By Amanda Kiat, Elementary Vice Principal
When I first started teaching I had an amazing mentor who taught me the ins and outs of building partnerships with parents. I was lucky enough to tag along with her during a very important week in August many moons ago. During that week we successfully visited 32 students’ homes. And what a beautiful gift that was!
These home visits were revolutionary to me and while I initially thought that this practice was a little over the top, as I met more and more of the families and students in their homes, I was sold!
We sat around kitchen tables and chatted easily about the family and what they had done that summer. We met siblings and pets and many of the students were excited to show us their bedrooms and their favourite toys, games, and stuffies. Important stories were shared and we learned a great deal about each child and their lives outside of school. Over coffee we discovered that we knew similar people, loved similar things, and we were all certain that the year ahead would be an amazing year of learning and growth.
Two weeks later when those students attended their first day of school we already knew so much about them and their families. We knew their dogs’ names. We knew their favourite foods. We knew who their best friends were. And we knew that, like us, they were a little bit nervous for the first day of grade three.
But, the true gift of these home visits was that there were already partnerships formed with parents. And those positive partnerships are crucial when issues arise.
I was super excited to start these magical home visits on my own the following August, and every summer for the next 10 years I was warmly welcomed into every single student’s home. Some years I switched it up and had the families to my home for a BBQ, but every summer I made it my mission to have the parents understand how fortunate I felt to have their child in my class, how eager I was to help them learn and grow, and how certain I was that we would have a wonderful year together…working collaboratively with them. These beautiful families shared their worries with me, their dreams for their children, and even their favourite foods lovingly made just for me. I sampled my first bannock, fattoush, samosa, and even some roast goat during these visits. And every year of school was started with the knowledge that I already knew the students and had a great foundation built with the families.
When I moved to Macao I was sad to stop my home visits. It soon became apparent that I had no clue where apartment buildings were or what the addresses meant, as they were written in Chinese or Portuguese. For the first time I was unable to communicate fully with all of the parents. And hosting a BBQ in my tiny apartment seemed like a terrible idea.
Luckily, forming partnerships between home and school does not require a home visit, and I soon realized that TIS is a huge welcoming family! Our Community Days, Curriculum Night, Back to School BBQ, and Mid-Autumn Festival are only some of the ways the teachers and families can come together to get to know each other better and enjoy one another’s company outside of the classroom.
I know how important it is for teachers and parents to partner up to support and help students and I’m thankful that here at TIS our parents are so incredibly supportive. Parents spend countless hours volunteering their time in and out of the classroom. They read with kids, help supervise on field trips, and work hard to make Community Days so successful. I see parents bringing their well deserving teachers coffee, and they even go out of their way to help make teachers’ birthdays special and fun.
But the most important thing that I see parents doing is trusting.
They trust that as educators when we mention that we have a concern, it’s a valid concern.
They trust that when we say it’s important that every child reads (or is read to) for at least 20 minutes every night because it’s so important to their overall success-they believe us-and then they make that happen.
They trust that when their child has a bumpy path, we will support them through it and it doesn’t mean that their child is bad-they just need extra support and guidance.
They trust that when we make a tough decision it’s because we have a lot of education and experiences to back up these decisions-and they allow us to do so.
They trust that their children will be safe, happy and supported during their time with us.
Thank you for trusting us to help foster globally-minded, academically successful, well-rounded people. Your support is immeasurable and very appreciated! We look forward to more wonderful partnerships in the future.
Amanda Kiat has been an educator for nearly twenty years, 8 of which have been here at The International School of Macao. She has a a Bachelor of Science, a Bachelor of Education, and is currently completing her dissertation for her Masters in Educational Leadership. As the Vice Principal of Elementary School here at TIS, she understands the importance of partnerships between home and school and believes that support from home is integral to helping to foster academic and social emotional growth in every student.