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Involving Adults in the Education Process: One Teacher Shares Her Strategies

Renee Moore taught high school English for many years in the Mississippi Delta, one of the poorest places in the United States. She developed an unusual way to involve adults in the school life of her students.

Here’s her account:

I asked each student to choose someone over 21. I said, “Choose someone you respect, who really, genuinely wants to see you graduate from high school.” It could be a parent but it didn’t have to be. It could be a grandparent, an uncle, an aunt, whoever fit. Sometimes I had a kid who felt no adult cared about them. For them, I got volunteers among the faculty or in the community—head start teachers, coaches, choir directors, neighbors. My husband is a pastor and sometimes I called on him.

For one kid, it was the mailman. I asked them to get somebody they would see on a regular basis.

I contacted each adult and said, “I need you to be this child’s cheerleader for the year. Talk about attendance, encourage them to come. When you see the child is dragging, offer to intercede with a teacher. Be there for them.

Some parents were very grateful for the help. Some were single moms who were working. They couldn’t come to school, and appreciated having another adult involved. The students knew there was another person there for them, someone they had chosen, not someone I had chosen.

I asked these adults to talk to the students at least once a week. Some did it much more often.

I did not discuss grades with these people: If it was not a parent or legal guardian, there would have been legal issues. But I would say, “Billy is not doing as well as he could.”

I would get together with at least a few of these adults every week.

I would find a retiree or grandparent to coordinate all this and help me get it going.

It was labor intensive—I’m not going to lie—but it was worth the effort.

It changed the relationship between school and community, too. An adult might not have a child of their own at the school, but still their kid was there, so they had a vested interest in the school.

I won’t tell you that because of this, all of my students did extremely well. I had some who dropped out, some who went to jail. But it was a tremendous help.

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