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Contributing Editor: Michelle Gill, Director of Consulting and Certifications

The pace of the world, especially over the last eight months, has left little time to pause and reflect. Doing so now can feel almost selfish: “Who am I to stop just to think, when so much is happening and so many people need me?” But reflection is critical to growth, especially in education. Take a moment to pause and reflect about the school-home partnerships in your school or district.

Reflect: Describe your current partnerships with families and how the pandemic and sociopolitical climate impacted it. Envision: What is the look, sound, and feel of your ideal family partnership, one that benefits your students, families, and yourself?

If there is a gap between your current reality and your ideal, what steps can you take to close that gap? Will they honor the families’ and your needs? What support is needed to accomplish those steps? Know that Center for Responsive Schools is here to support and encourage you.

In this issue, educators and families discuss building stronger partnerships between caregivers and schools. Included are reflections from educators about lessons learned and changes they made that positively impacted their work with families. The ideas shared are grounded in the foundational belief and supported by research that knowing and valuing families is key to creating successful school-home partnerships. As you prepare to dig into this issue, I leave you with a simple and powerful call to action from Chip Wood (2011, p. 109): “The case for parental involvement is solid. The rest is up to us.”

I’d like to thank my supporting editor, Lindsey Lynch, for her help in securing articles and editing.

Articles in this Issue:

Breaking Through Barriers

Over the last eight years, I have had the privilege of presenting to thousands of educators the importance of teaching social-emotional learning (SEL) in schools. At the opening of each session, I state the following: In order to be successful in and out of school, students need to learn a set of social-emotional competencies: cooperation,…

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Communication That Connects

Connection. Intention. Teamwork. Trust. These are the words that come to mind when I think about education and establishing relationships with students. It’s important to get to know students and form a bond with them in order to help foster growth and engagement in students, which will contribute to their success in the classroom. To…

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Leading With Empathy: Parents Connect With Teachers

Teaching is not for the fainthearted. During the current pandemic, this feels shockingly true. Teaching at this time involves a sharp pivot from the norm. Whether we’re teaching online, in person with masks and social distancing, or a combination of both, this year has required reenvisioning and addressing new realities. Teaching is both a difficult…

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Reimagining Morning Meetings as a Bridge Between Home Life and School Life

Families are the first teachers of our students. They learn communication and language skills, components of identity, how to laugh, play, be together, and more. When we strengthen the relationship between families and educators, we are effectively supporting student learning and the whole child. One of the guiding principles of Responsive Classroom is that partnering…

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Taking the Time to Listen Well

At the school where I currently serve as principal is a framed poster hanging on the wall in our conference room, which says: When families and teachers collaborate on behalf of children, they create windows of light for generations to follow. Unknown The print was given to me as a gift in 1995 at the…

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Fly Five SEL Curriculum: School-to-Home Connection

Classrooms and playgrounds provide the perfect setting in which to practice the social and emotional competencies critical to students’ success. Likewise, a students’ home environment offers plenty of practice in cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control as students navigate the unique social and emotional dynamics present there. Ideally, schools and families will form strong partnerships…

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Building Solid Relationships: A Personal Journey

I have always known that the school-home connection was an important piece in my teaching. But then one day I had a challenging conversation with a parent. They felt that they had not been heard, that their values were not honored, and they questioned if I had their child’s best interest in mind when working…

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Working With Families: Meet Them Where They Are

The area in Northern California where I live has adapted to virtual learning in the schools, shelter-in-place orders to help contain the pandemic, wildfires causing unhealthy air quality, and more. These are things we cannot necessarily control, but what we can control right now is how we respond to circumstances, and to each other, and…

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Family Perspectives

The editors recently asked families to share their insights on their children’s school experience during the start of the 2020–2021 school year. We posed two questions: What is an action or practice your child’s school has done that has helped your children and family feel belonging, significance, or fun so far this year? How has…

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Q&A: Connecting With Teachers: A Parent’s Perspective

I first met Tenisha Day in 2004, when her daughter was in my first grade class. This was only a few years into my teaching career, and looking back, there is so much I would have done differently, especially related to building strong relationships with families. I did a lot of talking “at” kids and…

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