By Earl Jones January 30th 2014 5:20 PM
One of the perks of my teaching career is that I get to travel for work. This travel doesn’t take me to other countries, or even other cities. Rather, my work takes me around my school community, visiting the families of my students.
There is no teacher who would deny that building personal relationships with students and families contributes to student achievement. Fortunately, my school, Bancroft Elementary, partners with the Flamboyan Foundation. Founded in 2006, the Flamboyan Foundation aims to increase educational outcomes of public school students by providing teachers with training, resources, and assistance related to family engagement. One key component of the partnership is that all teachers must conduct home visits. During the summer and fall months, teachers visit the homes of their students to initiate and strengthen relationships with parents.
As a participant in this program, it is truly enlightening for me to be able to talk with families and students during these home visits. I discuss the hopes and dreams of my students and expectations for the school year, such as classroom participation and homework. But, most importantly, I get to know families and students on a personal level.
Through these home visits, I’ve started to understand what influences the character of my students. Students have shown off their trophies and pets. Immigrant parents have told me stories from their childhood in their home countries. Families have even shared with me their hobbies and interests. Parents have also shared disheartening news such as past homelessness, divorce, family death, and illnesses that provide insight into a student’s emotional state.
Making this teacher-family connection allows students to feel a sense of security in the classroom, allowing them to take more risks when learning. It permits teachers to cater to students not just academically, but socially, mentally, and emotionally. It goes without saying that conducting these home visits has opened a three-way street among student, family, and teacher in my classroom.
Earl Jones is a fourth grade teacher at Bancroft Elementary School.