"When Are You Coming to Visit?" by Elizabeth Schlessman was in Rethinking Schools from the Winter of 2012-2013 issue. The article speaks about a teacher who took on the heavy task of conducting home visits with her students. The visits are short, 10-15 minutes, and are meant to make the family feel comfortable, and for the teacher to learn something about the student and their home life. Through her visits, Schlessman learned more than she could have ever learned about her students from just classroom interaction. This was especially important for her and her interactions with students because many of them were bilingual, or in some cases even tri-lingual. She also got to have great interactions with parents, which sometimes never happens. Or if it does, can often be in a negative light. For me, parent-teacher conferences are a source of anxiety, rather than a time to form relationships with parents.
"Social justice curriculum is grounded in students' lives. Yet what are our students lives? How do we know them? How can we push beyond our own unspoken norms and assumptions-for me, white and middle class-to see and listen and learn and create space to understand the lives of students?" This quote, I think, ties into exactly what we have been talking about in class for the last few weeks. If we, as educators, can truly see our students, all facets of them, then I think we will be able to truly teach them as whole individuals, and not just as a student in my class, because they are so much more than that. I try and see my students outside of the classroom as much as possible. I am constantly going to games, and events after school so that I can see them in other places other than the desk in front of me. I also realize that this is easier for me because I do not have a family of my own to take care of yet. I do not have to rush home and make dinner, or pick up someone from a bus stop. I can only imagine how difficult it is to attend extracurriculars for the students that you teach during the day and then also take care of biological children.
Schlessman goes on to talk about how interactions with families are often agenda driven. She writes, "Whether families come to school for a game night, a young authors celebration, or 10-minute conference slots, school-based family interactions are filled with agendas, information, and activities." The reasoning for home visits would be to go against this notion of agenda driven interactions. The San Juan Unified School District has begun to do home visits, and have found that the relationships formed between parents and teachers are priceless. They allow students to feel comfortable in their own homes, and allow for personal dialogue between teachers and parents.
I wish that there was an opportunity for me to visit the homes of my students. At the high school level, I feel as though this could be impossible. I simply have too many students. But, this is when parental involvement starts to wain because they feel like students should be responsible for their own work.Also, where would this fit into the busy lives of other teachers? Many teachers are already stretched to the brim. Schlessman says at the end of her article that "Home visits taught me humility. They taught me to wonder." I think parental involvement is really the key to many of our students success. There is so much research to support this idea. The National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education is an organization that is working to promote just that.