Principal prep for parent communication

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I haven’t been sharing resources for parent engagement in education as much as I have done in the past, but a few articles still catch my attention on Twitter.  This summer I saved a few to read that covered the topic, including this one, “The Principal’s Summer Excellence Checklist“.  It is always encouraging to find parent engagement strategies included in articles for principals.  Three specific questions regarding parents in this one were listed under “communication” and included:

  • How and when will you communicate student progress to parents regarding grades, attendance, and behavior?
  • How will you leverage social media as a tool to show the great things happening on the campus, and how frequently will you do that?
  • How will parents have a venue to express their concerns or frustrations to teachers and administrators in a constructive way, and how will you promote this form of transparency?

I thought they were really good questions to nudge practices and plans into place early in the year.

Another post I read (h/t @Philip_Cummings) was for new principals at the middle school level.  It offered 6 success tips, with #5 covering family/community relationships as follows:

No school is successful without effective communication and good relationships with families. But principals know that families are a very small part of their total community. Therefore, they create networks that allow them to advocate with key constituents and influential policy makers whose support is critical. Effective principals:

  • Build support networks that reach into all segments of the community, tapping into civic, religious, community, service, or other youth-serving organizations to advocate and build support for their school.
  • Talk with and learn from those who can share the history of their school and its role in the community.
  • Meet with both supporters and critics of the school to keep lines of communication open and build collaborative relationships.”

I like how both posts highlight open lines of communication and similar considerations.

The ASCD also recently posted, Rethinking Parent Engagement (I think many educators and parents have been rethinking it in the last 5 years or so).  The post mentions a proactive approach to parent outreach efforts,

Focus early outreach on relationship building, not information sharing.  This will build trust and open those crucial lines of communication, which will be helpful in the future.”

Parent engagement in education may be getting less attention in general now, but I hope the positive practices and outcomes continue to be shared ahead.  Communication with parents will always need consideration and planning.

 

Sunset Reflection

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Summer is short in Ontario where I am, as well as in other areas and provinces.  The majority of people in my social media connections are from Ontario, so I relate to their excitement in sharing a photo of a bloom, a tree, a lake, a sunset, etc., to celebrate summer moments.  Sunset photos are shared a lot, especially one over a lake — love those!  If you want an online visual treat, just search with both #sunset and #Ontario on Twitter.  I know Northwestern Ontario claimed the slogan of “Sunset Country“, but as families head to the many lakes and getaways, it is good to see that so many are taking in their sunset and savouring a moment of summer.

I enjoy a sunrise as well, but a sunset seems just as celebratory of a good day, a reflective moment, a punctuation of a wonderful vacation… or maybe it is the array of colour and the fact that we are enjoying them so much later into the evening in the summer.  Regardless, enjoy the moments… share if you wish — wherever you are!  The first day of winter is 5 months away…

I often like the “cloud effect”… one of mine taken a few years ago in “Sunset Country”:

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Paths and Gaps: Part 2

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In January of last year, I wrote Graduation Caps and Gaps.  I included some discussion about life after K-12 schooling and following paths and passions.  I referred to a few other related posts written by others.  I also discussed the “gap year” in that post.  Somewhere in between that post in January and June of last year, our own 2 adult children had decided, with our support, to take a “gap year” before post-secondary and graduate studies.  We, individually and as a family, have been reflecting about the past year and its outcomes.  We used the list of the benefits of a gap year which I provided in my January post (although the full article I linked is not accessible now):

  • experience the world of work in a real way
  • become more mature
  • become more independent and experienced in your decision-making
  • clarify your study and career future, and make new or more informed decisions
  • work with people from different walks of life
  • experience different types of workplaces
  • learn new skills.

We feel quite confident that the past year of work and life experiences has provided our daughters with these benefits and more.  However, the year was not without some doubts that the choice was the best.  We may not even realize all pros and cons until a later time.  But now we are looking ahead to the planning and tasks that come with heading back to school and moving. It seems to be the right timing again and comes with some renewed excitement.  It has mostly worked out for our family, but I am not saying that it would be the right choice for all.  There is a lot to consider, eg.: knowing and listening to your children, the family situation, the opportunities in the community, personal goals, etc.

