Working with Diverse Family Structures
The structure of the American family has never been so diverse: adoptive families, immigrant families, single parent households, blended families, families with stay at home fathers, families with grandparents as parents, and so on. No matter what the structure of the family, it is still the bedrock of American society. The care and support family members offer to one another is essential in the educational process of students in the family. Knowledgeable educators who are equipped with strategies for working with diverse family structures help students achieve. This week, we offer tips for working with diverse family structures.
This Week's Tips
Recognize and Validate Diversity in Classrooms (Monday)
Assess your beliefs about student achievement and family diversity. Do you believe that the brightest students are products of a certain type of household? What are your beliefs about students who lack after school supervision at home? How does your knowledge of a student’s home life affect your interaction and instruction? Answering these questions can help you understand how your own biases might affect your teaching. Just as we behave according to our beliefs, altered behavior is a product of awareness. Make yourself aware of and alter negative attitudes in order to promote high achievement for all students.
Reach Out to Parents/Caregivers (Tuesday)
Reach out to parents and caregivers through a strong program of communication. Use newsletters, conferences, email, notes, and telephone conversations to reach all types of families. Reaching out to parents and caregivers encourages their involvement in the student’s education. Parents and caregivers who perceive that a teacher values their contributions to their student’s education are more likely to be involved both at home and at school in the child’s education. Teachers who communicate student strengths and weaknesses, along with specific strategies parents can implement to strengthen each, are also more likely to foster parental involvement both at home and at school.
Emphasize the Real Meaning of Family (Wednesday)
Promote peer acceptance of diverse family structures by emphasizing that “family” means, as a child once said, “a group of people who love and care for one another.” It is important for students to feel accepted by the teacher and his/her classmates. Incorporate discussions of what families do for one another into classroom discussions stemming from literature, social studies, or current events. If and when instructionally appropriate, encourage classroom discussions/learning activities about the experiences of students’ families, your own diverse familial experiences, or lessons about the history of the American family. Raising awareness encourages understanding and validation.
Build a School Climate that Embraces Families (Thursday)
Collaborate with other educators and the school administration to build a school climate that involves and respects students’ families. Back to school nights, open houses, invitations to special events, awards assemblies, and progress assemblies are but a few of the ways parents can be invited into your school. Family involvement brings about improved teaching by generating a positive attitude among teachers and raising teacher self-esteem. Teachers feel respected by families who are involved. Improved teaching leads to greater academic achievement by students. Academic achievement and student success lead to a positive school climate.
Involve Family Members in Classroom Instruction (Friday)
Invite family members with expertise or special knowledge to contribute to classroom instruction. Family members or caregivers have unique talents, knowledge, and expertise either professionally or culturally. Survey families to determine what they have to offer the class, and when instructionally appropriate, invite them to present to the class. Inviting families to participate in instruction sends a message of validation and acceptance to the students and to the families.