As a parent, I attempted to get involved in my children’s school many times. The problem for me is that it never felt authentic. It seemed I was the token parent on the committee because having a token parent was the right thing to do. I am not sure I really had a voice. My participation waned.
A session at the National Dropout Prevention Center Network conference in Orlando discussed parent engagement. This tip was suggested to allow authentic engagement for parents: create a PLACE just for parents in every school. This place could be co-created with parents and might serve as a cozy meeting place.
The parent room could include two whiteboards. One for teachers to write NEEDS. The other for parents to write STRENGTHS. Needs would include any kind of assistance teachers might need in their classroom. Strengths would include skills and interests parents are interested in donating to the school. This would allow parents to help create a cooperative environment within the school. Benefits?
- parents self-select how they donate time and resources
- parents offer their services (carpentry, gardening, painting, etc) in meaningful ways
- teachers get help they need
- parents and teachers build relationships
- adults model collaboration for kids
Giving parents a place is a smart way to build relationships with them in meaningful ways. Parent participation that is authentic and real and needed will go a long way in keeping parents invested in their children’s school. There is a direct line between parent engagement and student investment in school.