Working with families is something I feel very strongly about. Families know their child far better than I ever will and, rightly, have a significant influence on their child. I can learn so much from families and, together as teacher, family, and student, we make a powerful team. Too often when schools talk of working with families what they really mean is “tell them what they should be doing to help their child”. The school is always the expert and the families are there to learn. I find that greatly frustrating. There are definitely things about which I have expertise and can help families. However, there are so many things about which families have expertise and can help me.
Every month I (try to) invite families into our classroom. I began doing this when I taught first graders because I wanted families to have the opportunity to spend some time where their child spent their day and with the people they were with. Big school-wide family nights are wonderful but I wanted time in our classroom as our community too.
This month we had just wrapped up our ladybug unit by releasing our ladybugs into our school habitat. So we invited families in to share all our hard work and learning from that unit. I knew that wouldn’t take us too terribly long, even as excited as we had all been about the ladybugs. So I decided to add a craft activity.
Full disclosure, this is not my area of strength. I’m not naturally crafty. I did some online searching for fall activities and decided to try making animals out of fall leaves. Our unit included a wide variety of animals when we explored life cycles, food chains, and habitats. So this fit.
My daughter and I collected a bunch of leaves, I grabbed a bag of googly eyes, and offered the kids and families construction paper. I was skeptical of how this would go. I didn’t really have a vision for how these animals could look, beyond what I’d found when I looked online.
I need not have worried. The kids were awesome. Their creations blew me away. A reminder that when I trust the kids, things go pretty darn well.