|This is me facilitating a parent workshop in Yakima, Washington, in 2011.|
When parent engagement is supported, students can truly succeed throughout education. Parents must be empowered to be fully partners with educators and students if education is going to meet the needs of the modern era. These Rules for Parent Engagement in Schools offer those guidelines.
5 Rules for Parent Engagement in Schools
1. Seek authentic engagement.
- Keep it real: Open the door for real parent engagement right now.
- Learning to listen, validate, authorize, mobilize, and reflect on schools is important for parent engagement.
- Seek nothing less than full parent-student-teacher partnerships for every learner in school.
- Expecting action action means not letting any member of the school community be apathetic.
2. Foster mutual respect.
- Respect is mutual: You give it, you receive it.
- A culture of respect shatters stereotypes based on roles in schools.
- Parents respect educators who listen and engage in challenging action.
- A culture of respect provides all people the opportunity to act on their best intention for students and learn from their mistakes.
3. Provide constant communication.
- Listen up: An honest and open exchange of ideas is crucial.
- Parents are best heard when educators step back and parents speak up.
- Educators are best heard when they are straight up and explain where they’re coming from.
- All people’s ideas and opinions are valuable and must be heard.
4. Build investment.
- It takes time: Investing in the future is accepting that parents can be more engaged right now.
- Parents and educators must first set their fears aside and take a chance on each other.
- Educators must provide parents with the information, education and support they will need to succeed. They must also develop their own ability to engage parents.
- Strong parent/school partnerships require patience and courage.
5. Promote meaningful involvement
- Count us in: Decisions about students should be made with parents and students.
- Educators need to support parents in taking on responsibility based on what they can do, not what they have done.
- Reflection helps everyone appreciate the importance of schools – for themselves, for students, for their communities.
- Parents and educators must hold each other accountable for all their decisions and actions. Everyone should continually challenge the impact of schools on students.
Where These Rules Came From
For all these years that I’ve had the privilege of advocating student engagement in schools, I’ve had a more important job that I’ve wrestled through too. Well, at least for the last ten years. The most important thing I’ve ever done with any of my time is be a dad, and that my most important job.
An vital part of being an active dad has been my daughter Hannah’s education. Being raised by two people who are passionate about learning, teaching, and leadership in schools, Hannah has had very strong advocates for her education since she entered preschool, and before. Her mother and I have constantly worked at keeping Hannah in learning situations that are not only safe, healthy, and whole, but vibrant and relevant to her specific learning style. This has meant a lot of personal wrangling and negotiation, but always with Hannah at the center.
For all these years I’ve been concerned with the reality that for as deeply vested in our daughter’s education as we are, the schools Hannah has attended have mostly been less-than fully capable of engaging us as parents. In the past, we have been pointed about not revealing our professional stakes as Hannah’s parents. That said, there are many missteps that I’ve experienced from Hannah’s teachers, school leaders, and other parents attempting to promote parent engagement.
That’s where these rules of parent engagement in schools were born – my work as a guerrilla researcher in human engagement, as well as my experience as a parent. Thanks for reading them, and let me know what you think!