Elizabeth Clarkson, Early Childhood Director, Colegio Menor Santiago de Guayaquil, Campus Samborandón, Ecuador
All schools committed to quality education will focus on including families in their school culture. As a new campus in Samborondón, we wanted to develop that relationship with families in an authentic way.
As a standard practice, most educators send home children’s work on a regular basis and write positive comments on report cards. We wanted to truly connect with families and show them we recognize and value their children for their specific qualities, talents, interests, or preferences. With this goal in mind, we developed the concept of “Family and Child Connections” in place of the generic comments teachers often fall into the trap of using with all children. These concepts and system of communications are specific and frequent, although not necessarily lengthy. As in any quality relationship, we always encourage families to share information with the teacher to allow us to feel uniquely connected to each child.
Family Connections include a piece of information, suggestion of an extension to a classroom activity, or prompt to help families learn about their child’s day from their child. For example, a teacher might email families “ask me about what happened in the Jack and Bean Stalk story” or “tell me about your science experiment with the bubbles ” and include a picture.
Child Connections are unique to each child and are shared in a variety of formats. A schedule is important to help teachers organize their time, but Child Connections should highlight or focus more spontaneous learning moments and teachers should be wary of trying to schedule them in advance. Several examples include:
** A five year old class was searching around the school for different types of plants. They planned to classify and then graph them. It was quite an unexpected surprise to find this frog sitting outside the front door on the door mat. The children were surprised, and some quickly lost interest. Others tried to get the frog to move by pushing it with their foot. Maria Paula stepped in and warned her friends to be careful with the frog, worrying the frog would be hurt and “run away” from the school. The teachers took the opportunity to talk about respect for all living things, one of Menor’s six Character Count values. The teacher shared the experience with Maria Paula’s mother during pick up and thanked the girl for her compassion. Smiling broadly, her mother said she was proud of the daughter’s active voice.
* In a 4 year old class, Maximillio was singing for his friends. When asked about it. he wanted to talk with the whole group about his “favorite singer,” Andrea Bocelli, the Italian opera singer. The teachers wrote a note to his family, telling them about Max’s impromptu concert at school and his clear passion for the singer. The mother shared that Max and his grandfather have been singing together since Max was a baby.
* In a three year old class, the teacher was learning to play guitar and often used the instrument during morning meeting. Luciana seemed particularly fascinated with its sound and strings. When the teacher shared Luciana’s intense focus, her parents encouraged the interest at home. After several weeks, Luciana’s father shared the picture below and says his daughter sits on the bed at home and sings all the songs she learns from school. Luciana also brings the guitar to school to play alongside her teacher.
We will continue to develop and refine this concept of family partnership, and are greatly encouraged with the feedback from families in our first year. As one family wrote in an email… “I see how much he “[Nico] loves his school. You make me feel like I get to share it with him.”