Working with a researcher from Partners in School Innovation, the teacher of one sixth-grade class at San Francisco’s James Lick Middle School took a very close look at what worked best in communicating with the families of her students. By interviewing every parent in depth, the two came up with a set of issues that routinely got in the way of such relations. Since then, teachers at Lick have begun to share with each other their own experiences with “best practices” in family relations: n Bill Scott’s students used a poem about a hardworking father as inspiration for thank-you notes to their own parents. “Three parents called me to thank me, and one kid said his mother started crying for joy,” he reports.
Jose Montano shows up at students’ homes to give positive feedback to their families, especially when he is concerned about a student. “Kids usually respond well and their work improves a great deal,” he says.
Students in another class write weekly letters to their parents including their descriptions of the week’s work, and “what I really learned a lot about,” “something I’m really proud of,” “how I think I can do better,” and “the way I think you can help me.” They ask the parent to write back about “what you would like to know more about my work in school,” or add other questions or comments, then records their answers to the questions “What do you understand now that is different from before?” and “Based on that understanding, what are you capable of doing now that is different from before?”
More complete materials on this and other Right Question Project workshops can be had from RQP at 218 Holland Street, Somerville, MA 02144; tel. (617) 628-4070 (617) 628-4070 .