Summary:In this chapter from her book, Inviting Families into the Classroom: Learning from a Life in Teaching, Streib draws on an extensive archive of documents (e.g., letters from parents, class newsletters, and detailed accounts of student-family interactions) accrued over a 30-year teaching career as a first- and second-grade public school teacher in Philadelphia. Capturing the complexity and nuance of working with the families, she candidly shows what can go wrong and how to overcome misunderstandings. These honest and thoughtful depictions of crossing cultural barriers could provide food for thought within a school/community study group or for professional development focused on building partnerships between school and families.
Parents would be able to attend to individual children when it was sometimes difficult for a teacher with 33 children to do so. More than occasionally, I seemed to lose control of the tone of the classroom. The afternoon of November 19, 1992, for example, couldn’t have been more chaotic. It was late in the day. I insisted that the children complete some exercises on odd and even numbers before they went home, without giving them enough time. When I told them to prepare to pack up to go home, I realized I’d forgotten to have them glue the homework into their two homework books. And the children wanted me to keep my promise to share with them a small piece of the candy that one of the children had brought for me. To top it all off, it had begun to snow. The children became excited. Two very understanding parents, Wendy’s mom and Karl’s mom, walked in and, instead of being upset by the noise, just took over helping the children put homework into their books, which calmed me. They knew from previous conversations with me exactly what they could do to help. I managed to deliver a piece of the candy into each open mouth as the children left the room, feeling like a priest distributing the wafer at a communion. Those two parents saved the day.