By Thomas G. Lengel, Head of School
One plus one equals. . .three. That is not some kind of “new math” equation intended to confuse parents. It is, however, a recipe for success at Holy Child School at Rosemont and at all schools, and it is a recipe worth remembering as we launch a new school year.
When parents (one) plus school (one) work together, the sum is far more than “two.” At Holy Child, we have a long and successful track record of cooperation and mutual support between home and school. As a result, we also have a long and successful track record of graduating self-confident and high-achieving children. One is a function of the other; the home-school partnership is vital to a child’s growth and development and leads to the end product.
The synergy that results when home and school are in sync – like the beautiful music that is produced when an orchestra plays flawlessly – is wonderful to behold.
That synergy does not happen by accident, however, and it begins with mutual trust. At Holy Child, the Goals and Criteria of Holy Child Schools are a set of shared values and beliefs that help define our relationship with one another. At the core of these Goals is mutual respect and honesty. That trust manifests itself in both subtle and significant ways over the course of a school year.
For example, in early fall, once teachers in Early Childhood and Lower School have conducted their baseline reading assessments of each child, they share those results at the first parent-teacher conference. The results sometimes warrant an action plan that might ask parents to do extra practice of decoding skills at home, or it might include a referral to the reading specialist. In some cases, it might even result in a recommendation for a full psycho-educational evaluation so that we can pinpoint a child’s learning strengths and weaknesses and differentiate our curriculum accordingly, as best as possible. As children grow into adolescence, it is particularly important that parents and teachers work together to support the socio-emotional development of our children, and to involve the child in decisions and action steps.
What are some effective methods to establish a Home-School Partnership?
- Communicate Openly:
Children benefit when home and school work together and while that may seem obvious, I have seen more than a few parents in my career try to “hide” their child’s academic or social/emotional issues from the school, and doing so is always detrimental to their son or daughter. For example: having a child tutored outside of school and not informing the school, out of some misguided fear that the school will “counsel my child out if they know s/he can’t keep up.” Why not have honest and open communication with the school, so that the teacher and tutor can coordinate efforts in support of the child?
- Listen Actively:
Another fundamental value at the core of an effective home-school partnership is active listening. I truly believe that we don’t improve as a School if we don’t receive constructive criticism of our program and curriculum from our parents and families. And I promise all families that we will communicate honestly with them about their child’s development, even when that includes hard conversations about areas for growth. In turn, parents need to trust us and listen actively to our feedback about their child, even when/especially when they may not like what we have to tell them.
- Recognize our Mutual Commitment:
Many times in my career I have requested to meet with parents and their child’s teacher to discuss academic, social, or behavioral concerns we may have. At the beginning of such meetings, I often state that “we all want what is best for the child about whom we are meeting.” With that mutual commitment at our core, I can count on one hand the number of such meetings that did not succeed in establishing an effective plan to support the child. We may have disagreed in the course of the meeting on specific action steps, or their timing or sequence, but it is a beautiful thing when several adults – sometimes including outside therapists, or educational psychologists, in addition to the parents and school staff – listen thoughtfully to each other, and trust that we all want to help the child succeed.
So as we begin another school year at Holy Child, we once again look forward to working with our parents. Parents know their child better than we do, and we are – by definition – more objective about his or her strengths and abilities. These are not self-cancelling propositions, but complementary ones.
We could not educate each child to their fullest potential without the parents’ support and trust in our ability to do so, and we rely on their continued support and cooperation throughout the year so that we create that synergy of “one plus one equaling three.” When we do so, the child is the clear beneficiary.