A consistent question about parent involvement

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There may not be as many articles and posts about parent involvement in education as there were a few years ago, but I still notice a number of posts on the topic circulating on social media.  The various terms are used and referred to: Involvement, engagement, empowerment, etc.  There seems to be a consistent question though.  I was reminded of that recently after reading an article about parent involvement plans in Scotland which included the statement,

One of our challenges is a lack of common understanding around what ‘involved in learning’ actually means in and around schools.”

I have written before (for example, this post) about defining and understanding the meaning of parent engagement (in schools, learning, education). I think it is important to remember:  When the different terms are used by one person, another person may understand them in a completely different way. Maybe a further question would help clarify references and appeals for parent engagement: Involved in/to do what?… Empowered in/to do what?… Involved in learning how?  If parents are to learn how children learn, is there enough agreement on that amongst educators (let alone parents)?  Would a fuller discussion and analysis help all decide if and how the goals can be supported?

Feedback and thoughts appreciated.

compartments and filters

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I followed a series of posts recently by my friend, Catherine Luke (@sharejoyinlife). Catherine’s honest thoughts, reflections and questions made me think a lot.  What she discusses regarding social media and what others share are likely struggles that many of us have as we navigate online interactions with friends and relatives.

Catherine posted, Morals, Values, Kindness & Facebook, and then a follow up post, Facebook: Part II – Compartmentalizing Life, about how she resolved some of her concerns and struggles.  She asks some great questions in both posts, for example:

I understand that social media needs to be taken with hefty dose of balance, and that I am by no means the first to struggle with this, but in a world where time is so precious, is this really engagement? Does a quick “like”, or a one line comment count as engaging? And if yes, how does this kind of engagement make us or, worse, society, better?”

And also:

Is compartmentalizing areas of our life necessary for our own happiness? And, if yes, are we losing an integral part of our integrity in doing so? What compromises are we willing to make? What do our compromises say about us? What “encumbrances” are too great to bear? How do we look ourselves in the mirror each day knowing that our silence, inaction, or compartmentalizing is eroding our fundamental foundation?”

I thought Catherine shared and modelled some important considerations, strategies and steps.  There can certainly be sharing that offends others, and it can seem that there is a lot that is not said or responded to on social media.  How does one best decide what needs response and what should be ignored and/or tolerated?  Do we filter our feeds and friends to our own detriment? Does it matter?

Do those who “know a time before Facebook” think too much about all this? Are these struggles and reflection important?  Can younger people benefit from this open thinking on and about these spaces? How are responses different depending on relationships in real life?  In Catherine’s situation, the relationship was important to her, but the individual’s posts troubled her.

Catherine posted a third brave post to her blog in order to process, address and speak to the topic and related postings that troubled her.  Are personal blogs helpful to address what one can’t in other online spaces?

Break out… as you wish

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This winter has definitely been kinder to many of us in Canada (so far).  Even though the weather can be strange and the trends can be worrisome, I have been hearing the relief, if not giddiness, in conversations about this warmer winter!  I have heard many say that January went by fast, so maybe January was less “blue”?  I think it might be worth breaking out in song or dance about!  Whatever the reason or excuse, it might be good for us to do!  I recently read: Landmark study measures healthy dose of the arts.  It lists many ways that one can engage with the arts including (and simply): “Maybe it’s listening to 20 minutes of your favourite music on the way to work or doing a colouring book in your lunch hour or if you have the money going to the theatre.”  Good to know that it may not be as hard to include into a day as one might think!

For further inspiration, I searched for some of my favourite dancing and singing “break out” scenes from movies:

I haven’t seen the new Peanuts movie yet, but for a start:

How about a boogie from Billy Elliot?:

How about a flash mob (before we called them that?):

And who can’t at least smile at “Little Miss Sunshine’s” dance? Olive’s family’s reaction and support is one of my favourite scenes as well:

Breakfast Club style?

Breaking out in song might be more my style.  (Check out the benefits of singing in a choir here.)

A few of my favourites:

 

 

 

 

It’s not perfect in the movies either, so as you wish.. 🙂

Feel free to share your favourite inspirational “break out” example too.

 

 

 

 

For Joe

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Although I am not blogging and tweeting about education as much as I used to, I will always remember and value many people I “got to know” through these Twitter conversations and blogging. I still look forward to following their work ahead. Even if some of these people stop tweeting and blogging, I know they will still be busy trying to make a difference in education and in the lives of children.

Needless to say, I was so sad to hear about Joe Bower’s death. I didn’t think I would write a post about him since I struggled with whether it was my place to do so.  It is his family and their loss that matter the most.  Yet, I felt unsettled that I wasn’t writing something to honour him or say the thanks that I didn’t say enough.

Recently I read Jennifer Marten’s tribute post to Joe Bower, Mourning a Friend I Never Met.  She was also hesitant to write a tribute. Her words matched many of my thoughts. Her post nudged me to write as well.

