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Teachers who visit homes well-received by parents

Kindergarten teacher Emily Wilssays visiting homes helped her persuade parents support longer school days. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Kindergarten teacher Emily Wilson says visiting homes helped her persuade parents to support longer school days. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 24, 2011 4:52AM

Parent Mariana Chavez welcomes teachers from UNO charter school when they visit her Chicago home, because it helps her get to know her kids’ teachers and shows them just how important teachers are.

“Children need to know that the parent and the teacher do have a true relationship,’’ Chavez said. “. . . Anyone who’s allowed in our home is part of our family — and that’s how children should see them.”

On Thursday, Chicago Public Schools officials floated the idea of having teachers visit the homes of all 400,000 students in the district.

United Neighborhood Organization CEO Juan Rangel said teachers at his nine schools have been visiting students’ homes twice each year for the last few years. The visits are in addition to parent-teacher conferences at school.

“It helps cement the relationship between the school and the home and the teacher and the parents,” Rangel said.

UNO kindergarten teacher Emily Wilson said that sitting in the living rooms of her students’ homes, and sometimes having dinner with their families, helped immeasurably in persuading parents to buy into a plan for a longer school day and year at the school.

“When we rolled out this plan, I had a very comfortable working relationship with my parents. The parents’ response to the new calendar was overwhelming acceptance, excitement. The only complaint I heard was, ‘Why not more days?’ ” she said.

While expanding home visits to all students would be a new undertaking for CPS, for the past five years the Chicago Youth Advocate Program has sent 150 workers to the homes of high-risk students from schools all over the city.

The visits “give you a whole different view of the student, a better understanding,’’ said David Williams, regional director of the program.

Rank-and-file teachers at non-charter schools had a mixed reaction to the proposal.

Catherine Tunney, a kindergarten teacher at James Ward School in Bridgeport, said it isn’t a “hugely radical idea’’ and said some teachers already visit homes. She said some teachers “would welcome it and some . . . would probably freak.”

But not all parents will be receptive to the idea, said Diane Montag, a sixth-grade teacher at Haines Elementary School in Chinatown. While some parents are “honored’’ to have a teacher visit, others “feel government representatives are coming into their homes and feel violated,’’ she said. She also said interpreters or even security escorts could be needed in some cases.

“I’ve visited students in projects before, and there is risk involved. You have to be careful,’’ she said.

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