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?