Many STEMscopes employees come from a teaching background. In this 2-part blog, we draw on their past experiences to share perspectives and advice on a variety of parent-teacher partnering issues.
Navigating Cultural Differences
Clare AgostinelliI taught in Title I schools in Mississippi, so I was the minority. That’s where I wanted to teach, but I didn’t want to come across poorly in any way. But if you’re kind, receptive, and make the parents know you’re on their team and there for their kids, that’s all they really want.
When I was a teacher, some parents were very uncomfortable coming to the school because the building didn’t look like the rest of the neighborhood. Some of them described it as very “Anglocentric” architecture, and they found it off-putting and government-like. For some parents, it probably induced fear. It’s also important for teachers to realize how a parent might perceive them. E.g., maybe a parent had a terrible school experience and sees teachers as symbols of authority and fear. Maybe they see a teacher who doesn’t speak the way they do as being condescending to them. All these things can influence their willingness to connect with teachers.
Both campuses I taught at were Title I, but they looked different. At one, I mirrored my students, and at the other, I didn’t. But at both, I had an authentic conversation where I let students know that I was going to mess up sometimes, and this was a new lesson that we were learning together. With the parents, I’d also say that this was going to be a new journey, but I wanted them to know that I was their advocate. I think if parents hear that coming from your heart, they’ll believe it and they’ll go the distance for you.
Helping Parents Support Student Learning
I used to teach at a school with a student population that was 99% Hispanic immigrants, so all the parents were Spanish speakers. We had no translated resources because we weren’t supposed to teach Spanish to students in fifth grade, not even in the bilingual model. My first language is Spanish so I could speak to the parents, but I couldn’t involve them in student learning because I didn’t have written resources they could understand or use. At STEMscopes, we make sure to have parent letters available in Spanish so teachers can easily keep parents updated on what students are studying.
Another issue I encountered as a teacher was that some parents would be overly focused on their kids’ grades. The students were making progress, but many were years behind academically, so they didn’t score well on standards-based assessments. That was very frustrating for parents because they felt like their children weren’t really growing. If I were a teacher now, I’d use STEMscopes’ Quantile-based assessments to show parents their children’s growth over time. MetaMetrics, the company behind the Quantile scores, has information that can help teachers explain Quantile assessments to parents so they can see the growth, not just the grades.
One way I involved parents was by encouraging them to read what the class was reading. If they didn’t have a copy of the book, I would get it from the school library or give them any extra copies I had. That way, they could talk to their kids about the reading material. At STEMscopes, we make it possible for parents to do the same thing with our STEMscopes reading passages and vocabulary. We also keep lists of books for extra reading under the Acceleration tab.
In fact, the Explain, Elaborate, and Acceleration tabs in the STEMscopes platform have a lot of resources that students and parents can work on together at home. In addition to the booklists, the Acceleration tab contains several mini projects or art projects. Teachers often don’t have the time to use all those resources in the classroom, so it’s a great way for parents to continue or reinforce learning at home.
Additionally, STEMscopes Science sends summer and winter break activity packs home for elementary and middle school students (this was an idea David started). Parents can use everyday household items to do the packs’ science experiments with their kids.
As a teacher, I also shared the STEMscopes vocabulary resource with parents via a link on the school website. So, if there was a term that students were stuck on, or if they were having a conversation about the topic with a parent, they could access the resource from their student account. Also, the platform’s Teacher Backgrounds are intended to give background information to educators but can be shared with parents who want to be proactive about their children’s education.
Every lesson in the STEMscopedia has a “Connecting with Your Child” resource under the Explain section, which is a lab they can do at home. Students always have access to the STEMscopedia activities even if those activities have not been assigned.