MODULE 3: "THE RELATIONSHIP"

twins walking to school

Both parents and educators contribute knowledge and expertise with equal responsibility in forging the student’s learning journey. Solid, collaborative relationships between them are crucial in giving students with disability the best chance to succeed.

This module provides the framework, resources and tools to help build and maintain relationships between parents and teachers where positive, strengths-based dialogue with – and about – the student takes place, and where open and candid conversations can be had and respected in confidence.

“Small conversations lead to BIG change”

Parent

In true child-centred collaboration, students are seen as protagonists, collaborators, and communicators. Teachers take on roles as nurturers, guides and researchers. Parents are partners. The environment is the “third teacher”.

Taken from A Reggio Emilia makerspace

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VALUES

Trust

Respect

COMMITMENT

RECIPROCITY

PRINCIPLES
  • Student centred – TEAM student
  • The Parent-Teacher relationship is equitable
  • The notion of being on a journey together
  • School life and home life are intertwined
  • Positive approach
  • Open regular communication underpins effective collaboration
  • Trial and error, and regular review, is inherent in the design
VALUES
PRINCIPLES

Trust

COMMITMENT

Respect

RECIPROCITY

  • Student centred – TEAM student
  • The Parent-Teacher relationship is equitable
  • The notion of being on a journey together
  • School life and home life are intertwined
  • Positive approach
  • Open regular communication underpins effective collaboration
  • Trial and error, and regular review, is inherent in the design
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We are on a journey together

“We need a commitment from both parties to the collaboration. A willingness to work together for the best outcomes for the child. A good understanding of the individual student and their needs”

Teacher

New relationships are influenced by past experiences, not just with this student, but also with other students that educators have taught before. Past experiences inform current practices and strategies. Discussing what has and has not worked for the student in the past, and during the current collaboration, is of great value.

Our teachers share that expertise, past experiences of the student, more information and concerns for the year ahead, which are revealed early on, foster empathy, compassion and being more capable and confident working with our student.

Our parents share that often they feel they are being judged and contacted only when something is wrong – teachers who are encouraging and seek their input upfront empower parents to engage as equals.

Parents and teachers contribute knowledge and expertise with equal responsibility in forging our student’s learning journey. Parents as first educators and knowledge keepers of their child; and teachers as the educationalist and conduit, adapting new systems to reach and teach our individual student.

“Parents, after all, provide the ultimate welfare of students, therefore need to be granted total respect as the student’s first teacher. Collaborative engagement bridges the gap between school and home, and is key in encouraging well-rounded learning and positive student development.”

Adapted from Reggio Emilia

READ MORE:
Reggio Emilia – parental and community involvement

READ MORE:
Reggio Emilia – parental and community involvement

“I will never be disappointed if the teacher doesn’t succeed.  I will be devastated if they just don’t try”

Parent

“How can I get parents to assume the positive? I know your child can learn.  I want to share what we are doing to support, adjust for, and include your child”

Teacher

Effective partnerships with parents are founded on informal, small day-to-day interactions, rather than formal, large stakeholder meetings. Warm greetings, casual chats, welcoming body language, an open-door policy, regular email updates, and relaxed interactions are key to effective partnerships (Mann et al, 2023). 

READ MORE:
Little things mean a lot: parent perspectives on positive teacher-parent communication when students have disability (Mann et al, 2003)

READ MORE:
Little things mean a lot: parent perspectives on positive teacher-parent communication when students have disability (Mann et al, 2003)

The importance of the student

“Inclusive education, coupled with positive relationships between parents and educators, creates the opportunity for children with disabilities to learn, grow, and be part of life. Children with disabilities – like all children – can succeed in boundless ways.”

