Parent Engagement: Ledger or Leverage?

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I suppose the examination of where parents best fit in terms of involvement in education and schools will always continue — as will the debate about it.  Larry Ferlazzo recently linked an interesting post to his blog.  Its title was blunt and bold regarding a question about parents: Assets or Liabilities?  Please read Larry’s commentary and further information on his post.

Since reading the post, I have been monitoring the comments on it.  It certainly got some reaction and response.  There are some good insights shared there, including some dialogue about summer learning loss.

I particularly liked a comment added by Diana Senechal:

This issue is not monolithic. It makes a great difference how old, mature, and academically advanced the student is. A high school teacher (and parents of high school students) must find a mean between recognizing the student’s growing independence and providing the instruction, structure, and help that he or she needs. There is no fixed ideal here–but basic communication, sensitivity, and goodwill go a long way.

I tend to feel awed by the parents–not being one myself and recognizing that it is a round-the-clock commitment that changes in nature and intensity over time but does not end. I have difficulty picking up the phone (to call anyone, not just parents) after teaching 170 students in a single day; I am far from perfect in that regard. I do make phone calls when necessary, and I keep parents updated by email. I know I could potentially do more.

I have dreamed of bringing parents, students, and teachers together for intellectual discussion, and this has started to happen. Two years ago, I started holding philosophy roundtables for parents–where they would discuss texts and ideas from the students’ philosophy classes. These events caught on and expanded to include students, staff, and outside guests. In June 2013, fifteen students led a roundtable attended by over thirty people; people were amazed by the quality, dignity, and liveniness of the discussion. We continue to hold roundtables every few months and to have a crowning student-led event at the end of the year. The parents’ participation throughout the year has been wonderful.”

I appreciated her respectful and honest comments about parents and her own reality, as well as the efforts and idea she shared about roundtable events that engaged parents in student-led discussions at the high school level.  Parent interest can be very topic and dialogue driven and I think it is important to tap into that.  It may or may not be what is desired in parent engagement, but it is often an entry point for parent participation.  Parent engagement initiatives may not directly involve students very often and it may not be their responsibility or interest, but I would think there would be many appropriate ways to welcome their leadership and ideas in age-appropriate ways.  Asking them in itself would show respect for parents and adults in their lives, I think.  Assets, not liabilities.

Please share any examples where student ideas were invited and/or students had a role in a parent engagement plan or initiative – school or district level.  What were the outcomes?

 

 

There is a space…

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A friend really liked this quote and shared it with me (and I really liked it too):

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”  ~ Viktor E. Frankl Man’s Search for Meaning

It really made me think and reflect further.  It may have touched on some thoughts I have been sorting out lately.  I have been taking some time and space to reflect about what I pay attention to… what I respond to…. how I choose to respond, and for what purpose.

The pace of our lives can seem to make that “space” seem smaller… or maybe even a hindrance.  Information is so easily available and accessible.  We can now be aware of so many “trends”, ideas and issues.  Technology and social media have provided us with new and efficient ways to communicate, respond, react, to be impacted… but how well do we use and take that space in between stimulus and response?  Has that space changed?  How does it affect our choice of response.. if we do choose to respond?  How do we ensure our response leads to growth… to freedom… our own and others?  Should it? Are there other purposes?

A jumble of thoughts, if not an overthinking of a quote, but I thought I would process and share to my blog… which I have taken some space from lately…

I welcome any thoughts about how this quote resonates with you.

 

 

 

 

 

Transition Time

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And it is done.  My youngest wrote her last exam for Gr. 12 this morning.  There is one more graduation party … but I think it is official enough in terms of my role: I am no longer a parent within the K-12 education system.  Seventeen years… with the most recent 10 years being involved in school councils and Parent Involvement Committees.  I am sure I will have a lot to process and reflect on ahead still, but since most of my blogging and sharing has been through the lens of a parent advocate in education and I not sure what it means ahead for this blog — not that anyone is on the edge of their seat waiting for me to post :)  I don’t know what I would advise a new parent to the system at this point — I think each parent decides and finds their own path in this.  It is too bad that parent involvement in education can be subject to much judgement.

I am grateful for a number of people who were supportive and appreciative of my path and navigation of the education system through these years.  As confusing and conflicting it could seem some days, I have made some great friendships that I know will continue.  I am also grateful for many individuals who encouraged, supported, and engaged with my blogging efforts.  It has been a great “go to place” to bring and exchange thoughts, responses and experiences.  I still have posted at the top that my blog is “A space for thinking, reflecting and sharing about education”.  I know I have already departed from that in some posts.  Maybe I will just add “life”.  Regardless of whether I blog and share much ahead, I still look forward to being inspired by others.

