One of the most difficult relationships that beginning early childhood teachers encounter is creating trust with their students’ families. I have seen this in settings where pre-service teachers are nervous about greeting and engaging in conversations with students’ parents. Often the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of pre-service teachers may be quite different from their students’ families. This is true in many communities across Illinois, where families from a wide range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds live and work. Teacher educators must consciously prepare new teachers to be ready to engage with families from many different backgrounds.
Course assignments that include home visits, conversations with parents, and parent/teacher conferences help prepare new teachers for their future work with families. The more practice pre-service teachers can have meeting with families the better. When we talk about differentiating instruction for young children, we also talk about differentiating communication with families. Each family is unique and brings their own dreams and hopes for their child. Using technology helps facilitate ongoing communication with families about their child’s learning.
As teacher educators it is our responsibility to model open communication for pre-service teachers. Our communication with them and willingness to listen to their hopes and fears with an open heart demonstrates how they can approach the families of their students. Communicating with families can be embedded into pre-service teacher education programs in a variety of courses and practica. Our work is to prepare future early childhood teachers to be partners with the families of their students and to be open to learning from them.
* Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA), Engaging Culturally Diverse Families, a resource list with links to a variety of materials addressing cultural competence and promoting partnerships with diverse families
*The Illinois Families and School Success Project provides resources for school staff (PreK through 12th grade) and families to promote best practices in family engagement.
*The Illinois Early Learning Project focuses on resources that support educators of young children birth to age five years old and their families. Resources for families are available in diverse languages.
* IRIS Center Module: Collaborating with Families highlights information teachers need to understand when working with the families of children with disabilities.
Bernadette Laumann, PhD is the Co-Principal Investigator for two ISBE funded grants: the Illinois Early Learning Project and the Illinois Families and School Success Project. She has been a teacher educator, principal of an inclusive public pre-k program, and an early childhood special educator.