LaQuita Middleton-Holmes | July 2019

Community Partners:
The Homerun We All Need

Community partnerships are one of the most effective teaching tools a teacher can use to bring lessons to life! They work as effective tools to help curb misbehavior, as well as to help provide more in-depth learning opportunities. So, let’s dive right in!

Curbing Misbehavior

As teachers, we see a lot of misbehavior in our classrooms. It’s a given. Before getting upset or giving up, think about how you can use community partnerships to help curb misbehavior in your classroom.

Academic misbehavior (individual) deals with a student not completing assignments and/or homework, refusing to participate in a class or work in groups as instructed, etc. This is generally a defiance issue – not necessarily a learning challenge.

This refusal to complete assignments, as a result, has a negative impact on the student’s grade and does not showcase his optimal academic performance ability.

What to Do?

In this instance, I will refer to the stakeholder model. I add “School Administration” because they, too, play a key role in the education of a child. And every stakeholder has a very important job: We must each take responsibility for educating each child properly!

If, after consulting every stakeholder in the model above, we still have little to no success, try looking to my favorite stakeholder: community partners!!! When we introduce students to community partners, they are usually able to communicate in special, practical ways that hit home with students.

An Example

I had an instance that arose not too long ago where I taught a student who needed to take my class in preparation for a big exam. She was not pleased. She would arrive at school but would skip my class. When she would come to class, she would sit in silence and refuse to participate. Or, she would just ask to get water a zillion times.

Because I had never taught her, she did not trust me. I consulted with her mother and then two assistant principals for support with little success. Once she realized I cared (by getting everyone involved), she began to open up to me. We went from discussing lessons to discussing his career aspirations. She wanted to become a Marine Biologist!

She lit up like holiday lights when she spoke about marine animals and their characteristics. Seeing the drastic change in her demeanor, I shifted her thinking into how her current actions were derailing her career aspirations. Then I spent time informing her of opportunities that would help her reach her goal. After reaching out to the local zoo, she was able to secure a volunteer position working with animals. (Oh, and before I forget to mention, the student also passed her exam!)

Moral of the Story: It is everyone’s job to help rear a child. If one stakeholder is unsuccessful for any reason, it is our responsibility to continue to reach out to each stakeholder to ensure the child reaches those end goals.

Community Partnerships Help Provide More In-Depth Learning Opportunities

There is nothing like bringing in a community partner to help reinforce something you have taught in class. It seems as if students will not believe you until they have heard someone say the same. exact. words! 

First Base: How to Get Started?

To be successful at community partnerships, you must prepare adequately. Before even reaching out to a community partner, you should have your presentation objectives and outline internalized and in written form. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What is the primary topic and objective?
  • What key points should the speaker discuss?
  • How long should the speaker present?
  • What grade level will they present to?
  • What are the class’ demographics?
  • What tangible objects can the speaker bring?           

In everything learning opportunity, we should “begin with the end in mind!”

Second Base: But Why, Though?

1) If you don’t know for sure 100%, how can you guide your partner to meet your objectives?

2) Once you have your itemized list of expectations, decide which community partner would work best with your class.

3) Call and discuss which person on their staff would work best with what you want them to do in your class. Explain the gist of the presentation to the receptionist because s/he will be your inside support system! It’s best practice to also email the formal request. This should include the expectations of the presentation, date, time, specific location, number of students and grade level. Don’t forget to include good contact information!

4) Send a formal letter of request to the desired speaker, the president of the organization, and the receptionist.

Once you have submitted your detailed request to all parties, make sure to follow up shortly thereafter to ensure receipt. You should also follow up for confirmation!

Third Base: Why ALL FOUR?

Well, of course, you want to provide the organization with everything you can to ensure their confirmation. However, you should not over-inundate them with information. Give them the room to add their own flair! This information should be no more than one page.

You will send this to all of the aforementioned parties because they will remind each other of the event and help each other see it as a practical opportunity for the organization in the community. The receptionist will always make sure to have your documents handy. S/he will know the details specific to your request – in case the speaker has questions, but do not necessarily want to call you, as of yet.

   

Home Plate: How Does This Look in the Classroom?

A few years ago, I taught my students about the Byzantine Empire and the controversy over the use of icons in the Church. Should or should they not use icons in their worship?

After learning about the Byzantine Empire, its famed leaders, and rich history through a variety of mediums, I assigned my students a visually-based art project that told the history of the period. We had discussed the history and a little bit of the art that really defined this era.

To add to the depth of this lesson, I reached out to a local art gallery and invited one of the owners out to speak with my class about the art of this era. She agreed to bring some of her own original art pieces of this period and use them as talking points. It just so happened that she had been working on a beautiful cloth image of the Madonna and Jesus. My students were mesmerized!

They inquired about her interest in this particular genre, her creative process, etc. They fact-checked a lot of points I made in class and were delighted I helped them appear scholarly in front of our guest. Knowing her role as a visual artist and an art gallery owner, my students made sure to inquire about the best ways to create their projects. They were fully engaged and I loved every minute of it!

The Homerun!

After delivering her presentation, we opened the floor for a Q & A session. Students asked their own questions about the time period, the controversy over the use of icons, and even their own specific projects. She offered up several specific responses to their inquiries and then stepped outside of my own expectations of her. How? By offering to help students with their projects at her studio and providing free art supplies!!!

This was a hit! My students were elated!

Although only about half of the class was able to make it, we had a great time learning about the creative process of creating a historical relic firsthand. This also deepened our class community.

This is the power of community partnerships. Teachers can give all the pertinent information we are required to give in several different innovative modalities, but a community partner can transform the original objective and brilliantly score the home run we all so desperately long for!

About the Author

LaQuita Middleton-Holmes is a freelance Educational Consultant in Texas. She loves to bring out-of-the-box teaching to elicit out-of-the-box results!