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Effective parent/teacher partnerships in New Zealand

This essay will focus on discussing the importance of effective parent/ teacher partnerships with a diverse range of parents/family/whanau in New Zealand early childhood settings. Firstly, it will identify and analyze one challenge that a family may face, which is family in separation and divorce. I will describe some strategies that early childhood teachers can utilize to support children and their families. Then I will discuss how parent/teacher partnerships and related community networks and agencies assist children and their families in coping with this challenge.

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As early childhood teachers, we need to understand the meaning of parent/teacher partnership, because it help the teachers effectively understand children’s culture, tradition and family values and then understand the child’s individual needs. Duncan defines that parent/teacher partnership is collaboration with parents'(Duncan., 2006). Te Whāriki states that “children’s learning and development are fostered if the well-being of their family and community is supported.”(Ministry of Education [MoE],1996,P42). Quintilian states that parents and teacher can set examples for youngsters. It would help children develop their positive character and speech patterns (Krogh& Slentz,2001). In my opinion, effective parent/teacher partnership is the teachers and the parents can work as a team to improve the children’s holistic development, because teachers do not exactly know children’s behaviors at home and parents also have no idea about what their children did in the early childhood settings. So the reciprocal relationships between teachers and parents are necessary for fostering children’s learning and development.For instance, if the parents can share the teacher the information about what their children interested in at home, the teacher would plan some activities to the children to follow their interests. In this way, it supports the children’s learning effectively.

It is important that parents and teachers support each other and work as partners in children’s early childhood education. For children, their learning and development will be fostered if the parent are willing to provide some information to help teachers understand their children’s past experiences and believes/values about their own culture. From this knowledge teachers can know better about their children and ensure the experiences that we provide are responsive to the individual children and families (Tabors,1998).For parents, Pogoloff and Lock believe that parents play a vital role in children’s life. They will be involved with their child long after the teacher has moved on (Pogoloff & Lock, 2004). Effective parent/teacher partnerships will help the parents understand the reasons underpin their children’s growth and behaviors. It will help them get better understandings about their children and know how to deal with their children’s problem behaviors. For teachers, building good relationships with parents could support teachers to interact with parents better. It will promote children’s holistic development and teachers’ professionalism effectively.

Therefore, as the role of teachers we should learn some strategies to make a parent/teacher partnership effective. Firstly, teachers could provide some suggestions to parents, like how to extend children’s learning through activities and resources. Because giving some suggestions or advices rather than teaching parents how to do this. It could help to build trust, respect and reciprocity for both teachers and parents (Keesing Styles, 2000). Moreover, teachers and parents should also work collaboratively. The teachers need to let families know how they can be helpful and can ask for their assistance with specific activities. For example, teachers can invite the parents to participate to some activities or write down some feedbacks about activities. In this way, it will make a parent/teacher partnership effective and help the parents get a better understanding about early childhood curriculum and their children(Duncan, 2006).

Family in separation and divorce is one of the common challenges that family members might face. It is trends in our current society that fewer people are getting married and more people are separating in New Zealand. According to the statistics from Families Commission, almost one third of children were raised by only one parent in the household (Families Commission, 2006). There are lots of reasons that a couple may consider a divorce, such as poor communication, financial problem, cheating and abuse (2010 Divorce Guide,2010). All those reasons cause the divorce rate had a gradual increase in New Zealand from 1992 to 2006 (NZTC,2009).

Families in separation and divorce have a determining influence on children, and parents. For children, they might feel the stress and confusion of separation and divorce. Moreover, many kids might feel angry, sad and worry about what life will be like after divorce. They might lose confidence and self-esteem, lack of parents’ care and interaction, feel helpless and even angry behaviors (Brodkin, 2008). In addition, the factors that come with divorce might also have a determining influence on the children, such as financial problem, family conflict, mental stress and parenting practices(Pryor & Rodgers, 2001). For the families, separation and divorce are often cause lots of emotional and psychological upheaval for parents. It will changes their relationship and interactions their children’s growth and behaviors ( Smith,1998). However, an unhappy partnership is thought more harmful for the parents and children than separation and divorce (NZTC,2009). In addition, separation or divorce also will be an opportunity for children to learn and grow throughout the challenges. It will help children to learn new skills to manage stress and to cope with situations over which they have no control.

Early childhood centers and teachers play an important role in terms of supporting parents, families and children when separation or divorce happens, because early childhood centers are places where New Zealand families have regular to access. There is some legislation which teachers can use as guidance when they get involved in this issue. Code of ethics advocates that in relation to parent/family/whanau, teachers should strive to establish an equal, mutually respectful, healthy and collaborative relationship, develop a warm and supportive attitude, involve them in decision-making about the education of their children and respect their privacy and rights (Early childhood Code of Ethics National Work Group, 1995). United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) (1990) article 19 also shows that child shall be protected by all legislative, social and other measures from all forms of physical and mental violence, abuse or neglect. In this way, the role of the centre and staff in addressing the issue about families in separation/divorce is to build an effective parent/ teacher partnerships in early child education and support parents to protect children from the harms that divorce cause.

