Yesterday, my colleague Aimee told you about Golden Apple, an organization working tirelessly to end Illinois’ teacher shortage. If you missed that story, be sure to check it out.
One thing that has stood out to me during this surreal year is the impact of strong relationships. Family, friends, community. It all makes a difference, especially when things have turned upside down.
Strong relationships are the foundation of Connection Conversations, a proactive family engagement program to jumpstart or strengthen the teacher-family partnership.
Connection Conversations happen like most meetings these days, virtually. But that face-to-face connection between teachers and families is invaluable. Teachers and families learn from one another to help form stronger relationships. Not only that, but meaningful family engagement helps accelerate student achievement.
Don’t take my word for it, take it from three amazing educators (and Stand Teacher Team Leaders) with experience in building these relationships with students and their families!
Desirae Ranberg: Building a relationship with a student and their family is more important than academics. You can’t get to the academics until you build the relationship first. There’s no downside or bad side to building relationships.
Caitlin Stone: As a preschool teacher, building these relationships allowed me to meet students’ parents and learn more about their home life. Fun things like meeting their pets, seeing their favorite toys, everything that makes up who they are. It’s fun to build community in that way and help build strong relationships to chart progress throughout the year. You can show families the growth their child has achieved. It’s exciting to tell them, “Your baby really grew this year and you were a big part of it!”
Yazmin White Mitchell: I work as a case manager in a grade school, helping connect students to the resources they might need to help them succeed in the classroom. Thanks to the power of strong relationships built with families, we were able to connect a child with speech therapy to help him overcome his reluctance with speaking. Because of those interventions, he is now more open to speaking and doing better with forming words and sounds. I consider that a celebration, because without that contact and relationship with the family, it would have taken longer to provide that baby with services.
There is nothing that can replace the bonds formed between families and teachers during these conversations. As the program grows, it’s our hope that more and more families and students will have those lasting connections, fostering greater trust and empathy between families and teachers. And with educators like Desirae, Caitlin, and Yazmin leading the way, there is no limit to the impact they can have.