I thought this article (provided by a university in the UK) was another good one on the topic, Take a Break? The pros and cons of a gap year, but a search for “gap year benefits and disadvantages” will prompt a number of articles and resources.

(photo credit: me ~ taken during a family trip to Vancouver)

 

 

Raising Adults

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Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that as another school year ends there is an increase in articles about the state of parenting and also how children are spending their time.  I know I could choose not to read them, but I see such articles shared a lot online. It can be easy to point to —- (insert various labels or styles of) parenting as causing increased rates of anxiety, depression, low-resilience, entitlement, risky behaviour (or not enough risk-taking), etc.  Some offer solutions or better strategies.  Here are two articles I read recently about a new book, How to Raise an Adult:

What Overparenting Looks Like from a Stanford Dean’s Perspective (an excerpt from the book)

How to Raise an Adult (a review of the book)

The latter ends with a quote from the author of the book,

When parents laugh and enjoy the moment but also teach the satisfaction of hard work, when they listen closely but also give their children space to become who they are, they wind up with kids who know how to work hard, solve problems and savor the moment, too. In other words, get a life, and your child just might do the same someday.”

Sounds simple enough, but…

I talk with many parents now with older and adult children.  Not all did the “bad” parenting behaviours often listed in various articles, yet their adult children are experiencing anxiety and other personal struggles as they try to take on more independent living.  There is a lot of uncertainty — in post-secondary options, career planning, job stability, living affordability, etc.  Young adults have absorbed many “messages” and expectations from schools, the workplace, family, peers, media, etc., and have to sort all that out.  We have numerous conversations about this in my own family.  It can be quite annoying when an 18 year old says, “I can do what I want — I am an adult now”… yet they clearly aren’t and haven’t taken on adult responsibilities and independence yet.  This can be frustrating and discouraging for everyone.

I have posted previously about the hasty judgement of parents without taking the time to understand their context.  I still wonder if the state of society and schools should be examined more often to clarify the ways parenting can be a response to certain conditions, expectations, and the “promises” of success.  What are parenting “trends” a response to… rather than causing… ?  Can the focus become more about changing the state of society and communities rather than the state or approach of parenting?

I need a bigger picture of what is impacting youth and young adults rather than just analyzing parenting.  Are parenting articles and books really helpful, or do they just stress out parents even more?  Let me know if you read the book!

 

 

A School Council “poem”

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Many schools and school boards in Ontario host appreciation nights for their parent volunteers and school council members.  Appreciation can be shown in various ways throughout the school year as well.  Sometimes the nature of volunteer work on a school council can be met with tension and not always appreciated. Parent representatives have to be voices of dissent at times and tread tricky waters as volunteers in education. 

I often can’t find this short school council “poem” when I am looking for it. I have no idea who wrote it, but I thought I would post to my blog for easier retrieval and sharing. I have sent it to parents in the past, especially when they were feeling conflicted about their continued involvement on a school council.  My days of school council involvement are well behind me, but in case anyone else would like to make use of it:

 

No one said that recruiting volunteers would be easy.

No one hands out gold medals.

No one waves flags for the work accomplished.

But you know. You are keenly aware of the value of the work

of the volunteer who makes a commitment to a school council.

*author unknown (let me know if you know of the source though)

A Canadian refresher

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I’ve never learned so much about Canada until I had to teach about it…

For a second time, I taught an evening class in May to help adult newcomers learn about Canada and prepare for the Canadian Citizenship test.  They learn about Canada in English classes and elsewhere, but this session provides further support and review, as well as practice test questions.  The study guide, Discover Canada, is an excellent resource from CIC .  Students receive a hard copy, but there are also options to read and listen online.  I would suggest it for anyone who would simply like to rediscover Canada as well.  The information can seem extensive, but it does cover challenging topics such as history and government quite well.  The new things I have learned (relearned?)… and I was born in Canada!

This past May, there were a number of “anniversaries” that related well to the content of the course.  Social media brought such tidbits to my attention.  For example:

May 3 marked 100 years since the poem, In Flanders Fields, was written.  More here.

May 10 marked 45 years since Bobby Orr’s famous goal. More here. (yes, we covered Canadian sports!)

