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Impact: In the Classroom
The article published in TC Week in 1969 begins by describing the academic impact made by two parent educators.
- Mrs. Azalee Evans at PS 207 "has prepared the first lessons in a course on Afro-American history. She teaches the course to the third grade class where she works while the regular teacher looks on."
- Mrs. Ella Elliston, who also served on the program's Parent Council, "has been teaching pupils how to sew on buttons, make patches, etc. At Christmas, every boy and girl in the class, under Mrs. Elliston’s direction, sewed aprons as gifts.”
An undated report from the files of Morningside Heights, Inc. that appears to have been written in 1968 confirms this positive assessment. Describing the work of parent educators, it notes:
“The addition of a parent in the classroom benefits the children as much as the teacher and parent involved because the parent can give individual attention and small group instruction while the teacher is working with other students, can offer talents (musical, artistic) that the teacher may not have, can help the non-English speaking children (many parents in the program are bi-lingual) and can understand and relate to children whose environment she shares.”
The initial proposal for Parent-Teacher Teams included a long list of proposed duties for parent educators. These ranged from providing individual assistance and small group work with students in classrooms to more specific directives, including
- "contribute to enrichment actvities by utilizing her special talents,"
-"to alert the teacher to the special needs of individual children,"
- "to give special encouragement and aid to the non-English speaking child," and
- "to be a source of affection and security to the children."
These duties range remarkably, from straight-ahead instructional assistance to emotional labor in support of children who might not otherwise receive it. They also suggest that parent educators might well transform the educational experience for students and teachers. As the reports from TC Week and Morningside Heights, Inc indicate, parent educators made the most of these opportunities, and administrators took note.
In addition to the specific impact of parent interventions, the presence and labor of parent educators in classrooms shifted the overall relationship betwen parents and teachers, and schools and communities. The lessons taught by Mrs. Evans and Mrs. Elliston did not just impart relevant knowledge, but validated community history and the practical skills of working women as educationally legitimate. The presence of parents speaking Spanish and French to Puerto Rican and Haitian students likewise validated their languages and cultures. Finally, the presence of educators with everyday connections to students and their parents in classrooms allowed teachers to better understand the particular, individual struggles of students, and made students more at home in schools.
The video interview linked on the previous page includes descriptions of paraprofessionals working with students in individual, small-group, and bilingual instruction.
Paraprofessional Doris Hunter teaches about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at PS 25 in Brooklyn in 1970. Many paraprofessionals took the lead in bringing African-American, Latino, and Asian-American history and culture into public schools in New York City. United Federation of Teachers. Credit: Hans Weissenstein Negatives Collection, Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, NYU, via LAWCHA Labor Online.