The Learning for Justice article “Community Organizing Uplifts Immigrant Students” reminds us that engaging caregivers and community members “is critical to student success and a building block for wider civic participation for both children and adults.” Collaborating with families and communities provides educators with opportunities for reciprocal sharing that can benefit students, educators, schools and communities. When we center children and their needs, we recognize that school is only one aspect of a child’s life and experiences. Educators are not alone in the work of social justice education, and families and community members can be strong advocates and teachers as well.
Because all students’ households are different, we use the terms caregivers and families interchangeably to define the adult(s) responsible for the care of the student. Using the language of caregivers and families references the larger support system around students, including parental partners, stepparents, extended family members, foster parents, coaches, mentors, teachers and community leaders.
Educators can model inclusivity in their language by ensuring all materials addressing families and caregivers are inclusive. For example, instead of sending home a note that opens with the phrase “Dear parents,” use a more general greeting like “Dear families.” Instead of asking for “mother’s name” and “father’s name” on a form, have a space for “names of caregivers/family members.”