May 24 marked 97 years since Canadian women received the right to vote in Federal elections.

And of course, the Queen’s birthday in May, but June 2 marked 62 years since the Queen’s Coronation.

January 2015 also marked the 200th anniversary of the birthday of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.

Did I miss any?

There are many resources for the study of Canada, but it is important not to overwhelm newcomers with too many sources of information. I enjoy supporting their individual needs and inviting their stories, while still including the specifics that help for the citizenship test.

My enthusiasm for the wonders of Canada may still not be enough to do service to the beauty and diversity of the country.  (I have yet to visit every province myself.)  One “home study” suggestion I give (for those who can access) is this video, an aerial adventure over Canada.  It can be viewed in 3 shorter parts as well — a bird’s eye view from coast to coast at least! (Part one, two and three, if you wish)

Let me know if you would like a test! :)

Personally, I blog…

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This past weekend I read a few blog posts specifically about education blogs and bloggers.  I noticed a few of the posts shared by Doug Peterson on Twitter.  His own blog was reviewed by a preservice teacher and it started some conversation and a response post by Sue Waters, “Blogging is personal.. or is it?”  I found the discussion about voice and the personal aspects of blogging interesting.  Sue offers some good advice to new bloggers.  I also got thinking about how bloggers can be personal as well as personable and professional.  It may all be about style of writing and personality as well.  I think just having a blog involves some personal risk too.  With each post there is a certain amount of personal risk-taking — whether resources or ideas or reflections are shared.

I think that it is okay if people want and look for different things from blogs.  A blog that didn’t appeal at one time may end up having an appeal at another time.  This could be due to the blogger’s or the reader’s change in situation or growth over the time.  I read quite a few blogs regularly and I don’t have any problem if the posts take on a personal approach or offer a personal reflection or story.  I enjoy “seeing” more of the person behind the postings.  When I started tweeting and blogging, I never expected the connections and friendships that would come out of it.  I also didn’t expect to continue as I did.  I think having a chance to do personal stories or reflections on a blog helps me, so I won’t fault anyone else for doing the same.  It isn’t always easy.

Nathan Hall’s recent post celebrating his own blogging connected some dots for me too.  I thought he offered a great argument for reflective blogging and some great advice to help sustain blogging, be real, and take risks.  Here is his list (but do read his full post please):

  1. Don’t focus on the numbers; they will only take attention away from what is really important. Does it really matter how many people liked your post? It may be that the one post that only gets a few visits might be just what one person needed to read that day. It’s all about the bigger picture
  2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You are a person. People do stupid stuff from time to time. People are generally understanding, and if they aren’t, don’t dwell. Make this a time to learn from your less than glamorous moment and others will as well.
  3. Be real. This goes together with number two. You can try as you might to look better than you are or to pander to the masses, but most people will see through the thin veil of vanity and you will tend to lose strength in your message. Stay true to you.
  4. Don’t try to compete with others. It isn’t a game with others as your opponents. One thing I have learned more than anything during this time is that I am not the smartest, best, or any other superlative and I am more than content with that. I actually do think I have some things to share with others, but I gladly concede any titles to others.
  5. Push yourself, but don’t feel you have to always find something to blog. There have been more than a few times that I have put the writing to the side for a season. When I felt the urge to share something, I’ve picked it back up again. It has its ebbs and flows.
  6. When sharing your posts, put it out there a few times, especially on Twitter where it can be buried fairly quickly, but don’t overdo it. It is just a personal thing, but I don’t like to share a post for more than 24 hours on social media. After that, I feel like I look desperate for visitors and I don’t feel good about it. Again, this is just my own decision and others feel differently. Feel free to make your own choices on that.

I appreciate the personal and personable approach of bloggers like Nathan and Doug and many others. I think it is possible to “blog the personal” and still benefit others.  Many bloggers do so from the good of their heart.  It can be the great thing about blogs — choice in how and why you use a blog, as well as in which blogs you read, as Sue Waters discussed in her post as well.

But I am sure there are still some drawbacks to blogs for many.  Can there be too much pressure to post what you think your readers expect?  Too much choice?  Is it different for education blogs?  What sustains you in blogging and/or reading blogs?

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