“While parents I am sure need/want a lot of information on their child’s learning, what teachers would like to know is WHAT actions/plans parents WILL take AND how can we measure the effectiveness of those plans in the future!” and “I think that an effort by parents to advise/communicate teachers about what they will be doing with what they read in report cards would greatly benefit teachers. How? I am thinking about a specific plan (like a business plan) to effect change.” The posting in its entirety can be found at: http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/10/question-2
As we begin to move our conversation, and hopefully our actions, from parent involvement to parent engagement now is not the time to be considering changes that would mandate parents to have a more formal responsibility whether it be a business plan model, as suggested, or legislation. This will not fix the problems we have in our schools with respect to parent participation. There have been instances in the USA where they are trying to formalize the responsibility of parents in schools with dismal results time and time again so this is not the answer. Right now we have parent involvement in our schools but we do not have parent engagement. Involvement and engagement is not the same thing. We believe that parents want to be engaged rather than involved. We also believe it can be done without having to legislate it. It will take time and effort by ALL (not just the parents and not just the educators) to change to engagement because involvement is what our education system knows.
Parents want to be engaged, but many times that is not the case. The knowledge that parents bring to the table needs to be valued, listened to and enacted on if need be. Parents need to have as many opportunities as possible to share their thoughts and feelings, to provide input, to have a voice in decisions which impact their children. Do educators truly listen – and hear – what parents are telling them about their children, without believing that they, the teacher, already hold the answers? Many parents do not believe educators are truly listening and hearing what they are saying with respect to their child. Many parents feel stupid after a conversation with their child’s teacher. A lot of times, educators alone determine what the child needs, they then tell the parents what they need to do and expect it to happen. If you feel you are not being heard and that your knowledge and experience is neither respected nor wanted you disengage. The communication becomes only one way (from school to home) and the support in the home diminishes.
How do we develop the trust needed between parents and educators to allow them to be actively engaged? How do parents and educators become equal partners to ensure success of the child? The change from involvement to engagement will take time, effort and in some instances education for parents in order to be effective. What support/education do the parents need in order to provide support to their children or to stay engaged with the teacher? We all need to explore authentic parent engagement together. We all need to put our personal and professional agendas aside, ask the difficult questions of each other and not be defensive of the answers. We need to identify the hurdles and figure out how to get over them. We need to start a conversation and be willing to change together. Rather than mandating parent participation we would be further ahead spend our energies building positive relationships based on trust and respect.