I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the culture of our school. Having been in four previous schools in various places around the world I’ve been a member of a variety of different school communities. Some have been naturally very positive and others have required a lot of time and effort in order to reach a comfortable level. However, the one thing that holds true in all of these schools is the importance of creating a community centered around the school. I believe that means that every stakeholder must be appropriately involved in the educational process, we can’t reach a point where we are ever comfortable with leaving any particular group of people out of the learning community.
Throughout this first year at AC I’ve watched, listened, and felt the pain of teachers as we’ve banged our head against the wall trying to engage students and parents in the learning process. We have a lot of amazing students and families here at AC. However, there are also a large number of students and families who are disengaged and, at times, completely oblivious to the reality of the expectations for learning. I don’t mean to make a sweeping generalization, as that wouldn’t be fair to all of those students and families who are integral parts of our community. I know that we, as educators, haven’t given up on a single one of these students or families and we work extremely hard to engage them. What I’m worried about right now is the possibility that we’ve given up on some of the parents, maybe even written them off as completely disengaged.
There is a lot of evidence to support the theory that students whose parents are more involved in the school community do better academically. This is powerful stuff, especially when you look at our attendance at parent nights or PTO meetings. Where are all of our students’ parents? As I’ve settled in at AC I’ve had the chance to sit back, observe, and ponder questions such as that. There is one thing that keeps boiling to the top as I contemplate our community; I’m concerned that we haven’t done enough of the “right” things to engage our parents. There is no doubt in my mind that we’ve tried a lot of strategies to engage our AC families but what I think has become obvious is that we’ve yet to find the “right” or most successful strategies.
Not to be lost in this conversation are the kids, what impact has this had on their learning? Well, as I mentioned above, there is a lot of research to support the theory that students whose parents are involved in the school community achieve more academically. That is very important to consider as we ponder, as a school, how to best help our students grow as learners. So, let’s think about that for a second…which of your students struggle the most to engage with the learning process here at AC? How involved are their parents? Next, and what I want you to consider as the most important question, what have you done to further engage those parents in their student’s learning? Have those strategies worked?
We need to come together over a common understanding of what it means to engage our full community. As I said earlier, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this lately and I’ve also had a number of conversations with different teachers, parents, and students. Let’s work as a team to bring this entire community together around one common theme, student learning! I’d love to hear your thoughts, concerns, and strategies to further engage the different parts of our AC community…please share!