Creating The Conditions for Parent Engagement


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Presentation for the Parents as Partners series with Lorna Constantini of A focsu on ideas and questions on how principals and schools can create the conditions for parent engagement.

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  • Hope to share some ideas that I have learned as well as steal some more and gain feedback.We need to move past the idea that our parents are there to fundraise.We cannot make parents be engaged… this is a principal’s perspective on how school’s can create the conditions for parent engagement.
  • My story… who am I? Principal, Father, Husband, Teacher (elem and sec), Learner, CoachPrevious high school math/science/PE teacher – taught intermediate as a VP, small amount of primary as a principalPassionate about assessment, motivation, leadership, family engagementInterest in family engagement came from previous principal and the parents that I have worked with at our school. It was just something she did and I have really known no other way.We are by no means experts at our school and we contnue to learn about how to best engage and involve our families
  • Focus of this session will be on the last statement… how can school’s create the conditions for this to happen.
  • Larry has been someone who has helped me in a big way. We do hear this sometimes as parents should just let the professionals do their job (and help their kid with their HW). There does need to be a respect and trust in the profession but if a parent has questions about their child’s education – this can be a chance for dialogue.Many teachers and admin do not feel this way and instead focus on the school-family connections that Larry describes in his work. This will be our focus.
  • I have not read books or attended any courses on this… what I have done is spoken to a lot of parents about how to best engage them in schools. This session is filled with ideas that I have stolen from others… I can tell you right now that almost none of them are my own.  Reading blogs, networking with parents in and out of the school have helped me to develop my views on parent/family engagement. I still have a long way to go but I look forward to continually learning from those parents in my learning network.
  • Momentum – which way is our school heading? What kind of parent and staff relationships am I modeling?
  • We often make judgments about who is engaged and who is not. We also often state that engagement is better than involvement. Yet the most important thing is that parents feel they have a voice and a role in their child’s education… how they use this is up to them.
  • Ferlazzo differentiates between by stating involvement is about “doing to” and engagement is about “doing WITH”. Leading with our mouths vs leading with our ears. There is a role for both but are we more focused on what schools are saying and doing vs engaging in dialogue with parents on this?
  • 4 moms one dream - A team consists of more than one person, each of whom typically has different responsibilities, skills, knowledge and roles: each person brings something  unique and of value to the team.What do you think? Is partnership a reasonable goal or is more about teamwork? Does it really matter what we call it? Defining this is more about how we act with our families. A voice that is heard and acted upon.
  • So if 2-way communication plays a large role, how can work to improve on this? Mouth and Ears? How can we create the conditions for this to occur?
  • Move from mouth as the focus to both mouth and ears…. Ultimate goal is relationships – are we modeling that we want to and will hear? Are we visible when parents are in the building?2-way communication in small bits rather than large events a few times during the year.LISTEN – don’t have to agree but we need to listenMove from Newsletters (and magazines) to blogsShare ideas – help discuss the WHYBlogs, Facebook pages – tie together
  • Most of this stuff we did last year... But added a few things. Now about to release an app. I want to meet parents where they are and this means options. Also, rather than only newsletters, I started a school blog – comments and more “in time” info for parents. Parent communication that embraces WITH rather than TOHHG – parents appreciate small bits of information more often. ONGOING classroom and school communication.
  • Made me reflect on what is truly important. Much like technology and one day events can portray that we are doing great things… what happens on an ongoing basis is what really matters.
  • Go deeper and understand what is really important. Events and tech are ways we can reach out to parents… but the most important this is what happens after this. Do we acknowledge the feedback? Do we do anything with the feedback? Do we engage in the conversation? Use 2.0 tools to enhance, not replace relationships.
  • There are many areas of education that society does not come to consensus. Consensus is rarely the goal but we need to hear where people are coming from and seek to understand the concerns. Often, just having someone show empathy or hear you can make a huge difference. Now, if we say we are going to DO something, we need to DO it.
