Home Visits: Where dinners become walks and relationships are formed
A young lady sat silently in my front row the first week of school. I greet her like I greet every other student with a hug and a “Good Afternoon.” She accepts my hug with a small smile. However, she barely raises her hand when the class is asked a question about Wonder, the book our 4th graders are reading during shared reading. It’s the first week of school and all students are shy. That is to be expected.
During Writing Workshop on Friday of that week, Ireri wrote a wonderful piece and I encouraged her to read it to her teammates. She spoke eloquently and really shared her thoughts. During dismissal, I saw her mom to tell her about the shock that I had that this young lady was able to share so effectively with her team. Her mom was actually shocked, because she said her daughter is very shy and never talks. I was surprisd because that was not what I saw when she stood in front of her teammates and presented her ideas. After having this discussion with the mother, I laughed and told her that I am sure that this is the year of change for this beautiful child. As a teacher in my past life, that would be the end of our communication until another dismissal or parent teacher conferences. Luckily for me, this was the perfect time for me to ensure that I could schedule a home visit for Ireri and her family.
One of the key levers to excellent teaching is having a relationship with the students’ families. One of the things I have learned to love about being a teacher at Rocketship is being privileged to be invited into our childrens’ homes to see them in another element. It is a time to really get to know our families and the goals they have for their amazing children. It is also a time to get to know the parents because without parents our work would be so much less effective. Home visits may really be the best thing that happens to us as teachers.
During back to school night the second week, I spoke to Ireri’s mom about how proud I was of her amazing daughter. After finishing our conversation, she said, “Make sure that you don’t eat, I want to cook for you”. I’ve had some impromptu dinners and have had some good food during these amazing home visits, but when a family tells you that you are going to eat, you really get excitied. I went with earnest expectation of that night. I was greeted by a myriad of hugs (mom and dad know I am a hugger from the Welcome Barbecue and have accepted it). That night was full of family games including speed puzzles (timing to put together puzzles) jokes, and then dinner. Before that day, I had never had a tamale and it was amazing. After dinner and questions, it was the perfect segue to go. As I prepared make my exit, Ireri asked me if I would go on a walk with her family to the Washington Park. Still in my heels from school, and looking at the time, my first reaction was an honest no. However, upon thinking about this evening’s conversation and how important it was for Ireri to trust me, I enthusiastically said yes. At around 7:30 I walked with my student and her family to the park. I sat and played with the children I also talked a little to some people from the community. It was the most humbling experience I’ve ever had. Not only was I getting to know this family, but I had conversations with people in the community. It was a blessing and it was really amazing.
The aftermath of that home visit and many others have allowed me to be the best teacher I could for the children in front of me. I began to teach with their families in mind. Students like Ireri began to give their opinions on the day’s readings and take initiative in group and classroom projects. The coolest thing about this, it is only September. I cannot wait until December. The relationships I formed during home visits that I have completed like with this student and the other 20 (and more to come) have been the driving force in my instruction this year. I am so happy that home visits were something that I was asked to do. It has renewed my passion for eliminating the achievement gap.