Bridging the Gap between Home and School

Returning back to school can be characterized by new opportunities, exciting experiences and stimulating challenges. As parents, we often consider all of the many ways we can help promote success and assist our children with putting their best foot forward as they embark on the start of the new school year.

When contemplating keys to success, prominent attention should focus on parental involvement in children’s education, which can lead to academic achievement as well as success with social and emotional development. While the level of parental involvement can vary as students experience different stages of their school journey, becoming involved in your child’s school life can influence success and engagement.

Consider the following ways to become involved in your child’s school experience this year:

Getting to Know You
Children spend a significant portion of their day at school and consequently they engage frequently with the school staff. Get to know the key figures at school in order to better understand the school experience and the interactions your child has each day. The school’s website can provide a wealth of information about the school and teachers. Take time to read the bios of your child’s teachers to learn more about their backgrounds and interests. Additionally, plan to attend the Back to School Open House at your child’s school in order to meet teachers, administrators, and support staff face-to-face.

Commonly homework serves as a prominent link between home and school and subsequently is an excellent tool to help bridge the gap between parents and teachers. Help younger children to establish positive homework routines and use the school assignments as a means to understand and get excited about what they are learning at school. With older children and teens, make time to check in about homework and develop an understanding of the school’s homework policies and expectations.

It is tremendously difficult for teachers and school staff to be responsive to your child’s changing needs if they are unaware of circumstances or developments that have occurred. If your child or teen is expressing stress related to school or a teacher, or if they have experienced something significant such as a move or a death, it is critical to notify the school. Additionally, a change in medication or health issues can result in behavioral changes, so it is helpful to make the school aware of these factors. The school counselor can also be a terrific resource and is able to serve as a liaison between parents and teachers.

Teaching & Learning
When parents have a sense of what their children are learning, such as topics being covered or books being read, it opens the door to shared experiences between home and school. For instance, if your teen is reading The Great Gatsby at school, a weekend trip to a museum exhibit featuring artifacts from the 1920s will help the text come to life. If your elementary age child is learning about the solar system, finding time to stargaze and identify visible planets at home will extend their learning. Teacher websites and newsletters can serve as wonderful resources to give parents insights about academic experiences allowing families to find ways to further explore topics and skills. Showing your children that you are interested in what they are learning will promote higher levels of interest and engagement, and you may learn something new too!

If a child is experiencing an academic or social challenge at school, a collaborative approach that involves the parents, teachers, and the child can promote optimal growth and success. When challenges present, schedule time to meet and strategize with school staff to ensure a unified approach to problem solving. When children and teens receive different advice from parents and teachers, it can leave them feeling confused and defeated. Instead, aligning approaches and proceeding as a team allows everyone to focus on supporting the child or teen in the same way, thus promoting achievement and development.

Learning Management Technology
Many schools have adopted learning management systems to assign independent work, grade assignments, and track individual student’s progress in each course. Before the start of the school year, particularly if the student is transitioning to a new school, reach out the school or your child’s teacher to determine if they will be using a learning management system, how the system will be used, and how you and your child can access the system. Once you have access to the system, ensure you can log in, familiarize yourself with the interface, and ensure you and your child are comfortable interacting with and using the software.

Demonstrating a partnership between school and home allows students to make connections, overcome obstacles, and feel empowered as learners. When parents demonstrate an interest in their child’s academic journey it places an emphasis on the importance of learning and growing both at school and at home. Together teachers, students, and parents can work collectively to optimize the school experience and promote a lifelong hunger for learning.

Jennifer Walsh-Rurak, Ed.D. and Francisco Ayala provide regional leadership support to the Fusion Academy schools on the East Coast.

Jennifer earned her Doctor of Education degree with a concentration in Educational and Instructional Leadership from Northeastern University. Additionally, she has a Master of Science degree in Educational Leadership/Administration and a Master of Science degree in Special Education both from Canisius College, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and Exceptionalities from SUNY Cortland. Prior to joining Fusion Academy, Jennifer spent nine years as a school principal working in public school settings in New York State and taught at the middle school level prior to becoming an administrator. In addition, she has worked as an adjunct graduate professor in the Educational Leadership department at St. Lawrence University. When Jennifer is not working, she enjoys running, Pilates, and boating. Jennifer is excited to be a part of the Fusion team and believes deeply in the power of one-to-one education.

Francisco holds a BA in Studio Art and Education from Dartmouth College, an MA in Teaching from Bennington College, an MS in Educational Administration from Pepperdine University. He has worked in education for over 10 years, initially starting as a 3rd Grade Teacher in New Haven, CT. He then moved to California where he was one of the founding faculty, and later the Assistant Principal, for a brand new charter school in Canoga Park. He continued his work in alternative education as the Regional Director for Options for Youth, supervising all of the sites in the San Fernando Valley for several years. In 2011, Francisco joined Fusion as the Head of School for the Pasadena campus, which he helped open and ran for close to a year. He then transitioned across the country into the role of Head of School for the Fusion Park Avenue and Lincoln Center campuses. Francisco now serves as the Regional Vice President for all East Coast area Fusion Academy schools.

Francisco is an avid reader and runner. He is also a self-proclaimed foodie, balancing his time cooking in the kitchen and enjoying the culinary experiences out in the community.

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