3 Ways to Support Families Outside the Classroom
By James Cross, 4th Grade Teacher, Rocketship Nashville Northeast Elementary
I miss my classroom dearly. I miss the orange paint on the back wall that I used to passionately despise. Ok, I still am not a fan of the orange paint, but I sure do miss that wall. I miss my vast collections of books and the book sign out sheet that was always full. I miss a lot of the things inside my classroom, but one thing I will never have to miss is the families my school serves.
Supporting families outside of the classroom is an undertaking that requires us to listen to the needs of the community. As school leaders, we can start a CareCorp where weekly surveys are sent to each family to hear more about what they need. But there are also many other ways we can offer support.
Here are some ideas that we have been working on here at Rocketship Nashville Northeast Elementary to support our families outside of the classroom.
1. Food Drives
My network has a team of dedicated individuals who are out in the communities we serve every day. They canvas neighborhoods, meet with families and build partnerships. Given the state of the pandemic, this role has been different, but its purpose remains untouched.
Our parent engagement team is led by a parent and advocate, Ms. Sherrill, who was also nominated as Break-Thru Nashville’s “2020 Advocate of the Year.” Through the pandemic, she’s maintained relationships with families and community partners. Her main focus has always been listening to the needs of the community. Sherill recognized that many of our families needed support with accessing fresh food. Sherrill partnered and Break-Thru Nashville with her team to bring food to our families. Each week they bring boxes of fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs, and other grocery staples to our families. They host a socially distant event where families can drive through and pick up a box of essential groceries.
Each week, Sherrill and her team have provided hundreds of meals to families and anyone in need. We are beyond thankful for her tireless commitment and support and hope other teachers can use this as inspiration to support families in their communities.
2. Virtual Craft Nights
One of the best parts of elementary school is always the seasonal crafts and lessons that go along with them. We get to do something out of the ordinary and kids take home a keepsake. And we weren’t about to let our virtual state stop us from doing something fun.
In December, I hosted a virtual craft night for my school. Families stopped by the building to pick up a craft bag in a socially distant fashion. Then, they logged in to our Zoom call and were able to complete the craft with us. Families and staff from all grades joined. The best part? The night was 100% free to our families and nothing but pure fun!
The event was such a success we’re already contemplating our next event. I’m thinking a couple of trivia or Kahoot nights might be fun! The goal is to continue to build relationships with our families while supporting their needs. A bingo night isn’t going to solve the pandemic, but it can bring a moment of joy and relief – and that’s something we all could use more of.
Read more about how to implement a craft night at your school here.
3. Mending our Hearts
Supporting families outside of the classroom means being proactive instead of reactive. One proactive program we’re finding an abundant success with is called Mending our Hearts.
Mending our Hearts was founded by the Mental Health Provider at our Nashville Northeast campus. Dr. Newsum was looking for a way to support families by ensuring their needs are met and affairs are in order. The program consists of parents and students. The group has regularly scheduled meetings where they cover topics such as finances, healthy living, SEL at home, and preparing for the future.
You can learn more about the program here in case your mental health provider may be interested in starting something similar.
Published on February 5, 2020
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