through specific situations in a hypothetical manner. Role-play scenarios and equip your child to alter his or her responses that might be contrary to the character development you desire. Do not punish the child for character traits except in cases of egregious behavior, such as hitting or destroying another child’s belongings on purpose. Instead use love, understanding, empathy and also positive reinforcement to shape the traits and channel behavior into becoming more acceptable.
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- Dr. Reesa Sorin: “Promoting Emotional Health and Wellbeing through Partnerships" -- http://www.aare.edu.au/02pap/sor02663.htm (accessed May 30, 2011)
- Debi Kellerer: “The Value of Parent-Teacher Collaboration" -- http://www.greatschools.net/LD/school-learning/the-value-of-parent-teacher-collaboration.gs?content=692 (accessed May 30, 2011)