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Partnerships that share and align school and home practices and enable parents to actively support their children's in-school learning have shown some of the strongest impacts on student outcomes.
Pasifika parents are not alone in wanting their children to learn and achieve, and they also have much to contribute. Connections and partnership-building can be initiated by teachers ‘reaching out’ to Pasifika parents. It can result in teachers learning as much from families as families learn from teachers and teachers gaining deeper awareness of Pasifika children’s experiences and competencies.
Such partnerships also increase Pasifika parents’ ability to become more actively involved in supporting their children’s in-school learning. Teachers who take the time to share with Pasifika parents their children’s learning goals and achievement levels and detail the kinds of support that would directly help their learning can increase their impact on Pasifika student outcomes.
“Incorporating school-like activities into family activities, through providing parents with access to both additional pedagogical knowledge and information about finding and using local educational resources, can have dramatic and positive impacts on children’s achievement”.
The Complexity of Community and Family Influences on Children’s Achievement in New Zealand: Best Evidence Synthesis, pages v–vi
Thanks to the Principals, staff and students of Aorere College, McAuley High School, Mangere Bridge School, Sylvia Park School, Mary MacKillop School and Wymondley Road Primary School for their contribution.
Things to think about
Things to think about
- What kinds of conversations do you have with Pasifika parents about the learning of the Pasifika students you teach? What are their responses? Would you describe these conversations as one-sided or mutual learning conversations?
- What information does your school share on a regular basis with its Pasifika parents? What contribution does this information-sharing make to improvements in the achievement of your Pasifika students?
- What particular strengths do your Pasifika families have in relation to their children’s learning? Do you take advantage of these strengths to help your students progress their learning? Give an example of how you do this.
- What do you consider to be effective strategies for establishing collaborative partnerships between schools, Pasifika parents and families? How do you know these are effective?
I have been asking the questions at my school with my kids and I have been given the run around from the teachers, which is quite sad, because all of a sudden I've got this power to ask. And I think the teachers find me quite.... shall I say pain in the butt to ask for my kids' assessments, cause I want to know how they’re going cause I'm tired of being told your daughters are behind, but I couldn't..... they didn't give me the tools to help them at home. We were reading as much as I could possibly fit in and yet they were still behind in their reading until I discovered it’s the comprehension that needed working on, not the reading. So now I'm doing things differently at home and I'm asking the questions at school to the teachers, and I'm hoping the other parents that I come across will do the same. Yeah knowledge is quite powerful.
In order to get the parents on board we want to move away from the traditional five minute prison visits, parent evening, get much more towards mentoring so that we’re setting targets, setting appropriate targets for the students. But we’re doing it with the parents, so it's a two way interview. The parents are letting us know what is happening at home, we’re letting the parents know what’s happening at school and between the two of us we can come up with worthwhile targets for the students. Once we've got those worthwhile targets between the two of us, then we bring the students in, we talk through the targets with the students, with the parent there as well so that everyone is aware what has got to be achieved and how it's going to be achieved.
Our biggest challenge was to get parents to understand that they didn't have to be able to do the schoolwork. So you didn’t have to be able to help your daughters with geography or history. But you did have to be able to help them with a quiet place to study, not expecting them to go to church every night, not expecting them to do all the housework during the week. Giving them time for studying. Making sure that they came to school everyday. And so we have information evenings for each of the year levels. And that takes an enormous amount of organisation. So we will send out cards that look like wedding invitations and we’ll invite them to a parent evening and we’ll say for instance do you want to find out how your daughter can gain a scholarship or would you like to find out how NCEA works. And we follow that up with a phone call and then we have an afternoon tea for them and we put them seated at tables, not in rows. And once they’re seated at these tables we have a Tongan student and a Samoan student at each table and a staff member who can translate if anybody needs translation.
Often people say about communities, particularly low decile communities, Pasifika communities, Maori communities that don't share too much with them, it’s too much, it's too overwhelming, they won't get it, and that is just an absolute fallacy. And the thing we have found over and over again, is that a lot of this stuff is just not rocket science. But you need to take the time to be able to explain and share it in a timely way, and in a way that‘s perfect for parents with their children at ages and stages.