  • Seek to understand. See through each parents’ lens. If parents could do better, they would do better.Involvement/engagement is a continuum…Work WITH parents to provide support to create the conditions for increased involvement and engagement if there is a desire to do so.Informal to formalHome to school; include other family membersInvolved to engagedAll is ok… as long as parents are where they want to be
  • Peggy McIntosh – made me fme reflect on the advantages I have as a middle class white male.Be careful not to judge parents – especially those whose shoes we have never even been close to being in.Understand, show empathy.Poverty, Racism, ResidentialSchoolsMany do not have the economic or cultural capital that others have – money, time, language, support, education, access, etc“They just need to work harder” shows a lack of understanding.
  • Residential SchoolsBad experiences – bullying, failure, relationship with schoolPrincipal’s officeSeek to understand, invisible knapsack, listenRedefine the principal’s office. Get rid of the big oak desk between the principal/teacher and the parent.
  • Parents/kids these daysDifferent times, different choices – we cannot judge parents of different times, we cannot judge kids in different times. Seek to understand and work WITH as a community.
  • Stop putting people in boxes and working with the box…. and instead work with people! We don’t need all these ideas about punishing and rewarding parents… we need to meet them where they are, listen and move forward together.
  • We often hear school and educators telling parents how to best support their child. Is this 2-way dialogue or is it information being sent out? Are we leading with our mouths or our ears? It is one thing to encourage reading with your child but if we do this as well as sending home hours of HW each night and punishing kids for not doing it – we send mixed messages. Meet parents where they are. There is a role for encouraging involvement and engagement but it is often about how this message is sent – if people feel like they are being told what to do, the intended impact of the message may be lost.
  • Informal to Formal - We often hear that parents are obstacles to education reform… why would they not be when they are not included in the conversation and are forced to trust and hope it works out. Parents(and students and many times teachers) are often included in the decision… after the decision has already been made.Simon Sinek – Start with Why – the first question we often hear from parents is: WHY? What if some parents were more formally included in the reform conversation from the start rather than being included once the decision has already been made?
  • Formal in BC - Does not work at all schools… much like most policies, it is about what you do with these. 3 parents at each school plus students and teacher and admin. (Teachers have been told not to be part of the SPC so we include their voice in different ways). Have had an SPC that tells me like it is and also shares their learning with me. We have great dialogue on student learning and ed reform. Meet once a month and more in the spring when we are finalizing the school plan.
  • I am sure that parent involvement helps with achievement but that is not the focus for me. The focus for me is community. Effective relationships with families make school more enjoyable for families, students, and staff. This will have a direct and indirect impact on so many things in schools… including achievement.
  • Ask parents.Hear parents. LISTENDo what you say you are going to do or any trust could be lost.
  • Lead through listening. (Sheila)Mitch Albom - Story of girl dancing in the kitchen wanting to share a drawing she’d made a school. Mom tending to the cooking.
  • Redefine the principal’s office. Get out of the office. Get rid of the big oak desk barrier.Redefine parent-teacher interviews. Student-led conference. Seek to understand. Peer through their lens.
  • Understand how to best communicate with each family. Nurture the relationships. Find staff members who communicate well with the family. Show empathy. Use tech for some things but avoid if possible for important conversations.
  • How do you determine barriers for families – different families may have different barriers. ASK! May find some similarities. For example, coming into the school and not knowing anyone. Meet in different area. Travel to the communities.
  • First Nation Parent Group meets before every FN honouring ceremony. Personally invite parents and ask for feedback. (story about sharing positives)
  • Use technology - Instagram, animoto. Facebook, Flickr, blogging(Media release form)
  • Share clear expectations/criteria/standards – academic, socialTake out the guess work
  • What is the first message parents receive? What do parents feel when they see the school on the call display?Friday 5 positive phone calls… now do throughout the week. Just to let parents know that I know their child. Also added “is there anything we can help you with?”
  • HHG – a good reminder – “feels like we are having the same conversation each year” – you are as the parents are new each year.
