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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What Do Parents Want With Regard to a Good Education?

As I assess this year's efforts and think about next year's efforts, I am thinking about what parents want when it comes to their child's education. I've come up with the list below, let me know if there's anything you would add, modify, or delete.

Happy, Engaged Children
Parents want education programs to be the kind that children are engaged with and enthusiastic about. Parents don't want their children to dread school, but instead be excited about going to school. To create school programs like this, educators have to look for ways to welcome all children in ways that make children feel like they belong in meaningful and authentic ways. Further educators have to know their students well so that they can design programs that meet students interests, passions, and needs.

Basic Skills and Knowledge Development
Parents want their children to learn essential skills such as reading, writing, math, social studies, and science. Parents expect that their children will learn to read well, write well, and problem solve with mathematics well. Parents expect to see good growth in these areas each year.

 Standardized Test Success
If your system has standardized tests, parents expect their children to demonstrate good growth on those tests.

Friendships
Parents expect that their children will make good friends at school.

Learning Community
Most parents expect that both they and their children will experience a dynamic learning community when they think of the school their children will attend.

As I think of the expectations above, I realize that there are some goals that teachers have and some parents also have, goals like the following:

Creative, Project/Problem-Based Learning
Educators know that students are elevated when they engage in creative project/problem-based learning, the kind of learning that encourages students to reach with creativity, collaboration, communication, contribution, and critical thinking skills.

Teamwork
Educators know that future-ready students will be students who know how to work well as part of a team. This is an area that many parents value too.

Social Competency and Emotional Intelligence
There is a growing awareness about the value of social emotional learning (SEL) in schools. Educators and most families recognize that children who demonstrate good social emotional skills and understanding generally succeed with greater happiness and success.

Physical Health
Educators and most families understand that physical health is very important. Children who are healthy learn better and are generally happier. It's important for educators and parents to work together to promote learning environments that promote physical health in every way possible. That may mean that we have to replace some old ways for new, healthier ways to develop positive learning communities.

Inspiring Experiential Learning
Most educators and families recognize the value that inspiring learning events have with regard to students' learning investment and results. When students have the chance to experience wonderful field studies, visiting experts, and rich cultural events, their world view is broadened and their dreams enriched. Often it's these wonderful learning experiences that inspire a child's future learning and study.

As I think more specifically about all the points above, I am thinking about how my team and I will continue to embed and enrich these attributes into our teaching/learning environment.

Happy, Engaged Children
Generally we reach this goal by staying in constant contact with families and students. We ask students what do you want, need, and desire, and respond to their answers. We observe students carefully and do what we can to promote happiness and engagement. We create classrooms that are comfortable and welcoming. We work with families to help students reach happiness and engagement when that's not happening.

Basic Skills and Knowledge Development
In many ways the primary focus of our program is basic skill development and knowledge development. Daily students read, write, and learn math. They also study a large number of social studies and science units. Our program is guided by state standards, and our goal is student mastery with regard to those standards. There are many assessment points, and lots of variety with regard to the way we teach these skills and knowledge.

Standardized Test Success
By teaching all the standards, we prepare students for standardized test success. We use the tests each year, in part, to assess our teaching and our program and tweak the program to help students succeed more with regard to the tests. While not all children reach proficiency at elementary school in our system, all but a few do reach mastery by high school. I think the fact that our system pays attention to a more holistic program keeps students engaged and invested, so that students stay in school and continue to develop towards wonderful achievement for all by high school. I also acknowledge that I work in a system that enjoys considerable privilege which definitely contributes to this success.

Friendships/Teamwork/SEL
We have many programs in place to support friendship building, and work to help students in this regard. Our efforts with regard to teamwork and SEL contribute to this. While I believe we have wonderful programs in this regard, this is an area I'd like to strengthen with regard to my own teaching by developing the lessons and efforts I embed into the standards based teaching to further develop students SEL, teamwork, and friendships.

Physical Health
We have a great playground with considerable recess. This is positive. We also have an engaging physical education program. Many students engage in after school sports and physical fitness activities too. One way we can further build this area of teaching/learning is to help students who don't have access to after school physical fitness activities to have that access. We could also possibly make greater use of the nearby pool by providing all students with swim lessons during the school year.

Inspiring Experiential Learning and Creative Project/Problem Based Learning
Students in our school enjoy multiple service learning, project/problem based learning, field study, expert visitor, and cultural enrichment events. One way we could improve our efforts in this regard is to take a holistic look at the experiential learning we offer and make sure that we are providing students with a rich kindergarten-to-fifth grade experience of varied events, visitors, and field studies. We live in an area that's rich with resources and it's in our students' best interests to take advantage of this.

I hope to use this post as a guide to next year's curriculum night for families. The more that families understand the explicit goals of the curriculum program, the better they are able to support and contribute to those goals. When parents and educators work together to reach meaningful student goals, the program develops with strength and success.