Social relationships and School Readiness
To some, being “ready for kindergarten” conjures the image of a young child with an eager expression and pencil poised, ear tipped towards the teacher in order to hear whatever instruction comes next. To others, it may describe a young child who can’t wait to ride the bus, play with new kids, and finally get to see what is behind the doors of her local school. To others, “school readiness” means being able to recite the alphabet, name colors, and even know your address. And yet, as different as these descriptions are – each focuses on how well the child is prepared.
In the article Children Are Ready to Learn, but Are We? (ZERO TO THREE, September, 2012) authors Mona M. Abo-Zena and Rebecca Staples New discuss how the school readiness movement, originally focused on the child’s abilities or disabilities, has since evolved by considering the roles of the school, the family and the community roles in preparing young children for school success. And yet, the authors note that the movement has lacked an acknowledgement of the powerful effect of building and supporting relationships with parents in order to pave the way for mutual understanding of the child’s strengths, challenges, and need for support. In short, a more comprehensive approach to school readiness includes support for the connections between educators and parents. But in order to make a real impact on school readiness in young children, the authors note that educators must go beyond simple parent communication efforts to create “more respectful and reciprocal relationships” with parents.
If respectful reciprocal relationships between educators and parents are understood as a vehicle for creating greater school success in young children, teacher professional training in building relationships with parents must be seen in a new light. Abo-Zena and New describe a constellation of inter-related areas of professional development, including an educator’s understanding of the importance of culture in potentially divisive topics such as what defines a “good parent” or “normal” child development. The authors also stress the importance of constructive negotiation skills, and a willingness to engage parents in meaningful participation in the classroom and school. While it acknowledges these areas as elements of a significant paradigm shift, the article does not provide insight on where educators can start in making such a transformation.
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