Teachers Connect with Families, Neighborhood During Community Walks

On Wednesday, August 22, 2012, parents at Thomson Elementary School (DCPS) led teachers and administrators on a Community Walk through the neighborhood in which many of the families live. More than 60 teachers, parents, and students visited local landmarks and the buildings that many of the school’s Latino families call home. As the group from Thomson progressed through the neighborhood, other parents and kids from the school greeted the teachers on the sidewalks outside their apartment buildings. Teachers were thrilled with the opportunity to learn more about their students families and meet with them in the community. The walk was primarily conducted in Spanish, so the teachers gained the added experience of using interpretation equipment to follow along.

Across town, teachers, staff members, and families at Benjamin Orr Elementary School (DCPS) participated in a Community Walk the following day. More than 50 adults and children toured the blocks surrounding Orr in southeast D.C.’s historic Fairlawn neighborhood. Along the way they spoke with longtime residents, community activists, church leaders, and small business owners who lived or worked in the neighborhood for years. Many of the speakers’ now-grown children attended Orr in their primary years.Teachers expressed deep appreciation for the chance to gain a deeper understanding of the neighborhood in which they teach – its history, challenges, hidden gems, and the strong sense of community that in part defines Fairlawn.

The Community Walk is a signature piece of Teaching for Change’s approach to family engagement, called Tellin’ Stories. Teaching for Change helped organize the Community Walks and partners with the schools to increase meaningful parent engagement. The Community Walk is a unique activity and serves several purposes:

  • Increase the staff’s understanding of the community in which they teach, the assets as well as the challenges.
  • Form meaningful relationships between parents and staff to collaborate using all resources and to lobby for the best education possible for children.
  • Identify resources teachers can bring into the classrooms or tour on field trips, and acknowledge support persons in the neighborhood.
  • Strengthen teaching and learning at the school by deepening awareness of the community.

The Tellin’ Stories Project is funded in part by the DC Children and Youth Investment Trust CorporationThe Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, and the DC Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs. Visit Teaching for Change’s Facebook page for complete photo albums of the Thomson ES and Orr ES Community Walks.