The school at which I teach, an urban public middle school in the economically-challenged east San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, we are constantly looking for ways to increase student performance. One teacher presented an idea to the faculty of a practice she utilizes. It got me thinking, and the more I think, the more questions I have. The idea is this: the teacher (lets call her Ms. Smith) sets up a home visitation schedule
so that she visits each student’s home once per semester. Ms. Smith teaches sixth grade and has approximately 60 students (compared to 120+ for teachers who teach grades seven and eight).
Upon hearing this (not that I hadn’t thought about it), I wondered if I should do this. I still wonder. Here’s what’s going on in my head:
1. Is this possible for a teacher who has more than 60 students (teachers in K-5 have around 30 students)?
2. Will the language barrier (most of our students’ parents do not speak English well or at all) cancel out the potential benefits of the visits?
The process will take much time, and after all, times are scheduled for parent conferences and my door is always open for parents to come in.
4. Report cards sent home tell parents about student progress.
I have weighed this and go back and forth about the costs and benefits. I’m very curious to know how parents feel about this. Here are some of the results about thinking about the above:
1. Report cards are limited in what they can really say about a student.
2. Translation is possible by other family members, or by the student, or by bring along someone who speaks the necessary language.
3. The parents who show up to conference nights are usually the ones with whom we teachers have the least to discuss (i.e. their children are doing well and intervention talks are unnecessary).
4. Having more than 100 students would take up a
lot of time. If I taught elementary school, this would me more palatable. I think it’s a great idea, even for students who perform well (after all, praise is a good tool). I would love to know how parents feel about the idea. The parents I see regularly do not represent a true sample of parents in general, so asking them would be somewhat inconclusive. Ms. Smith swears by the practice, and I don’t see any true negatives other than time consumption on the part of the teacher. Our new superintendent endorses the idea, but the thought of going to 120 homes (once or twice a year) is overwhelming. What I do think is that parent conference dates and times should vary so that all parents have a chance to come to school. Our conference nights are always Thursdays from 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. This is limiting. Morning, afternoon and weekend (in addition to evening) conferences would seem to be a logical compromise. There is great debate about ownership and responsibility here (and who should do what), but one thing is clear to me: all stakeholders must participate in the education of a child, and there must be a way for those individuals to communicate, and communicate with frequency. Too much is stake not to.
Mr. Franklin has been teaching for the Los Angeles Unified School District for eleven years. He has won District and County Teacher of the Year awards, as well as the prestigious Bank of America Community Hero award. Before teaching, he spent five years at Learning Forum, which runs summer camps world-wide that increase student academic potential.
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