Kathie Snow

“All students should be expected to contribute to their own wellbeing, the wellbeing of their peers and the collective wellbeing of our communities.  In this way, schools in partnership with parents and carers, will equip children and young people to be active and positive contributors to the society in which they live” – Adapted from The Wellbeing Framework for Schools, NSW Department of Education

READ:
Inclusive Education: A principal’s perspective by Kathie Snow

FIND OUT MORE:
The Wellbeing Framework for Schools
NSW Department of Education

READ:
Inclusive Education: A principal’s perspective by Kathie Snow

FIND OUT MORE:
The Wellbeing Framework for Schools
NSW Department of Education

“Yes we always include them, even if they aren’t able to communicate their thoughts and ideas, it’s still about them.  Of course we include them just by having them there”

Parent of twins

“He was listened to, observed and asked to ensure that strategies were working”

Teacher

All students are unique and, as their experiences and perceptions are often far removed from those of their teachers, their perspectives cannot be understood by adults.  To fully understand a student’s point of view, all voices need to be heard and acted upon. Taking the time to engage with students to understand different aspects of their experience may also contribute to lessening misunderstandings within adult and student perspectives (Gillett-Swan, Tancredi & Graham, 2020: 267, 279).

All students are unique and, as their experiences and perceptions are often far removed from those of their teachers, their perspectives cannot be understood by adults.  To fully understand a student’s point of view, all voices need to be heard and acted upon. Taking the time to engage with students to understand different aspects of their experience may also contribute to lessening misunderstandings within adult and student perspectives (Gillett-Swan, Tancredi & Graham, 2020: 267, 279).

Let’s focus on strengths

“Let’s start with strengths.
Doing so makes sense, it creates a more accurate picture of the whole person, it opens the door to new perceptions and possibilities, and it’s the right thing to do!”

Kathie Snow

A strengths-based approach is one that leverages a student’s abilities to help work on weaknesses.  It is a way to combine standards-based individual student planning with a Growth Mindset that will assist students to believe they can improve their abilities. Using the strength-based approach can be a process with the student that can lead to more self-awareness and self-advocacy.

Using a strengths-based approach can assist to identify a student’s abilities, interests and their learning preferences. A strengths-based approach can assist by preparing students to participate in the planning for their learning and to self-advocate. A strength’s based approach can assist by weaving the strengths of the student into their learning goals, as a way to set high expectations. 

TIP: Look back over Module 1 – Strengths Based Learning.

READ MORE:
Start with Strengths! By Kathie Snow

FIND OUT MORE:
Strengths based IEP’s – what you need to know

READ MORE:
Start with Strengths! By Kathie Snow

FIND OUT MORE:
Strengths based IEP’s – what you need to know

Teachers

Arguably, one of the most important steps a teacher can take in developing positive partnerships with parents is to discover, nurture and celebrate a child’s abilities and strengths, as well as focus on the commonalities between the child, and his or her peers rather than the differences (Mann, Hodge, Runswick-Cole, Gilmore, Mavropoulou & Fleming, 2019:345).

When students are positioned at the centre of their education, they are consulted to share their insights and take part in decision making- regarding the learning environment, curriculum design, teachers’ pedagogical practices and assessment.  Through the process of reflective questioning and discussion, students can express their preferences and experiences (Graham, 2020:285).

Once a base relationship has been forged – Strengths and Interest is the key to engagement. Using positive dialogue with, and about our student. 

Parents

“Jacob’s art class was using clay to create a Grecian pot. The teacher found that because of his sensory issues, Jacob would not touch the clay needed to create the pot. She decided that Jacob could create the same pot but in paper mache. She had come to realise that he loved to rip up paper. This was an ideal strategy because he had the same result as the other students but just in a different medium using something that Jacob was really good at, ripping up paper and gluing.”

Annette, parent

READ:
Strengths and Strategies – Assessing and Sharing What Matters by Paula Kluth

VISIT WEBSITE:
How I Learn

READ:
Strengths and Strategies – Assessing and Sharing What Matters by Paula Kluth

VISIT WEBSITE:
How I Learn

THINKING: “LET’S GET TO KNOW THE STUDENT”

Prior to any conversations it’s good to have thought about what we want to talk about!

