There are three topics in chapters 5 and 6 of Beyond the Bake Sale that resonated with me. The first of these is bias. I have been involved in training for a new teacher effectiveness system and the instructional coaches, principal, and superintendent I work with have spent the better part of the last two days watching videos of teachers we don't know and calibrating their abilities within the classroom. Bias comes into play in each one of these videos as we "meet" the teachers and students in these videos for the first time. We know our own teachers and students and whether we'd like to admit it or not, we have bias regarding our own staff and teachers. We all can name the teachers and students that provide us with a positive mindset when we encounter them. And, unfortunately, we all can name the teachers and students that occasionally provide us with a negative mindset when we encounter them. The same can be true of families and our bias toward them, both good and bad. I recently read a blog post by Lori Desautels entitled Perspective: A Game Changer in the Classroom and in Our Lives that speaks to bias and how we might be able to change our thinking. Her three main points, in case you don't have time to read the entire post are as follows:
1. Recognize Triggers and Challenges
2. Show a Different View
3. Offer a Fresh Start
We must keep these points in mind, especially offering a fresh start. I do my best to provide a fresh start for all students, staff, and families each day. It isn't easy, but it can be done.
The second topic, found on page 115, is that "all families, no matter what their income, race, education, language, or culture, want their children to do well in school- and can make an important contribution to their children's learning." I think that we often lose sight of this, especially when families don't visit the school very often. But all families, whether we realize it or not, want what's best for their child. And they'll do anything they can to help make sure that they are successful. It's all about building relationships and learning how families and schools can support one another. I recently read a blog post by Jennifer Hogan that would be great to share with all of our staff and have them be honest in answering. The blog post, entitled How Would Your School or District Answer These 5 Questions About Relationships?, is a wonderful place to start this discussion.
The third topic, found on page 125, is that, "We can't go in with this single vision...of what parent involvement looks like or we miss the fact that all parents want to be involved. There just may be a different script for how they do it." We all have some families who are involved at school with everything and anything. They rarely say no to a request. We all have some families who are never involved at school because of a variety of factors- work schedule, their own school experiences, feeling that the school is asking for them but for someone else to be involved. And then there is everything in between. In our recent Voxer chats, we have heard the constant reminder of the variety of ways families can be involved. We must reach out, not just with an email, an updated website, a tweet, or a blog. We must meet them at the door, both before and after school, or pick up the phone and give them a call. It's difficult to say no to someone when they ask you in person.
So what does this post have to do with dealing with issues of race, class, and culture? Knowing your biases, building relationships, and involving families are the best ways of dealing with these issues. We must remember that our families give us their best children and are doing their best to support their children. We must do whatever we can to support our families in this venture. That's when this partnership will succeed.