This fall when we re-organized our School Community Council (SCC) for another year, I was struggling to try to find a member who wanted to step up to be chairperson for the committee. Our past chair had worked tirelessly for two years and was wanting a break. I can’t say I blame her because the two years she was chairperson we raised over $90,000 and installed 2 playground projects. That is enough to make anyone want to step down. She did an awesome job and is still a committee member.
The weird thing about not having a leader of our committee is that it might lead you to believe that our parents are not engaged in our school and I don’t feel like that is the case at all. Time and time again when we need something, our parents are there.
I have talked often about the importance of a strong team. We have plenty of research to tell us that when a child has support from many adults in their life, they have a much easier time developing physically, emotionally, spiritually and academically. It really just makes sense.
In reflecting on the things we do to make parents and families feel welcome as a valuable part of our team, it is easy to see we are well on our way, but are we doing everything we can do?
I think we can safely assume that all parents want what is best for their children or we should assume that. It may not be the same in every family and it may not manifest itself in the same way in our building. Taking into consideration differences in families and lifestyles, I think most parents give as much as they can. Perhaps if we want to improve our parent connection, we need to be more specific about what we want and we may have more parents willing to take a chance on investing in us more often.
According to a great book, “Beyond the Bake Sale” by Henderson, Mapp, Johnson and Davis, “…parents are more motivated to support their children’s learning when they receive clear invitations and support from teachers and other school staff to be engaged, are confident about their ability to help their children, and are clear about what they should do to support their child’s learning?” (p.34)
That is a mouthful, but in my mind, the ideas behind it are very simple.
1. We need to reach out to parents in many ways, personal ways, engage in conversations and build relationships by calling and communicating about our students many times and not just when we are having behavioral or academic issues.
2. When we want our parents to help us out with something, we need to be very clear about what we are wanting them to do. Knock off the “teacher speak” and give suggestions and directions and reasons why.
3. We need to believe in their ability to help us out. Parents come from all walks of life with all kinds of experiences and all kinds of knowledge to offer to us and their children.
Right now we have some parents helping us out every day with our early literacy project we have titled ROAR (Really Outrageous at Reading). We need every adult body we can get so we can divide all of our grade one students into small groups and have leveled literacy every day. We know this benefits our students and we also know we would not be able to do it, as well, without the parents that are helping us out.
At our SCC meeting in November we left with the challenge to reach out to another parent, explain what our committee was all about and bring them to the next meeting. We had a number of new members attend our meeting in January and I went home that night with a new chairperson for our committee.
What I hope we can create now is a true partnership where we ask for and appreciate feedback. Where we reach out with questions and information expecting the same coming back at us. I hope we can listen without being defensive when parents are being advocates for their children. I hope we can increase our communication, especially the positive, because the positive conversations may make the more difficult ones easier in the future. I hope we can see the advantage and build the trust needed for parents to feel like they are truly an equal part of our team.
What we need now is parents to take a chance on us.