Let’s think about any concerns and reservations we have for the year ahead, keeping in mind that we are all in the same team, ‘Team Student’

Please click on the icon that applies to you to see the content

What reservations and concerns do you have for the year ahead? Your teacher needs to know what you are worried about, how you might communicate your concerns, and how to help you to work through any issues.

RESOURCE 1
How can you help with my concerns

“I want to work with you and whatever happens in class. I will back you up”

Parent

What reservations and concerns do you have for the year ahead for your child? Your child’s teacher needs to know what you are worried about in regards to your child and the school environment, how you might communicate your concerns, and how to help you to work through any issues or concerns.

RESOURCE 2
The year ahead – Parent

VISIT WEBSITE:
Inclusive education toolkit for parents – All Means All

“Parents are the first educators. We are just facilitators and we need parents help to do this”

Teacher

What reservations and concerns for the year ahead might you have with supporting your student in the classroom – your student’s parent needs to know what you are worried about, how you might communicate your concerns, and how to help you to work through any issues.

RESOURCE 3
The year ahead – Teacher

LET'S CONSIDER OUR PERSPECTIVES

Awareness of the demands on each other in school, and more generally as people, and what we are concerned about in the year ahead, is considered in our expectations and interactions.

Our relationship is considered a ‘safe’ space – where open and candid conversation can be had and respected in confidence. Our relationship is reciprocal in all aspects, the roles of every individual is valued. Relationships need to be nurtured and celebrated. Trial and error must be built in.  We need to reflect on successes – what we did, what did we learn, how can we apply this in the future process/planning.

Our parents share information, ensuring the teacher knows you are on their side and you will back their efforts and a trial and error approach in the classroom to try new or different ways with our student.

“The teacher needs to know what they love, what they are good at, and what they are
interested in because the strengths are the starting point for the student”

Parent

WE ARE ON "TEAM STUDENT"

Every discussion and decision is about, and for our student. We are on the same team. Opinions and ideas may differ, challenges encountered along the way, misunderstandings can happen, and emotions may run high. However, we are still on the same team. To champion our student.

“Student wellbeing is enhanced when schools connect with and draw on the expertise, contribution and support of their communities.  Community engagement maximises how students connect, succeed and thrive” – Wellbeing Framework for Schools, NSW Department of Education

RESOURCE 4
What’s working/what’s not working

RESOURCE 4
What’s working/what’s not working

DISCUSSION: “IT’S TIME TO TALK”

Let’s agree on expectations and meeting needs

Below are some matters to share and consider to ensure expectations are realistic and can be met.

Questions from the teacher:

“What challenges are you facing at home and how are you handling them?”

“What is working at home?”

“What has worked in the past with other teachers, and learning environments?”

Question from the parent:

“Is there some flexibility in your school’s policies and procedures to adjust for, and support my child?”

 

Share – Share your expectations and concerns from your pre-thinking. Including reflection on the ‘Week in the life of’’ document from module 1.

 

Consider – What you want to get out of the year; socially, academically, physically, emotionally from our student. What expectations are realistic, and what supports and processes can be put in place so that our student will understand and have capacity to be safe and successful in their learning. These may vary in different settings, with different teachers, and in unusual or unforeseen settings.

 

Impact How might this information now be noted and integrated into how our student is understood, taught, and valued?

RESOURCE 5
Conversation guide – The relationship

RESOURCE 5
Conversation guide – The relationship

ACTION: ‘PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER’

Let’s share something positive to start with – on the topic of something we have discovered about our student or more generally.

What has been discussed, decided upon?

Has the student been consulted before, during, and in regards to the outcome?

What needs to be followed up, who will do this, by when, and how will we know it’s been done? Is there a review required?

Who else is it important we share this information with? How will we do this? Who will do this? – (consider other staff, replacement teachers, peers).

Now go back to the “Conversation Guide” document for this module and complete the “actions” section.