Developing Positive Partnerships
Lynn Ziraldo, former Executive Director with the Learning Disabilities Association of York Region, maintains that a positive school climate can help professionals, parents, guardians, and educators work constructively together to address concerns related to programs and services before they become a source of conflict (Ziraldo, 2016). Ziraldo identifies the following steps to promoting a positive school climate:
- Educators encourage and maintain regular interaction between the school and families.
- Everyone is treated with respect.
- The school culture develops a sense of community and caring relationships.
- Parents are involved in school activities.
- Everyone feels safe and secure.
With respect to the school-family relationship itself, Ziraldo (2016) identifies the following characteristics of an effective parent-teacher team:
- Take time to meet with each other and to listen carefully.
- Treat each other as integral parts of the planning and decision-making team.
- Allow each person to express opinions and give suggestions.
- Approach disagreements in a manner that encourages mutual problem-solving.
- Encourage a second opinion when there is unresolved disagreement or when there is no answer to a difficult situation.
According to the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC), the key to any successful partnership is to establish a relationship of mutual respect and appreciation. LDAC created a two-page fact sheet, “Effective Teacher-Parent Partnerships”, which outlines tips and suggestions for teachers and parents.
For successful school-family meetings, Ziraldo (2016) offers the following suggestions:
- Focus on the best interest of the student.
- Concentrate on determining a positive course of action.
- Encourage parents to come to the meeting with questions.
- Share information about the students’ strengths, needs, programming goals and instructional strategies.
- Share information with the student; by attending parent teacher meetings, students can present their ideas and perspectives and learn to advocate for their needs.
- Set up a procedure for follow up.
- Summarize the information, as this will be the basis for the next meeting.
- Express appreciation for each other’s participation in the conference.