Happy summer…. keep on…. thanks for reading!

Behind Blue Eyes – Then and Now

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Blogging can often be a serious process and activity.  I think it is time for a musical interlude :) (and a change can be as good as a break, I often say.)  I did enjoy the “Then and Now” idea that I stole from Doug Peterson a few months ago, so here’s another for the series…

I can’t say that I have ever been a big fan of The Who, nor am I all that familiar with their music.  It wasn’t until I caught a cover of one of their songs by Lights that I became more curious recently.  I think I prefer her acoustic cover of Behind Blue Eyes more than The Who’s version.  She doesn’t do the “rock out” part of the song that The Who does, but it has its own charm.

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Here is an original from The Who. It’s a really good live performance:

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Feel free to cast your vote or share another favourite cover of this one. (It also occurred to me that there are a lot of songs/lyrics about eyes.) :)

 

 

School Dress Codes

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There have been numerous news articles and headlines circulating lately about issues arising from dress codes in schools.  I think these issues frequently and regularly come up in schools, especially in high schools and once the warmer weather arrives near the end of the school year.  The situations are not always easy to sort out and resolve, especially when there isn’t enough time for proactive dialogue and planning about a school or district’s dress code.  I thought this articleDress codes are a thorny subject for many schools, captured many of the contentious areas quite well.  The “fingertip” rule is one that has always bothered me.  For example, one of my daughters was always taller compared to her peers and has really long arms.  If she followed the fingertip rule, she would have had to wear shorts a lot longer than many of her classmates.  I hope that it is no longer the case that girls are lined up at the beginning of the school day to do the fingertip test.  The article suggests that school uniforms are one solution, but does that really address the issues?

In Ontario, one of the required consultations to be done with school councils includes dress codes. Whether the policy is at board or school level – the school council is to be consulted (Reg. 612/00 (19); Reg, 298 (11: 19) ).  I often think that many issues could be avoided if this consultation and dialogue occurred near the beginning of the school year.  But how often does it?  Given that parents, students, community and staff have representation on the school council and are expected to bring matters of consultation to the attention of their school community, this could be a great opportunity to create a good policy and be more proactive and inclusive to support development and buy in.  At the secondary level, a student rep must be on a school council — so another good opportunity for that member to reach out to the students at the school.  Here is a great approach that involved students in the process as captured in this video.

Also, this is a blog post that I often share when the topic of wearing hats in schools comes up.  It captures some good considerations as well.

I recognize that guidelines or codes can be helpful, but I think they need to be flexible as well (and not create more grey areas).  Perhaps they need to reflect each season at the time and other community-specific factors.  If you have any examples of dialogue, consultations or steps that led to good outcomes for a school dress code, please share.

“Social” or Promotional Media?: Part 2

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I have been sensing some shifts in social media lately and I have been reflecting if it has affected my interest, or whether my priorities and interests have just changed.  In my previous post I wondered about the introduction and the impact of the “mute” option on Twitter.  I realize that some may not have the option if they are using Tweetdeck or other Twitter clients, but I think we still can inadvertently “mute” many people we follow in different ways as we often read from personal lists and we can only read so much.  I sometimes wonder if some people read what others are sharing on Twitter at all.  There is a lot of sharing of links and images on Twitter.  But maybe that is fine, as there are many people who don’t share and prefer to read what others post.

We call it “social” media, but it is easy to sense the promotional focus of it.  I know that more organizations and businesses have embraced social media and that platforms must adjust to user needs as well as stay in business themselves.  Organizations and businesses do share some great content, but their focus is to promote their own purpose or product in the end.

Often when I am trying to understand what I am sensing, something shows up in my social media newsfeeds that helps. I had a listen to this video of a presentation by Gary Vaynerchuk, Stop Storytelling Like It’s 2007.  If you can get past the “F sharps”, he shares many good points and insights about storytelling – why, what, how, and where.  The talk was for a social media marketing audience, but when he said, “Marketers ruin everything”, I listened to the end.  Good points were made about how the “psychology” of the different social media platforms is often missed and how context was more important than content in reaching an audience. His talk captured the realties and challenges of getting the attention of users and consumers, and he reminds that respecting the nuances of each platform is important.