Like Jennifer, I first connected with Joe on a few topics. I followed the changes to standardized testing in Alberta through Joe’s posts and it made my own personal stand against standardized testing a little less lonely. Joe reached out to so many… supported the voices of many, and he could be counted on to take a stand for children. His blog is so real, rich and well researched. It was so kind of him to reblog one of my posts to do with Ontario’s standardized testing on his blog. His wise words and influence extended over many borders. It is reassuring to read so many tributes and see the intentions of others to ensure that his impact continues. I am thankful to have known his work and efforts. I am now following the Facebook tribute page respectfully set up by Chris Wejr.

I hope the tributes bring peace and comfort to Joe Bower’s family and friends for years to come.

 

Show Time

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A mix of TV series trivia, silliness, and nostalgia in this post…

Like many families, we often watch certain movies and TV shows with our children — simply for the fun and shared experience of watching them together.  We did this throughout our children’s younger years and it somehow continued as they became young adults.

This past year, without really planning to, we started watching Grey’s Anatomy together each week.  When the show’s season ended in May, we seemed to need something else to keep this viewing time together going.  Since we had recently bought the entire (and only) season of My So-called Life on DVD, my husband and I suggested that.  The girls were skeptical at first (“that’s your old show…” ).  Early in our marriage, my husband and I watched the TV series, Thirtysomething. When we learned that My So-Called Life was created by the same producers, we tuned in.  We were new parents at that time and we thoroughly enjoyed the show during our quieter evenings… until it was cancelled suddenly after one season!  One of the reasons for the cancellation may have been because it competed in the same time slot as the series, “Friends”.  We weren’t big fans of that series, so #mscl it was. (I was surprised to find an active hashtag for the show on Twitter!)

And it turns out, our girls got hooked on #mscl and the characters.  We managed to watch the whole season over the course of the summer.  Although my husband and I recalled many of the episodes well, we still enjoyed the revisit to the stories.  As a family, we laughed, cried and discussed.  I think the girls were quite impressed to watch Jared Leto in his first TV gig.  And just like when we watched it over 20 years ago, the show still captured the essence of high school “hell”, teen angst, and the complexities of relationships.  Our daughters’ reactions and comments confirmed that.  We also had to smile when they commented about the situations that the teens got themselves in and out of… “without cell phones”.  So that led to a few stories of our own teen years to share.  We had also forgotten that the teens on the show inserted “like” a lot into their verbal communication.  Did that, like, start in, like, the 90s? 🙂

It was great that the show still led to many insights and affirmations about being a teenager for our girls, as it did for us in the past.  It captured teen angst, but also parenting angst as well!  I suspect that our girls may have gained some insight and appreciation of their parents as both people and parents.  It was nice to experience a sense that “some things don’t change” when it can seem that so much has.  From the back of the DVD case, “Whether you’ve memorized every line, or it’s your very first time, My So-called Life remains as fresh and honest today as when it premiered”.  I definitely agree!

So if this winter gets long, you can borrow our DVD 🙂  We also enjoyed checking out some related youtube videos about the show and the characters:

What happened to the cast of My So-Called Life

The Collected Wisdom of Angela Chase

Angela and Jordan – The Hallway Scene

The Evolution of Jared Leto: From My So-Called Life’s’ Jordan Catalano to Oscar Nominee

What old shows or movies have become new again for your family?

 

 

 

A blog series for and by parents: A follow-up

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Earlier this year I posted about a blog series for and by parents.  I recently caught the follow-up on the project and news about a book that represented the stories and the parents who participated.

The follow-up post, 8 Ways Educators Help Parents Promote Powerful Learning, suggests four things that schools can address in support of student-directed learning and also shares how the blog series taught four lessons about parenting for powerful learning.  There are some great points about student learning and support, so please check out the full post.

I especially liked the list of questions near the end to help spark conversation amongst school staff in regards to planning and thinking about parent involvement.  From the post:

  • How are parents involved in their child’s education? Are they coming in regularly and participating in genuine parent-teacher conversations for and with their kids that help drive and encourage student-centered learning?
  • Do they understand how their children are being assessed? Can parents read and understand the reporting system and/or assessment system?
  • Are parents getting phone calls from educators?
  • Are parents being given the opportunity to mentor their own kids and/or other kids in the school?
  • Is their genuine collaboration and communication occurring between home and school?
  • What school work and/or projects might create genuine and authentic parent and student collaboration?
  • What opportunities and/or ways can the school promote and invite parent participation at assemblies, at other student gatherings and at parent nights?
  • How are parents invited to the school to participate and provide genuine feedback at project nights and/or student exhibitions of learning?
  • How does what is on the wall/in the office/in the classroom invite and welcome and/or inhibit parent involvement?
  • To what degree is parent involvement a priority and what would it look like if that was indeed the priority? What does it mean to the school staff to have parents involved? Is it a hassle or a genuine partnership?

Good stuff… and that is my follow up on the follow-up 🙂

(I had to search for that rule:  Follow up or follow-up? I am still not sure if I got it right!)

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.

 

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