What If schools really did involve parents as much as possible?

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This tweet from Pete Hall prompted this post for Question Quest.

  My current position at Hobsonville Point Secondary School sees me having more contact with parents than I have done at previous schools. I email parents of my Learning Hub regularly giving an overview of what their son/daughter and I have discussed in learning conferences. We meet for IEMs, parent information evenings and exhibitions of student projects.

I feel, however, there is so much more we can do to really reach the point of being partners in the students learning.

My aims next term are to:
– include parents regularly in the learning happening in modules
– test the prototype of our curriculum tracking tool with parents to see if it meets their needs before we develop it further
– investigate how parent voice can be included in the development of future modules. Currently we have learning area and student voice, the obvious next step is seeing what parents see as being part of the next term’s concept.

Maybe it’s also time to revisit the parent skills database collected at start of year to see if parents could be used as partnership connections in our learning!

Surely there is a lot to gain by truly involving parents in the learning!

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9 thoughts on “What If schools really did involve parents as much as possible?

  1. I think that parental involvement lessens at school as their child gets older.
    Alas not all parents even get involved as much as they could at early childhood and primary levels, but I think as kids move into Intermediate and on to college level parents experience school fatigue and back off. Especially because their kids also don’t think it’s cool for mum and dad to be involved.
    But if parents back off too much, and if kids slack off, then parents are out of touch.
    I imagine the lower the decile that the smaller the involved parent number is.
    I think most parents biggest (if at all) idea of participatiin in their child’s schooling at secondary level is on the sideline on Saturday or in the audience at a performance. The trick is how to get them to participate in the academic side.

  2. Nice take on things Steve. I really do wonder if we sometimes use a couple of experiences to make a construct of how we should limit parent involvement. Reading your ideas for the rest of the year i can’t help wondering how far we can turn the expectations of a true partnership full circle.
    How could students be led to start specific conversations with their parents about the ways they need dot be supported? What about students asking teachers for resources to support their parents’ involvement?
    Once the conversation starts in earnest, anything is possible.

    I like the idea of parents begin given some opportunity to develop school culture.
    When we consider parent culture, do we consider how that might be led, and who could do that work on behalf of our learners?
    How might parents participate in creating a culture of learning that avoids destructive comparisons between students? Have we modelled how to lead that? Do they have the resources and support to lead it for us?

    Maybe save that for Term 4 I reckon.

    • Thanks for the thought provoking comment Pete. I completely agree it is about starting the conversation so we model the process for the students. At the moment our “involvement” is very much a routine consultation – contact regularly to inform (and perhaps start discussion) rather than being a true invitation to fully engage. Having parents onboard with a culture of learning compared to a culture of comparison is vital. Our challenge here is that some parents are still uncomfortably comparing our approach with their more traditional views of schooling so we have a lot to do here to help build this up as a real learning partnership. I would like to think that the more involved they become, the more parents will understand our approach and could eventually become the drivers of it for us as well?

  3. Good questions and thoughts Steve. Did you also see the plans Annette is working on for involving whanau – and whole community – in restorative practice learning? A critical part of our discussion around involving parents in learning hub interaction has been around that concept of us all as learners – parent, teacher, student – and what power there is in Ako.
    Agree it is also interesting to think about how we involve them in module learning. I think it’s that relationship issue again – in previous schools we would have much more input into those home/school interactions as “subject teachers” eg I sent weekly update emails to all of my students’ parents/caregivers too.
    We’ve talked about ‘exhibition of learning’ where we do meet in hubs at the end but firstly students take parents to meet module teachers to share the learning. As a teacher I really want to be able to know families of the students I teach English – especially those I want to support/extend – as well as those I know more deeply in my hub. Important to have key contact person but don’t want that in isolation. What do you think?
    Too much to discuss here but great provocation as usual! One last thing – parent is teaching kickboxing module next term. That’s pretty ace I reckon.

    • Have been thinking over many of the same things! One thing I am aiming to do this term which possibly challenges one of your points is to do that regular contact home about what is happening in our module. Ideally this is driven by the students but perhaps needs to be started by us first to scaffold them into it?

  4. That’s a really good question, and has me thinking avout what I can do for this next year. My students have already chosen next term’s focus, and Term 4 is exams etc. I imagine in a D10 school many parents will be really busy, but I also know that many parents would love to have a say in what their kids are learning. The trick, I feel, will be to balance everyone’s opinions. I think that will be the messy part!!

  5. Noble question which many schools are asking.
    We have several issues.
    Parent busyness. For many, work has become a necessity to sustain life or lifestyle and as parents, they can’t get into school. For others, it is a convenient babysitting tool.
    Student attitude. Teens especially, worry that they will get negative feedback from peers and sometimes even from the teacher if Mum and Dad come in. Yes, I’ve heard the words, “Please don’t interfere, Mum.”
    Teacher reluctance. I hate to say it, but I still know teachers who like to keep their doors shut. It’s okay to have parents in for camp and parent conferences, but there is a fear, as @steelotter questions, that we’ll be told how to do our job.
    So how do we shift the thinking? Certainly it is well time for schools and their communities to really work together and I know there will be some great examples. I look forward to reading more in the discussion.

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