It’s Essential That Parents and Teachers Support One Another In and Out of the Classroom

Class parent and frequent volunteer Markeisha Davis stands next to teacher Juanita Price in her kindergarten classroom at Tindley Summit Academy (Juanita Price)

“Coming together is crawling, staying together is walking, and working together is running.”

—David McGuire, principal Tindley Summit Academy

I can count on both hands the few times my mom came into my classroom without an agenda. I wasn’t involved in a lot of extracurricular activities, but that is not the point. Parents should be visible in the classroom; they should come in to check on their child’s progress without having to ask the student or teacher. I would want to see, on my own, how they are engaging within the lesson and with their peers. Also to determine if there is something they can suggest or assist with that may not be an issue but could serve to benefit.

We started a parent organization called PEAK (Parents and Educators Alongside Kids) at our school. We had a simple mission to bridge the gap between home and school to educate children. We believed that by bringing parents together, we can serve a greater purpose … parents think they have their child’s best interest at heart (and most times they do), but they aren’t the experts in education. Teachers, especially highly effective ones, can speak for a classroom of scholars, can advocate for families and impact change in the community served … because they have taken that much more time to get to know them. Coming together we can have a stronger, louder voice and a mightier blow (or impact).

Courtesy of Juanita Price

PEAK is more significant than just a parent organization, or a means to bridge parents and educators; this is a driving force, a renewed wave of collaboration. As an organizing member and educator at Tindley Summit Academy, I believe it imperative that scholars see their parents’ investment in their education.

I host Learn With Me sessions and open them up beyond my classroom or even grade level. I aspire to show parents how I teach to allow for supported, extended learning at home. It is essential that we support each other. I provide resources and a safe space for parents to be vulnerable and ask important questions. We can’t talk about what parents don’t do or what their commitment is until we’ve allowed the opportunity to engage. Set them up for success, too. Some parents don’t know what they need to do, let alone how they can assist in their scholar’s learning. And let’s be brutally honest, some may not know how to do the work themselves.

I am not suggesting that parents are incompetent, but times have changed. Expectations in learning, how we teach and the curriculum we use are different from what they experienced as students in school. I also organized our network’s Parent Engagement Day last year. We invited parents, friends and community members to come and engage in a day with us. My kindergarten scholars were so excited to “bring their parents to school” and show them how we learn and engage in every moment of our day. Parents were amazed at how much their scholars were capable of, the level of independence and, most importantly, how we interacted as a community. These babies are working!

A parent said, “If you’re not struggling academically and don’t have behavior issues, why do parents need to come?” Well, here’s why:

“What has gotten into him today? Why is he acting out in this way?” I kept thinking with this one scholar in mind. Everyone was busy working and engaging with parents who had made their way in even if it wasn’t their parent. As the day progressed, his behavior declined. Finally, grandma came in, and his world lit up. This scholar was different because there was no one there “for him,” and this feeling resonated way too heavily.

I knew this feeling; I recalled how it felt for my mom not to be there. Did she think I could hold my own? She did, as she would reveal to me years later: I had done so well, and I was “just smart.” She didn’t have to worry about me. But it would have mattered that much more to me for my mom to come into the classroom, for me to have heard “oooh”ing and “aaah”ing as I showed off my skills.

Parents entrust their most precious jewels to us daily, believing that we are introducing them to the fundamental skills of what will help them to become lifelong learners and, eventually, productive citizens of society. And we will, but together. It takes a village. We are the village.

Tindley Summit Academy is a beacon of hope for the Dubarry community on Indianapolis’s far east side. A year ago, my principal wrote a blog, “Dubarry Determined: A Charter School’s Role in Revitalizing a Community, detailing the response of the community after the almost decade-long absence of a school. Summit is the neighborhood’s newest and finest jewel. We are a school committed to educating our scholars by instilling the essence of learning and dreaming big. We are preparing them now because “College starts here!”

We cannot merely educate scholars and not equip their parents as well. If we genuinely wish to make the change and be the difference, we must uplift all. Dubarry Determined is our campaign to revitalize our neighborhood with Tindley Summit Academy at its center. By teaching families about financial literacy, housing and homeownership opportunities and how to bridge the learning gap between home and school for students, we are empowering the whole community.

Juanita Price is a kindergarten teacher at Tindley Summit Academy in Indianapolis and one of the founders of the organization PEAK (Parents and Educators Alongside Kids) at her school.

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