New backpacks. The smell of fresh crayons and markers. Glossy folders and maybe even a new Trapper notebook. Just like kids get excited about new school supplies, families start every new school year with fresh hopes and dreams for their children.
"I'd like them to be healthy, mature men,"said Drucilla Bean, who shared her long-term dreams for her two sons, Marcus and Aaron Brooks, ages 4 and 2. "I want them to be successful, good citizens, great fathers and well-educated."
Bean's children attend the YMCA year-round child care program at the Early Childhood Education and Family Center on Johnstown Road in Columbus, where she not only is a lead teacher, but also a parent.
Since the building's construction in 2001, parents have been sharing photos and comments on a Hopes and Dreams Wall, said Becky Love, the director who oversees various early child and education programs at the center. "Parents and grandparents share their hopes, their dreams, their wishes for their children on this wall," Love said. "It's so important for families to be involved in school. It's especially important for working parents to make sure that events are held early in the morning or late in the day, so they can attend. They need to be part of the development of the parent program."
In her book, The Essential Conversation , sociologist Sara Lawrence Lightfoot writes, "I believe that all parents hold big expectations for the role that schools will play in the life chances of their children. All families care deeply about their children's education."
All families want the best for their children and a strong first step is establishing and maintaining strong partnerships between families and schools, according to Karen L. Mapp, co-author of Beyond the Bake Sale. Mapp said dreams can be the focus of a discussion between parents and teachers at an open house or other event at school. As a parent, you can offer to work with your principal and parent/teacher organizations to have this conversation.
Suggestions for sharing dreams:
- Organize small groups of parents (and teachers who are parents) to talk about their dreams and expectations for their children's future.
- Write dreams on paper to keep and record them on a chalkboard or poster.
- Pick a few dreams and discuss what is required for a person to achieve them.
- Brainstorm ideas about the steps needed to achieve these dreams. What's required in and out of school? What support is needed from families? What resources are needed?
- Ask teachers how dreams are connected to the curriculum and how families can support their children to gain the skills they need.
- Ask parents to share dreams with their children. Do their children share the same dreams?
As you start the new school year with your child, help create or strengthen opportunities for families and teachers to do whatever it takes to make sure that your children and all students succeed.
Here are 10 ways Mapp suggests to build bridges between families and schools with the underlying message that parents and families are involved in all major educational decisions involving their children:
- There is a special room for parents in the school.
- Teachers visit every new family in the home.
- School is open for the community to use.
- Social services are available for families in the school.
- School and family activities connect with what students are learning.
- Families and teachers look at student work and test results together.
- Community groups offer tutoring and homework programs at the school.
- Translators are available for families.
- Teachers use books and materials about cultures represented in their students' families.
- There is a clear, open process to resolve problems between families and schools.
We all have hopes and dreams for our children, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews. Now, let's go beyond our own families to share the hopes and dreams we have for all children in Ohio. Every adult can make a difference in the hopes and dreams of a child. Get involved in your local schools.
Susan Tave Zelman is superintendent of public instruction at the Ohio Department of Education, which oversees K-12 education in the state.