At first I thought this was a difficult question because of where I teach (high school in a very urban, free and reduced lunch, high poverty area) I don't always have good success with parent involvement in the more traditional sense. I can't always get a hold of parents. I set up a field trip last year and we had parent chaperones lined up. Unfortunately a couple didn't show up.
I feel like there is a bit of a divide, or a culture shift between my culture and my students' communities. I live five miles from the school, but it is a very different culture. It is suburban. I grew up in a middle class suburb. I have taught in my current district for 10 years, but I still feel like there are barriers or differences that I will probably never be able to cross.
Then, as I thought about this question, I took it a completely different way and realized that I do use information about families and communities.
- Because my students home lives are often chaotic, and they often don't have school supplies, I make sure that I always have extra paper, pencils etc. available in the classroom.
- Because my students may not have homework support at home, I always give homework that can be done independently (a menu of choices to practice vocabulary words, for example). And I don't ever assign homework that is due the next day. I always give some flexibility.
- Because my students, in general, have a lot of other responsibilities outside of school, I don't give a lot of homework.
- Because there are a lot of reasons that school is missed, or homework doesn't get done, I am flexible on accepting late work.
- Because there is a huge range of abilities, I try to differentiate and provide multiple pathways to success and multiple reading levels.
- Because they may not have background experiences, I try to start most units with common background experiences and build in some background knowledge and engagement, as well as feeling for success early on.
- Because the way for them to change their situation is by passing these high stakes exams, earning high school credits, and graduating, I still hold them to a high academic standard. I do not dumb down the content, and I do not excuse them from assignments.
Many of these have become such a part of my practice that I don't even think about them anymore. But my teaching style does reflect where I teach...
How about you? How does your teaching style reflect the families and communities where you teach?