Back-to-School Night is the backdrop of our LearnForward conversation.  It’s the traditional time in each school year when parents and educators gather together to learn about how we will proceed.  The burning question on every parent’s mind is “How will you meet the needs of my child?”

Last week we began a conversation about climbing to the peaks of selfhood and belonging.

Each child is on an adventurous climb of ‘becoming.’  Selfhood is emerging.  Students are discovering what makes them tick as learners and as human beings.  LearnForward means the big people are providing handholds and supports along the way.

We’ll use the story of Back-to-School Night to help us illustrate.

  • First of all, we are ALL at the table of learning!  At Back-to-School night we literally all sat at the same tables for dinner.  In that metaphor, we can see how parents, educators, and students are all critical to a positive learning journey.  We’re in this together!  It’s an amazing discovery of each child’s strengths, personalities, learning styles, growth paths, and unique brilliance.
  • Communication makes a great climbing team!  Email addresses, phone numbers, and news are all exchanged.  The back-and-forth communication is essential and hopefully set in motion from the earliest days of the year.  Communication ensures we can support each other by reinforcing expectations.  We must create alignment from the start, a set of commonly held expectations.  At our Back-to-School Night I could see this necessity in vivid colours because our students attended the evening with their parents.  In every setting, students were checking to see if Mom or Dad were on the same page with teacher.  Children need to know that teachers and parents have the same expectations of them and will back each other up.

If connecting with your child’s teacher still hasn’t happened for you, it’s okay.  Keep reaching out.  With the big kids in high school, I prioritize the classes where they will need the most support or their most academically challenging classes.  I ensure I am connected via email.

  • Right from the start, teachers and parents can coach kids to reach for the next handhold of independence.  That is our job!  The initial experiences together in the school year provide opportunities to chat about this process.  Like my husband, The Builder, always says, “We all need to be on the same page.”  Parents, I want to reassure you with this idea of independence.  They need you.  They will always need you.  They need your love and support.  And with each new age and stage, that looks different.  We need to keep encouraging each other and our children to ‘reach’ for that next handhold of independence.
  • LearnForward communities actively work together to fashion a personalized learning roadmap.  Parents and educators each have unique observations and ideas about how to work with a particular student.  We must listen and set out on a commonly held path together, a set of goals or strategies helping us all pull together.  That might be as simple as understanding how to approach reading or as individualized as a set of goals for the term or year.  All of the adults need to have a working knowledge of how the program will be personalized for their child.  I know at our Back-toSchool Night goal-planning got started in many of our classrooms.  A great teacher is always trying to understand how to effectively personalize the learning for each student throughout the year.  It is a very organic under-taking with the parent.  We’re just getting started.
  • Aim for intrinsic motivation for learning.  We have to listen carefully to our students who are also at the table.  We need to know what makes them charged up about this climb to selfhood.  When we find that currency, we need to capitalize on it for the sake of growth and learning.  At Back-to-School Night, maybe you received a program of studies or found out about the curriculum for the new grade.  We can all mutually foster excitement about discovering new horizons and vantage points on our learning adventure this year!
  • Most importantly, be ‘crazy’ about the kids!  A Grade 2 teacher and I were debriefing at the end of the evening.  When I asked her how it went, she said, “I told the parents that I was crazy about their kids and I think they knew I meant it.  That made them feel good.” For that classroom, that’s what success looked like.  All children need us to be ‘crazy’ about them!   Weaving messages of love into the journey gives children the courage to take new ground!

Have you thoughtfully considered with your child their learning goals based on strengths or growth areas for the term or year?  Have you started to rehearse and review those goals?  It’s not too late to start, right where you are.  It’s great conversation for a family meeting.  How can you reach out to your child’s teacher in that process?

It’s all about the climb to selfhood…