Families and Schools Together (FAST) is a program that NCFF provides grant funds and program support to in an effort to strengthen school-community relationships as well as support healthy family interactions. The program gives parents a structured time to bring come to school with their children, learn about positive interactions, have play time, get support from other parents and establish trusting relationships with teachers.
Becky Miller, one of the teachers who participates in the Chadron FAST program, wrote this letter.
I am a school partner on the Chadron FAST team, as well as the preschool teacher to several families who graduated from the FAST program. I got to see firsthand the change and impact FAST made on several children and families, and the impact it made on my classroom. Children were excited each week for a night of FAST and parents felt more comfortable communicating with me and visiting the classroom. Even though there was such a positive influence on all of the FAST families, there is one family in particular that had a really good experience.
One of the families that graduated FAST was a single dad of one son. This dad had just gotten custody of his son only a few months before FAST started. His son had been living with his mother and had been abused. The dad had not got to spend much time with the son in previous years due to living in different states. He told me he didn’t know if he was doing a good job as a dad and that they were learning together to give his son a good home.
The dad and son attended FAST every week except one. During that time, I observed a lot of positive interactions between the dad and son. I saw him grow each more each week, especially during special play. In one instance, the son had a particularly difficult day at school with another child, and when I had visited with the dad about the situation, he got down on his knees, to the level of his son, looked him straight in the eye and talked with him in a calm and loving voice about the situation and what choices he could make next time to make the situation better. I was so impressed! I pulled the dad aside and told him what a great job he is doing as a dad.
The week before our FAST graduation, I had a parent teacher conference with this dad and he openly talked with me about FAST and what a good experience it was. He said it was something that he and his son looked forward to every week to do together and that he felt so supported with the other family members during the parent group time. It gave him the time he needed to discuss the concerns and issues he had as a single father who had just gotten full time custody of his son. He definitely needed that encouragement and FAST gave him the boost he needed to know he is doing a good job.
I think I speak on behalf of our whole FAST team that this first cycle of FAST didn’t only make a huge impact on the children and families who participated but it also made a huge impact on our whole team in understanding the family unit and how helping them strengthen the bond, and feel empowered can make an impact on how the child does in school.
Why FAST works
Because it does what so many early childhood programs fail to do – it makes the parents an integral part of the process. The teachers work with parents to become their child’s most important teacher. The program serves the family unit as a whole, and creates a relationship in which the school is a trusted service provider to both parent and child. This means the child is learning – at school and at home. And if parents have concerns or ideas, they’re going to work with their children’s teachers.
FAST is an outstanding example of schools and families working effectively as a team to make a real difference in the development of their children.