It all makes we wonder where this leaves individuals amidst all the increase of users, platforms, information, and advertising?  Does the individual blogger have to consider marketing strategies and platform psychology in order to have an audience and voice?  Gary suggested that marketers need to tell stories and “give” like a human being, not like a brand.  They need to listen instead of talk and act human every day in “micro moments”.  He suggested that people seem to think they need to be witty on Twitter to get attention, and being kind is not the priority of users.  Is that really the general perception of Twitter users? Is this how marketers will stand out from that?  Gary suggested that marketers and businesses should offer value, respond and engage with users — then asking for their business becomes easier.  Can individuals also have any of these as priorities?  If they did, would they get noticed? Would it seem trustworthy, or suspicious?

I started using Twitter to follow and learn from people and be a part of conversations (where I felt welcome and where I thought I could contribute a helpful perspective).  I have enjoyed sharing perspectives and contributions of others in education conversations and debates.  I have valued what others share using social media and I pass a fair bit of relevant information to each of my family members.  (I should thank and let those people who share those bits know that more.)  I blog and share what I care about, what I find interesting, or what I think my followers might appreciate.  Some people using Twitter suggest that we should refrain from retweeting too much.  But we all have different followers and networks, and someone we follow isn’t just tweeting/retweeting for the benefit of one specific follower.  Also, If someone engages with me, I try my best to respond and acknowledge.  It is manageable when you are not a “rock star” Twitter user :)

However, I still wonder how much the changes and the various uses of social media are affecting my experience as I try to stick with what I feel is appropriate for me.  The new Twitter profile encourages us to “pin” selected tweets to “show off your best stuff”.  It can seem as if there is an underlying assumption that we are all about establishing a personal “brand”.  Content and advertising on Facebook seem to be pushing through in different ways.  I am reluctant to “like” anything.  I follow a few people on Twitter who share interesting things about social media, but I also see many articles about improving one’s reach, influence and audience with blogs and Twitter.  Where does this leave individuals just sharing with a purpose and trying to have a network and a voice with no motive for business or monetary gain?

I know I am just a guest in these spaces and there are things that one just has to tolerate, but there have been reports that Twitter has had some challenges in keeping and attracting users.  Why do users leave?  Why can it be difficult to stay? Is it getting more difficult to be ourselves or an individual on social media?  Is it best just to become readers, lurkers, and receivers of information and promotions on social media?  The writer of this article suggests that Twitter now has 2 uses.  1) To support ads as a revenue tool and 2) To snark.  Yet I can think of many people who bring so much more value to Twitter than that.  Many are kind, helpful, and share good insights.

I know we can all adjust our networks, unfollow/unfriend and now mute who we follow on Twitter, but how “social” is this media going to remain ahead?  Was it ever really authentic? Sharing can be caring, but what actually gets attention and shared the most?  How does that impact what individuals do in these spaces? Is it enough to stay purposeful and kind? How do we guide our youth for these spaces and changes ahead?

I am not sure who will read all my thoughts and questions, but I wanted to write them down… see where things go ahead.  Thank you if you did read.  I welcome your thoughts.

“Social” or Promotional Media?: Part 1

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I enjoy the dialogue about many topics on Twitter, as well as the discussions about Twitter on Twitter :)  I have been catching some conversation and reaction in tweets regarding Twitter’s new “mute” button.  I have seen a few people wonder about the impact on engagement and others wondering about its usefulness and purpose.

I read a post that explained its function and possible purpose quite well. (Thank you for sharing, Mike @mikekujawski).  How NOT to get muted by Twitter’s new function also refers to engagement,

The true measure of success for brands on Twitter will no longer be just follower numbers. Especially when it’s impossible to know how many of those followers are actually listening any more. Engagement is the success metric that counts now.”

Here is the advice and reassurance to “brands”:

The Twitter mute button will essentially let your followers be the judge of your content strategy. And you can be fairly sure that regular, repetitive streams of self-promotion are going to be quickly and quietly turned off.

Twitter is not ‘punishing’ brands, it’s trying to adapt to become a better social network. To keep up with changes like these, brands are also going to need to adapt and to commit to being truly social themselves.”

So, the focus is about brands and keeping things “social”?  Muting will be a form of feedback? Where does the individual user factor into this and in social media in general? Just trying to make sense of it.  More of my thoughts to come.  I welcome yours.

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