Communicating With Parents: Posts and Resources

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I often forget which of my past blog posts covered communication with parents more specifically, so I am pulling some together in this post.  I hope this might be useful for communication plans for schools, principals, and teachers.  Each post links to other writers on the topic.  Communication is key to parent engagement and support, as well as being aware of the “messages” that are being sent in the way communication occurs.

Educators and Parents: Communication and Conversations

Parent Communication in Education

Is the message in the medium?

Also, a guest post I wrote for principals which focuses on communication:

A Principal’s Map For Parent Involvement

This is another good one for principals via ASCD: Connecting with Parents: Five Tips for Principals

Larry Ferlazzo has also been gathering ideas to help teachers with communication with parents at the beginning of the school year.  There are good examples in his post that should help get the school year off to a good start and sustain further positive communication with parents.

Parent groups and associations also facilitate good communications with parents, so I encourage connecting with those efforts in your local area as well.

There are many other good resources available on this topic.  I will add others as I come across them.  I welcome your posts, resources, and ideas for communication strategies with parents and families in your school community.

Voice and choice

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I adjusted my time using social media when summer arrived and even more when the weather finally felt like summer.  But as August creeped up, I have been dipping back into the social media sharing and news more.  With recent events and news in our communities and our world, I do appreciate that I can sign into Twitter and catch more perspectives on events and issues.  But there has been a lot to take in lately, if one chooses to take it in through these spaces.  So I am plopping down some thoughts in reflection… many of which I am sure have been said before by others.

I have no doubt that social media has impacted how we choose to communicate, if not what we communicate and with whom.  I think it has also impacted how we process and react to events and news – positive and negative.  It is not hard to pick up on the dissatisfaction that occurs when some don’t like what others are posting (or not posting) into the timelines on Twitter.  There is often debate about how Twitter should (or should not) be used, and there seems to be no shortage of articles suggesting ways to use social media better to increase one’s influence, etc.

But really, I don’t think anyone can tell another how they must use Twitter or other social media platforms.  Each platform does have its own “psychology” and communication norms which can impact how users share and behave, but I think it is important to remember that our experiences and perceptions of social media can be impacted by those we follow/friend and what we attend to.  We can choose or adjust our experiences and time in these spaces.  I can understand that can be easier said than done.  I get that these online connections can build and lead to close relationships.  I can understand that there may be pressure in maintaining a network to support our work and purpose.  These pressures exist for adults and youth, I believe.  But in the end, we still have many choices in this experience and in these spaces.  We may have to accept that we can’t tell someone how to use or what to share on social media any more than we can tell someone how to live their life.  It has been reassuring to see some response in this regard from some social media platforms and representatives in some situations.

However, I find it most unfortunate that there are individuals who may decide that the best choice is to stop using social media completely.  I can respect that — there are some horrendous stories.  Choice and adjustment of one’s network and sharing may not be enough to feel safe and comfortable or worthwhile for some.  I hope such situations lessen ahead, but I am not sure how confident I am that they will.  It can seem so complicated at times.

Some other related reading that helped me think about voice and choice:

Web Trolls Winning as Incivility Increases   (NY Times article)

Important Voices (blog post by Mark Carbone)

 

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.

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