The Power of Relationships
Guest blog post by Ashlee Bruggenschmidt
Lack of parental involvement? Lack of resources? Lack of parental support? Lack of attendance at school events or PTO meetings? Education not a priority? Lack of trust in the educational system? How can we change that? Here are some things we do at Sharon Elementary that immediately improved our parental support, fostered positive parent/school relationships, improved our test scores, and facilitated support and resources within our community.
- Home Visits-Staff takes a bus and visits students’ homes before the start of the school year. They meet parents on their own turf and get a feel for where the child comes from. This is so powerful!
- Back to School Picnic-All families are invited to a back to school picnic. The Sharon Elementary School (SES) Staff provides free hot dogs, chips, drinks, school supplies to our families. Community organizations set up booths to help inform parents of their resources during the school year (YMCA, PTO, Health Care Providers, Mental Health Supports, School Nurse, Cafeteria Employees, Pay Book Rental, Youth First, Title I, etc.). We have volunteers give free haircuts and take pictures for our families. Meet and greet for families.
- College Visits- Every student, K-5, will go on a college visit each year. By the time each student leaves SES, they will have visited 6 colleges. This activity promotes post-secondary education and life-long learning. “Crusaders to College” is what we call it.
- McTeacher Night: Staff volunteers at the local McDonald’s. Families love to see our staff serving their kids ice cream and happy meals. McDonald’s donates a certain amount of the profits to our school to use to purchase books for Bingo for Books or to help support our college visits.
- Caught Being Good Slips, Post Cards Sent Home, Positive Phone Calls Home: For each student at random times during the school year. Post on website, in the Sharon Scoop (our weekly school newsletter).
- Friends Helping Friends-Food basket collection and gift collection for our students in need. We also send home weekend backpacks full of food for kids in need each Friday. Totes are given throughout the school year with laundry detergent, dish detergent, toilet paper, etc.
- Bingo for Books-Free books are given away to families to promote literacy. Over 1,000 books are given away at this event. For every BINGO, kids/families get new/free books.
- Family Literacy/Math Nights- Free food is served and parents are educated on various different educational resources and activities to do with their child.
- March Madness-Staff and student basketball game and money is given to Dollars for Scholars (former Sharon students who are graduating high school seniors planning to attend college). An inexpensive meal is served.
- Crusader Quest-Teachers collaborate with community stakeholders and create a real-world scavenger hunt in our community. Scavenger hunt activities are all standards based, integrate real world problem solving skills, and tie in the community history and businesses.
- After School Academy- Volunteers from the community come in and tutor our students from 3:00-4:30 every Tuesday and Thursday in the school library. We use retired teachers, local churches, high school National Honor Society students, and other community advocates to support this activity. We get donations to pay for after school snacks and drinks for the students.
- Art Night/Music Programs/Book Swaps/Book Fairs/Donuts with Dads/Muffins with Moms/School Play/City Serve Days/PTO Craft Nights/Strengthening Families- Building relationships and creating positive relationships with stakeholders is vital to our school’s success. None of these activities are possible without their support. They provide donations to our school, volunteer to step in as a student’s “dad” or “mom” or “mentor.” They support our school art fair, book fair and events by donating books, making costumes, allowing us to borrow sound and light systems, providing resources for our students and assisting us with keeping our school safe and beautiful.
It is never about the programs…it is about the people who implement them. Hiring and finding people with the same vision of loving kids, being determined to support kids and families, and being a hard worker who refuses to let kids and families fail is the most important factor. The staff at Sharon Elementary knows relationships are key. We need to help our students, earn the parents trust, and build those positive relationships before we can teach them and even reach them. The community relationships, staff, student, and family relationships make all of these things possible. The people make all of these programs possible. As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”