Teachers: Developing Community Partnerships

I am a big fan of developing partners in education. One of my first positions following college was as the Community In Schools Director for a local school system. It was a big job, maybe even a little too big for a young 23 year old. However, my employer saw a spark in me and so I got the job. Throughout my time there many difficult lessons were learned, but many of those lessons have stayed with me my entire life, and I reflect back on them often.

One of the biggest lessons that I learned was the importance of community partnerships. My employer, who was the Communications Director as well as the Partners in Education Director worked diligently to create partnerships between the schools and community businesses. She had a true passion for bringing businesses and schools together, and was never timid about the process. I was always impressed by her tenacity and her belief that the work we were doing made a difference for the schools, teachers, and most importantly the students.

Throughout my life, serving in various roles within education: Community In Schools Director, mentor, PTO volunteer, and teacher, one thing has become clear, community partnerships must exist to create the biggest impact for our students. Because in the end the focus is the students, not creating great public relations for the businesses. That may be an added bonus for them, but the big question for businesses and schools should be: How will this impact student achievement?

Currently, I am making small strides. Yesterday, I visited the city library within the town that I teach. My hope was to develop a partnership with them. The two librarians were thrilled with the prospect of a working relationship, and I saw their facial tension shift from gloomy to excited in a matter of minutes. They began to throw out ideas as I began to tell them all the ways that I thought they could help with the students in our community. Now, they have committed to coming to the 5th grade parent night to help get students a library card, and promote their summer reading program. They also want to begin developing middle grades programming, because of the newly desired interest. Throughout the rest of this year and summer I will continue to nurture that relationship. It is so empowering for schools, businesses, and community organizations to work together for a common goal, and what greater goal than our children-our future.

Additionally, it always amazes me how easy it can be to develop relationships. It can feel a bit overwhelming for me to think of going into a strange place and requesting help. However, I always know that if I have a plan and I’m able to communicate that plan to the business or organization with vision and passion, more times than not they will want to help and be apart of it.

In closing, the impact of community organizations, businesses, parents, and teachers working together toward a common goal can be tremendous. There becomes a entirely new dimension to our classrooms and our schools as a whole. The isolation disappears and we become one. A community, a place that wants to see our children soar! I look forward to finding ways that I can use the resources within the community to help educate my students. There are so many ways. It just takes small, actionable steps, and perseverance.

Added Resources:

Partners in Education
http://douglascounty.schoolinsites.com/Default.asp?DivisionID=1862&DepartmentID=1713&SubDepartmentID=0&keyword=partner in education

http://www.ncpie.org/DevelopingPartnerships/

http://www.ptotoday.com/

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