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Teachers’ visits to students’ homes

Home visits by teachers

By Tahir Ali

Attaullah always took keen interest in his studies. He was regular in class and was popular in fellow students as well as teachers. But then he bagged inconsiderable marks in his 10th grade examination. He felt alienated by the treatment of his father over his poor result. He was remorseful for wasting his time. Life lost all charms for him. Dejected and enraged at himself, he indulged himself in activities that were detrimental to his time, studies and goals. He thought it was all over for him. But then a teacher visited his home a few times and talked to him and his parents.

“Reflect on your habits, priorities and activities. Think as to which were the things that distracted you from studies and wasted your time. Also know about the things and habits that had proved useful during any stage of your academic career. Avoid the distractions and follow the plus points…..,” he told him.

That lifted his spirits. Attaullah started working with a new zeal and commitment. Later, he won two gold medals in his career.

The above story illustrates that a hardworking, committed and friendly teacher can transform a student’s life. There can be tremendous interest in this home-visiting model provided these are carefully planned and effectively executed. These have the potential to improve low performing schools and provide an opportunity to build relationships with families that go a long way towards success of educational endeavours.

Though teachers’ visits to students’ homes usually follow problematic student behaviour or an urge on part of the school and teacher to ensure success of the students, an interested and committed teacher can spot pretty early on which are the students who might face some challenges and problems needing intervention and guidance.

Teachers’ visits can turn around weak students and schools. They give personal touch to the teacher-student relationship and create a sense of importance and confidence amongst students. They not only help build good inter teacher-students relationship and love but also give good information about the likes, dislikes, weaknesses and strong points of the students and teachers, which are crucial for educating the children satisfactorily. Poor performing children can excel with compassion, kindness, and some one-on-one help.

Educational experts say students do better if teachers, schools and students and their families act in unison. Our teachers need to come out of their ivory towers and be more friendly and close to their students and their parents if we hope for a better learning environment at schools.

Teachers may be lacking vital information about their students, and meaningful opportunity on part of the teachers to engage with their students and their families can solve the problem.

These visits and conversations not only help build a relationship with the parents and congeal one with their children, they also can create many other possibilities. For example, the teacher learns a ‘funds of knowledge’ from the parents and gets an insight about the prevailing situation at students’ homes, about students’ peer group, his neighbourhood behaviour and the way he deals with the situation.

Even though well-intended, these visits have both the potential to become a source of strength as well as trouble for the students and teachers. For example, there is the problem of reluctance on part of the teachers, especially female ones, and resistance on part of the parents towards this phenomenon.

Educators don’t want to be unwarranted guests and female teachers especially feel vulnerable to visit the homes of their adult students. Though parents usually like to be contacted for their children, sometimes they too resist these visits as encroachment and interference.

So, the visits should not be made mandatory for teachers, students or families. What then is to be done to make all these go for this highly beneficial practice: Teachers and educational administrators should be given financial and professional benefit for each visit they make. Parents and their studying children should receive stipend and educational credits on these visits respectively.

These incentives, rewards and chastisement and conditional cash transfers for teachers, parents, and schools will help foster friendly environment at the visits. We also need to ensure that training and a respectful structure is provided, and that visits don’t just target troubled students.

One important reason for the success of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, a successful project run by teachers’ union, school district, and a community group run in parts of USA since 1988, is that teachers are compensated for their time if they choose to participate voluntarily

The main problem is where will the funds come from and who would organise, supervise and evaluate the work of these bodies.

The thousands of Parents Teacher Councils (PTCs) functioning in public sector schools could make the task of organising, supervision and evaluation quite easier. Over and above, the national commission for human development (NCHD), that has huge budget with little practical impact, cannot find worthier business to pursue.  

Good communities create the foundation for great schools. In transforming public schools into the hubs of their communities, teachers and principals should play lead roles, supported by mentors, counsellors, media personnel and media outlets.

As far the funds, the government may allocate some funds for the project. If not, then the funds available with the NCHD and PTCs –the latter are given considerable funds for repair and maintenance of schools each year0- could be utilised. Similarly, grants and donations by public and private sector and by local or foreign NGOs could be used to fund these kinds of visits.

There should be no problem of resources. Various foreign bodies such as USAID, UNESCO and the like or the funds available with the NCHD could be utilised for the purpose. Anyway they are worth investment, because home visits can have far-reaching effects.

Besides, the project can be easily carried out by graduate teachers, especially female ones who are naturally more sublime and careful in dealing with students. It doesn’t require a psychological expert to do this as almost each working teacher is an expert in public dealing. However, for making and maintaining track-record of the meetings and findings of these visits and implementation and effects of these findings certainly warrant a short training. This can be done by plentiful public or private colleges, universities or the provincial and regional training institutes in the country.

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