Cultural Relevance and Community-School Relationships

“Cultural relevance, Building partnerships with families…finding common ground with parents…family involvement will need to include options that accommodate family circumstances, provide choices, validate the family’s culture and values, and explicitly emphasize the importance of family support of the student’s learning” (Nine Characteristics, 120).

Throughout the discussion cultural relevance came up often as an integral element in serving all students and their families. Many ideas were mentioned to promote a more cohesive relationship between schools and culturally diverse communities. Providing various venues for families to attend parent/teacher/student conferences such as gymnasiums, community centers or parks could alleviate any pressure parents may feel toward government institutions; the idea of meeting on common ground.

“When this partnership is extended to include the larger community, the benefits are greater yet. Perhaps most important is that when responsibility for children’s learning is shared by the school, home, and community, children have more opportunities for meaningful, engaged learning. Students are able to see the connection between the curriculum in the school and the skills that are required in the real world” (http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/envrnmnt/famncomm/pa400.htm). ¬†¬†Developing culturally integrated educational opportunities such as the development of story poles which occurred on the Tulalip Indian Reservation a couple years ago and this year! This provides students, families, community and school members an opportunity to collaborate and work together on a complex and culturally meaningful project that inspires pride and confidence in one’s self and culture.

“This vision of school improvement compels us to create a new conception of the appropriate relationship between the school and its community, parents, and families. Pedagogically, as we have come to know the importance of rooting learning in children’s real lives, we can no longer tolerate the artificial boundaries between the classroom and the home. Politically, as we move the authority for decision making down to those closest to children, we cannot afford to exclude parents and community members from the process of crafting new schools. Nor can we avoid being held more directly accountable to the immediate community constituency for decisions made at the school site. Practically, schools have no chance of enacting the fundamental changes on the reform agenda in the absence of whole-hearted support from the entire community–parents, citizens, and business” (http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/envrnmnt/famncomm/pa400.htm).

As the above website mentioned, it is when we begin leading the students to middle and high school that parent involvement seems to drop. This is the time where we need to be most adamant but also begin developing the student’s independence by developing programs that support business, school and student relationships. The Council for Corporate and School Partnerships not only gives ideas for mentorships and apprenticeships but also on how to engage the local businesses in educating our youth. In my experience, local businesses and service industries such as the police department, Home Depot and the PUD are all extremely engaging and educational opportunities to involve our community members in our children’s educations and a great way to build an expanded community relationship!

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