I have travelled back in time to the ways, the good old days and good old ways, of door to door service. One door is creaky, metal, and leads to my classroom... the other door is to the home of my student.
I have found that experiencing what is behind THEIR door is what makes what goes on behind mine that much more meaningful. When I can reach them by reminding them about what they learned in Karate in second grade - you know -when their dad made them go to karate and they hated it at first but then they loved it and learned how to become more assertive in a GOOD way... These are things that I learned around the coffee table with my student, and her family.
I drove up to my first home visit the other afternoon. I waited around school until about 6pm, then headed over to her house. THEIR house. I strolled up to the door, not knowing what to expect behind it, and a little uneasy. After all, it was my first trip to their house. I imagine it was how the student felt when she walked into my classroom for the first time.
I stayed there for an hour, lounging around the living room (no TV, this was the formal space in the house), and listened to how the parents have provided for their daughter and siblings in the last 10 years. The trip to Disney, the trip back to Panama to see family for the first time since they left, the karate, the soccer, and the questions about how to pay for college.
Yes. Their daughter is a fourth grader. She was born in the US, while her parents were not. They came to the country "to make family and get good jobs for our children" (the ones not yet born). I was energized by their questions, and so proud that they were already thinking about how and when to worry about college. I shared stories about my first time figuring it out, and how it was scary figuring out where all of that money was coming from. I laughed with them as they shared that they were shocked that I wasn't "a natural" in figuring out the college thing - and how hard it was for me to get through and finish. I hope, and I think, that some of what I shared put them at ease.
The parents also shared that they talk to their daughter, my student, telling her the dangers of drugs and alcohol. They were so open and honest with the student, and I hold it close to my heart that they shared those previous discussions with me.
I left the house feeling excited about the connections I could make with this student in class. How I could use what I know about her and her family to bridge our school world and her home world... extending the learning.
I gave my students the choice this year - home visit or school visit. I was curious to see how many families would choose the home visit if given a choice. So far I have four. Out of 19 families that have responded.
Next year I am not sure if I will give them a choice at first. I am realizing quickly what a hearty lifeline the home visits are to education.
Oh, and a mental note. Snacks are necessary if staying that late at school. I think my stomach rumbled right around minute 12. An uninvited guest.