Parents and Education Planning

cc licensed flickr photo by marfis75: http://flickr.com/photos/marfis75/3512407702/

As a staff, we were very fortunate to have parents attend and help to guide us in the process of education planning for the 2010-2011 school year. Using feedback that we received from students, the education plan, along with the Annual Education Report for our school, we had research and data to help us create our vision. We were grateful for the comments and feedback from our school community that will help us improve the culture and learning environments. Parents and staff are focused on the same objective: what is best for each child. With that clear focus in mind, and working together as a community, I was glad that we had such a successful day.  As a school community, if we are saying that parents need to be a part of the process, we NEED to have them join us when we are creating our vision for our schools.  They need to be heard and it is essential to have ongoing communication with parents throughout the school year.

If schools are to reach their full potential, parents need to be a part of the planning process.  This is an absolute must.  No one should know a child better than their own parent; we need to tap into this resource more than we do.  Their input is invaluable.

I have recently read an interesting article called “A Teacher’s Guide to Generation X Parents”, and I thought it had some very interesting notes on how parents want to be more involved in the education of their children. I believe that parents are partners in the school and the points listed here are very relevant to what we want to do as a staff.

Here are some of the key points the author summarized:

Listen to Us

As insufferable as we can be at first contact, listen to us first. We may look and act like adults, but there is a part of us that still feels like a neglected kid inside. Paying attention to our concerns may be a little more time consuming, but the effort will pay off. We’re loyal allies, and we love to be helpful.

Include Us

Invite us to teach in the classroom for an afternoon. Or assign students free-choice homework one night a week, to be completed with a parent. Many Gen Xers are genuine intellectuals with interesting ideas and hobbies. We’d love to share them!

Put Us to Work

We share your passion for making schools more successful learning environments. Besides letting us help you in class or share a homework assignment with our kids, harness our energy by asking us to help plan a field trip or do background research or otherwise help you prepare a class project.

Give Us Limits

“I let parents know that I’m always willing to listen to their concerns, but that there are certain issues that are negotiable and others that just aren’t,” says Shelly Wolf Scott, an administrator at Brooklyn’s Rivendell School. Parents are not allowed to alter their children’s classroom placement, curriculum, or administrative decisions.

They are, however, permitted to offer information about their child that the school might not know and that could assist in making such decisions. “This group of parents seems to respond well to those boundaries,” she says.

Work with Us

“Parents don’t seem to know how incredibly carefully all teachers and administrators think about their children,” says Lynn Levinson, assistant director of Upper School (and a parent of two) at the Maret School, in Washington, DC. “I always reassure them that I know how many conversations have revolved around these children and their classmates, so I know that it’s the right decision, even if I’m not happy with it as a parent.”

I think these points are very helpful in guiding all of us to ensure the best for each child alongside parents.

I would love your thoughts.

7 Comments

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the key points from the article about Generation X parents and how they think and feel about school and their children. As a baby boomer I had never really reflected on the insights of the next generation of parents. The concept of being a partner in education takes on a whole new meaning and I would love to hear how teachers are responding to such a wide spectrum of expectations.

    I was also very happy to see your refreshing approach to including parents in the planning for school improvement. Can you tell us more about how you organized the process? Surveys? Meetings? What kind of input and advice did you get?

    August 13, 2010
    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Lorna! I spoke this year continuously about how we wanted them to be a part of the school process, so I felt that it was necessary to include them in on our annual planning process.

      How we did this was try to choose a cross section of parents that represented different groups of our school (grade levels, cultures, parent groups, etc.) and I personally invited them through a phone call. We could not have the entire parent community invited since it would be hard to progress in the time frame we have with such a large number.

      On the planning day, parents were put into groups with a cross section of staff. Every group had a representative from different groups. For example, each group had a teacher, support staff, and parent, with sometimes more than one. We would have liked to have students involved in the day but due to how young the students were, I asked them some key questions and compiled their results before the meeting.

      With information given to the parents based on data that was accumulated, along with our education plan, there were key questions asked and shared with the entire group. After the day was done, I took all of the information shared and put together our education plan for the year and shared it with staff, parents, and central office for feedback.

      It was a lot of work but it was so meaningful. If you want parents to become true partners in education, you have to include them in on the school process.

      Thanks for your comment and question. Hopefully I answered it thoroughly enough 🙂

      August 13, 2010
      Reply
      • Yes you did answer my question!! Thanks for sharing. I hope that more Principals and Adminstrators follow your example. It is hard to gather data about the impact of parents in student achievement so please keep us posted as the year goes by.

        August 13, 2010
        Reply
  2. heidi said:

    Hi George!

    Lots of good points in here – though I find the wording a little condescending to parents and perpetuates the current system where teacher is expert and parent is the “client”…

    I’d prefer to have some discussions as partners in our children’s education. Parents (Gen X or any other Gen…) are not “insufferable” or “neglected children”.

    That being said, the titles are really good guidelines – listen, Include, put us to work, be clear about expectations (and needs and boundaries), work with us…

    Even if we don’t all know our children better than anyone else, we know what’s going on in their home lives, we can support the learning that happens in class and we can bring a different perspective than teachers/principals/peers see – and that’s valuable.

    And if we really want to make individualization for students a reality, we have to live and model it. That means also seeing each other (educators and parents) as individuals – valuable for our individual strengths and roles.

    It is a difficult thing to step out of our current system and the adversarial roles it automatically casts us in – but it’s also incredibly important for our children.

    Thanks!

    August 20, 2010
    Reply
    • I agree with you about the language but just want to make clear that it was the author’s post (who is actually referring to herself as a parent) that I referenced to and not my own words. I agree that parents need to be partners in education and are often an untapped resource. We really need to get them more into the conversation.

      Thanks so much for your comment 🙂

      August 20, 2010
      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *