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MetLife Connecting Communities for Learning Project

Contact: Toni Griffin, MetLife, Inc
             (212) 578-3792
 *Click here for Back-To-School Tips for   Students, Teachers, and Parents 
             Erin Brownfield, Families and Work Institute               (212) 465-2044


The MetLife Foundation Connecting Communities for Learning Project Will Honor Communities That Have Strengthened the Connections between Students, Teachers and Parents

Project To Use Youth Voices to Publish Guides and Best Practices For Supporting Student Success in Communities throughout America

New York, August 16, 2001-In response to findings from the most recent MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, MetLife Foundation and Families and Work Institute (FWI) have created a new initiative designed to address the troubling lack of connection between teachers, parents and students, The MetLife Foundation Connecting Communities For Learning Project.

MetLife has published its survey of education-related issues annually since 1984. The most recent survey found that adults have much lower expectations for students' success than students do. For example, while 60 percent of secondary students are confident that they will achieve their goals for the future, only 52 percent of parents and 19 percent of teachers of children this age share that same confidence. Likewise, while 71 percent of secondary students plan to attend a four-year college, only 52 percent of parents and 32 percent of teachers of children this age hold the same expectation for these young people.

The MetLife Foundation Connecting Communities For Learning Project will honor between four and ten communities across America that have found innovative ways to strengthen the connection between students, teachers and parents. The award will include a cash grant designed to allow these communities to take further steps in support of student success.

Says Sibyl Jacobson, President and CEO, MetLife Foundation, "America's young people are an untapped resource for community improvement and change. We are delighted to partner with Families and Work Institute to recognize communities that bring young people from diverse backgrounds and with a variety of interests into their civic, social and economic dialogue and decision making. By giving youth a seat at the table, they become invested in positive social change and develop their skills as leaders and citizens."

The project will take place in two phases over 12 months.

In Phase I, MetLife Foundation and FWI will produce a range of products, including a "Discussion Starter" video that frames key findings from the MetLife study and explores students' reactions to the findings; a "Student Voices" booklet that profiles students who have taken steps to improve their schools; a "Parents and Teachers Working Together" booklet of strategies that can help parents and teachers support each other to enhance student learning; and a Communications, Learning and Action network and e-mail distribution list of individuals and organizations that care about these issues.

In Phase II, the project will select and honor communities that have demonstrated their commitment to engaging students, parents, schools and community resources to unite parents and teachers in support of student learning and achievement. Action grants will be awarded to each of these communities to further their exemplary work. Communities chosen will become part of a network that will provide ongoing support and assistance.

Says President and Co-founder of Families and Work Institute, Ellen Galinsky, "There are many understandable reasons why parents, students, and teachers do not always unite to support students. However, studies reveal that much is known about how to improve the connections among these groups in ways that truly help students learn. Here are a few strategies for ways you can do this in your community:"

Tips for Students
Studies do show that students are more likely to thrive in school if they have someone who cares about their progress and supports their interests. And according to studies, the ability to generate multiple solutions to problems is a skill that will last a lifetime. So students can:
Seek out someone at school who is "there for you." Whether it is a teacher, coach or someone who works in the school office, you will do better at school if you know that someone really cares about you and wants you to succeed.
Find something in your school work that interests you and find out more about it. Share your interest and enthusiasm with your parents and teachers.
If you have a problem with a teacher or your parent about school, try to avoid fighting about it. Ask them to please listen to how you feel without interrupting (like they do on TV shows). Then ask them for ALL of the ideas they have that could make things better. There may be one idea that is good.

Tips for Teachers
Families and Work Institute has conducted a number of studies on parent-teacher relationships and has found that some tension between parents and teachers is inevitable. In today's world, the job of teacher can be stressful and so can the job of parent. The challenge is to turn it from destructive to constructive tension. To do so, teachers can:
Understand your expectations. If you are upset at a parent, inevitably there is an expectation you have that hasn't come true-whether it is that a parent should show more interest in a child's work or should be able to get off from work to go on a field trip. Think about what you are expecting and ask yourself if it is realistic or not. If not, then try to change your expectation to be more realistic.
Accept diversity. The greater the difference between parent and teacher demographically, the more likely it is that there will be tension. The friction between you may be legitimate or may occur because people from different backgrounds have different (but just as good) ways of doing things.
Get support. It would be wonderful if every school had one person who took on the role of being a "parent expert," someone you could go to when you are having problems with parents. That person could support you and help you find ways to resolve your differences. In the absence of your school having someone like this, find someone on your own.

Tips for Parents
Studies from FWI show that the best relationships with teachers occur when the parent respects the job of teacher and sees the school as a resource for them and their families. So parents can:
Set up regular ways of communicating with the teacher. If you and the teacher come from very different backgrounds, see if you can find someone to go with you to school who can help you understand why teachers do things they way they do. Teachers who know you care about how your child is doing are more likely to go out of their way to work with you and your child.
Find ways to be involved in your child's education. If you are working and can't easily come to school, then try to do other things�like sending a note to the teacher about a homework assignment you found particularly interesting.
Use a problem-solving technique if you have an issue with the teacher. Ask the teacher to describe the problem and then engage her or him in suggesting lots of different ways that the teacher and you can solve the problem. Avoid getting defensive or angry if you can. Keeping the relationship focused on the problem and various solutions will make things better for all.

MetLife Foundation, established in 1976 by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, has a long history of supporting initiatives that improve the quality of education and help young people succeed. The Foundation commits its resources in education to programs that stimulate change and cultivate effective learning environments at school through teacher preparation and minority education, and throughout the community by involving families in education and encouraging after-school programs and arts and health education. For more information about the Foundation, please visit the Web site at www.metlife.org.

Families and Work Institute is a non-profit center for research that provides data to inform decision-making on the changing workforce, changing family and changing community. Founded in 1989, FWI is known for ahead of the curve, non-partisan research into emerging work-life issues; for solutions-oriented studies addressing topics of vital importance to all sectors of society; and for fostering connections among workplaces, families, and communities. For more information, visit our Web site at www.familiesandwork.org.

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