In early childhood centers, teachers could apply some strategies to support children and their families. First of all, early childhood teachers should have positive attitudes and treat all the children equally. As teachers we need to respect parts and children’s privacy and do not discuss their family problem in front of children or others (NZTC,2009). We also need to avoid stereotype the children who experience divorce must have problems. Label a child “from broken home” will affect his/her self-esteem and it will influence his/her life later on. Moreover, teachers should be fully aware of the effects that divorce might bring for children and the family’s needs for support (NZTC,2009). It will help teachers to be sensitive to the difficulties the family might meet and support them to deal with those problems. For example, a child may feel be neglected when his/her parents break up, so the teacher can offer the child a hand to hold that can mitigate the child’s sense of loss and helpless. In addition, teacher plays an important role in helping children make a positive adjustment to their parents’ divorce. Most young children could not clarify the complex reasons why parents’ divorce so that they are likely to feel responsible for their parents’ marital discord and blame themselves(Brodkin, 2008). In this way, teachers need to suggest their parents to be honest and tell them what happened within the family and explain why it happens to their children. Furthermore, teacher should help the children who are suffering from parents’ divorce to express their feeling. Teacher need to give extra attention to the children to help the children adjust this situation(Brodkin, 2008). Teachers also need to encourage the children to share their feelings and really listen to them. For example, if a teacher noticed a child was in a bad mood. She could encourage he/she to talk and said:”I see that you are upset – do you know what is making you sad/angry/frustrated?” It would help the children find the words for their feelings. The last but not the least, teachers and centre need to maintain an open communication with parents (NZTC,2009). Centre can provide group opportunities for both parents to discuss family problems what they are currently facing with, so that teachers can have enough knowledge about what happened within their family and take next steps to help the family get out of those negative influences caused by separation/divorce.

If the family can’t cope with the problems which the divorce brought, the centre and teachers need to help them seek the community support networks to assist. Work and Income is one of the agencies which can help the parents to deal with their financial difficulties. It provides financial assistance and employment services throughout New Zealand(Work and Income,N.D). Therefore, if separation or divorce brings any financial problem, the teachers can advice the parents go to work and income and ask for support. Moreover, as a single parent, it is quite hard for him/her to tack care of the children by him/herself. The Plunket Fanlily Centre can offer lots of supports and information for the parents, such as breastfeeding, infant nutrition, sleeping, child behaviour and parent/family needs(Plunket,N.D).We also can introduce kindergarten association to the parents to help their children cope with the emotional problems which brought with their parents’ divorce, because kindergarten association provides information, advice and strategies to parents about their children’s education(Duncan,2006). As teachers, we need to know those community support networks/agencies and familiar with their functions, so if the parents have any problem which the family and early childhood centre could not cope with it, staffs could suggest parents to have a chat with those agencies to solve the related problems which caused by separation

In this essay, it has discussed the significance of effective partnerships between parents and teachers in early childhood settings. It also has identified a challenge that families may face in Aotearoa/New Zealand, which is family in divorce and separation. Some effective strategies that early childhood teachers could use to support children and families have been illustrated. Meanwhile, it has also included how parent/teacher partnerships, relevant community and agencies would assist when families face this challenge, which could definitely support families and minimize the risk for children.

Reference lists:

2010 Divorce Guide. (2010) .The Most Common Reasons for Divorce and Separation. Retrieved on January 19, 2010, from http://www.divorceguide.com/free-divorce-advice/marriage-and-separation-advice/the-most-common-reasons-for-divorce-and-separation.html

Brodkin, A. (2008). Dealing with Divorce. Scholastic Parent & Child, 16(2), 44-46.

Duncan, J. (2006). Collaboration between New Zealand early childhood centres and community resources. Childrenz issues, 10(2), 14-19.

Early Childhood Code of Ethics National Working Group, (1995). Early childhood education code of ethics for Aotearoa/New Zealand. Wellington: Early Childhood Code of Ethics National Working Group

Families Commission (2006). Beyond demography: History, ritual and families in the twenty-first century. Wellington: Families Commission.

Keesing Styles, L. (2000). Possibilities for partnership: Empowering parents to participate. Early Education, 24, 5-9

Ministry of Education (1996). Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mo ngā

mokopuna o Aotearoa / early childhood curriculum.

Wellington, New Zealand: Learning Media.

New Zealand Tertiary College. (2009). The family study guide. Auckland, New Zealand: New Zealand Tertiary College.

Office of the Commissioner for children. (1990). The United Nations Convention on the Rights of The Child. New York: UNCIEF

Plunket.(n.d). Family centres. Retrieved on January 19, 2010, from http://www.plunket.org.nz/plunket-you/what-we-offer/family-centres/

Pryor, J. & Rodgers, B. (2001). Children in changing families: Life after parental separation. Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell.

Pogoloff, S., & Lock, R. (2004, November). Facilitate Positive Relationships Between Parents and Professionals. Intervention in School & Clinic, 40(2), 116-119. Retrieved August 9, 2009, from Education Research Complete database

Smith,A.B.,(1998). Understanding children’s development:A new Zealand perspective(4th ed.). Wellingtom: Bridget Williams Books.

Tabors, P.O.(1998).What early childhood educators need to know:Developing effective programs for linguistically and culturally diverse children and families. Young children, 53(6), 20-26.

Work and Income,(n.d). Supporting children and families. Retrieved on January 19, 2010, from http://www.workandincome.govt.nz/individuals/supporting-children-and-families.html



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