While teachers and curriculums are an obviously important aspect of education, an often-overlooked component is the support from a student’s community – their family members, friends, and others. Through the Whole Child Model, STS engages members of a student’s community to serve as allies and see how important they are to children learning and thriving in primary school.
Teachers can foster learning within the classroom, but it’s crucial that once the students get home, their community builds their sense of agency regarding what they’re learning, who they are, and who they want to become.
Worldwide, research shows that successful schools have a strategy for community engagement. This kind of engagement comes in several forms—inviting parents to stop by the classroom, hosting “parents’ day,” creating roles for parents within the classroom and schoolyard, among others.
This year, we asked teachers at Engorika, our focus school, about its community engagement strategies. We learned it didn’t really have any. Perhaps some parents felt uncomfortable visiting the school. Perhaps teachers felt there were language barriers. Whatever the reason in the past, teachers agreed that systematic communication with parents was key to helping all children learn.
Based on these discussions, STS and the teachers at Engorika worked together to create a system for tracking communication with parents. Then, teachers met with parents to discuss, role play, and brainstorm the right communication methods for their community to ensure regular contact between teachers and parents. The upshot: Each teacher at Engorika has a log book to note when and why they reach out to parents, what conversation was had, and what resolution was reached. The head teacher has his own “master tracker.”
It’s just a start. The next step is to provide teachers with specific protocols so the head teacher can track progress. In time, the head teacher will develop a school-wide profile of at-risk students and how Engorika responds to them. This should build trust between the community and the school: parents will hopefully feel increasingly comfortable with their children’s teachers and better understand how they can assist their children at home.