I have been reading a few blog posts and tweets lately that have expressed some concern about where parents are at (or not at) regarding the understanding of current learning theories and education practices, and of the potential of technology to support learning. There also seems to be some concern that parents, as a stakeholder group, often present barriers to progressive changes in education. I can certainly understand the frustration that may occur at different levels in education (although it can go both ways too).
In any given school year, a classroom teacher will have a diversity of parents with a wide range of ages. Parents, as with all people, will also come with differing values and personal viewpoints about education. Parents will also have limited time to delve into what is new and current in education. But before we make conclusions or dismiss them as key participants and drivers of change in education, I wonder if it would be helpful take a step back and consider the following:
How are opportunities created, supported and encouraged for parents to engage meaningfully and concretely in dialogue about learning, technology, etc. at the school level? The district or board level? Are a few different ways offered?
Are there individuals sought out who can help with presenting concepts in a more parent-friendly way or format? Are there opportunities provided for parents to dialogue with a mix of stakeholders, community members and staff to maximize the learning and sharing of perspectives?
Are parents encouraged and supported by staff to attend organized parent or focus groups and meetings to discuss education? Who decides on the topics?
Do parents get to hear about what pre-service teachers are learning? Do they hear about the focus and nature of professional development opportunities that teachers are participating in? Are there ways to encourage more interest and awareness in these areas? (I wish more parents could see the sharing and learning of educators on Twitter!)
I hope others will share some examples of how conversations about “big picture” education topics are extended to parents, and what positive outcomes have occurred in support of students and in positive change for schools and education. In what ways have parents been your best allies to help implement a change or reduce obstacles?
Just as I was writing these thoughts today, I saw a tweet from Darcy Mullin (@darcymullin) asking others for insight to help a discussion with the parent council at his school regarding the negative effects of letter grades. It is great to hear about these more challenging discussions occuring with parents! (and yes, he got lots of responses!) My thoughts for this post were also inspired by blog posts, tweets and comments by Tracy Bachellier (@bachtrac) and Chris Wejr (@MrWejr), who often share their thoughts about the importance of including parents in two-way dialogue.
I hope we can keep supporting these conversations and help others have them too!