  • Share your school’s stories… blog, create videos, student blogs and videos, images. 10 Good Things to Talk About each Friday blog.
  • This sums it up – this is a crucial part of what we do. Important for principals to model this.
  • Creating The Conditions for Parent Engagement

    1. Chris Creating the Conditions for Parent Engagement Parents as Partners – November 26, 2012
    2. ABOUT ME
    3. Parents are educators too. A parent is a child’s fir teacher. And that does not have to end once a chi begins school. It should continue to grow and evolv with new parent, teacher, school and communi relationships; relationships that are strengthened bengaging in meaningful dialogue, mutual respect, tru and collaboratio Tracy Bachelli
    4. We should contact [parents] when there is a problem, its good when they dont "bother" us, we need them to raise money, and we can blame them for all kinds of things were not happy about. Unfortunately, research and experience show that these attitudes do not lead to the kind of school- family connections that raise student achievement. Larry Ferlazzocc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Holy Outlaw:
    5. Want to learn more about how to engage parents? Ask PARENTS!
    6. A principal who develops strong relationships with parents and parent groups, will have parents who aremore likely to become involved in the school community, and this in turn will have a strong impact on the overall effectiveness and inclusiveness of the school. Sheila Stewart
    7. Parent/Family Engagement
    8. The differencebetween involvement and engagement canbe summed up as thedifference between a community dinner and a potluck. Mary-Lou VanBerkel cc licensed flickr photo by seniwati:
    9. Team or Partners? cc licensed flickr photo by o5com:
    10. “Opportunity for 2-way communicationoften IS the parent engagement” Sheila Stewart cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by P Shanks:
    11. Family CommunicationImage: TO vs WITH
    12. Use Technologyto meet parents where they are.
    13. You can work hard to run all theseevents to get parents into the school… but the most important thing is howthey are treated when they are there. Kent School Parent
    14. It is not about technology nor is it about events…it is about how we view parent engagement in our schools. cc licensed flickr photo by Dominics pics:
    15. We don’t have to agree… but we must seek to understand. Stan WatchornImage:
    16. cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Manonet: are doingthe best they can.
    17. Be aware of what we carry in our “invisible knapsacks” cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Patrick McEvoy-Halston:
    18. Ghosts of the Pastcc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by eebeejay:
    19. Model Care &Understanding of Different Generationscc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by edanley:
    20. Stop Labeling Parents
    21. Telling parents is a lot different Image: Kumon.comThan working WITH parents
    22. Who is at the table? When are they at the table?cc licensed flickr photo by lrargerich:
    23. School Planning Councils British Columbia School planning councils acknowledge the importance of parental involvement and formalize the role of parents in developing plans to improve student achievement in all schools in British Columbia. School planning councils are advisory bodies. Their majorresponsibility is to develop, monitor and review school plans for student achievement in consultation with the school community.
    24. cc licensed flickr photo by gibsonsgolfer: Community
    25. Build Trust
    26. Listen With Your Eyes
    27. Sit besideImage:
    28. PersonalizeParent Communication cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by
    29. Determine and work to Overcome Barriers cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Hullaboo:
    30. Create opportunities fordialogue when parents are already coming.
    31. Provide Windows into Classrooms
    32. Be Transparent.
    33. Share thePositives cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by krissen: /
    34. cc licensed flickr photo by calonda: Patient:Parents are new each year Heidi Hass Gable
    35. Share the School’s Stories
    36. “As valued and trusted participants in education, it is more likely that parent involvement will benefit principal leadership, teacher support, and student learning, as well as contribute to an inclusive, vibrant school community.” Sheila Stewart
    37. Creating the Conditions…1. Build community, build trust2. Ask parents how to best engage3. Communicate WITH parents; meet them where they are4. Truly listen5. Seek to understand6. Create opportunities for formal/informal dialogue7. Provide windows into the school – share the stories8. Be transparent9. Share the positives10. Be patient
    38. Connect With Me @chriswejr