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Parent Engagement: Where to from here?

-by Tanya Stogre, Grade 5 Humanities

In the preceding three blogs, I have outlined the research behind why parental and community engagement is important; the differences between ‘involvement’ and ‘engagement’, as well as specific examples of each at the Calgary Science School. In the final blog of the series, I want to look at the question “where do we go from here?”

To answer this question, I look specifically to a document written by Dr. Garry McKinnon & Mr. Lyle Lorenz (2005) from the College of Alberta School Superintendents Module Building Effective Partnerships for School Improvement: A Principal’s Guide for Promoting Meaningful Parent and Community Involvement through the School Council and Beyond

One of the recommendations is to “provide training and opportunities for parents to be active participants.” (McKinnon & Lorenz, 2005). At the Calgary Science School, we do a good job of using our Parent Volunteer Committee to facilitate parent participation. However, perhaps an area of growth would be to provide training for parents to participate in governance roles where they might not normally see themselves, but would be most effective. This could also help extend the school’s leadership base to a variety of parents rather than a select few, which is often the case in most schools.

Another recommendation by McKinnon & Lorenz (2005) that could fit nicely within our school is “facilitating the involvement of parents as aides and tutors.” (p. 26). I would suggest this is moving our parents into more of an engaging role rather than simply involvement. Not only could this help develop better academic skills by students, but also could improve student and parent attitudes and relationships.

“Promoting student-teacher-parent collaboration” is an area of focused growth at CSS and according to McKinnon & Lorenz (2005), one that is important to nurture prior to grades six and seven because by this time the strongly established attitudes for both parents and students has been established. (p. 26)

Hargreaves (2001) notes in Beyond Anxiety and Nostalgia: Building a Social Movement for Educational Change that teachers experience more anxiety about their relationships with parents than about any other aspect of their work. Perhaps, in order to address this issue, it might be wise to “…provide leadership and encouragement to staff regarding the adoption and continuous use of welcoming and inclusive approaches, and facilitate staff development opportunities related to parent and community partnerships.” Saskatchewan Education, 1999)

Through a discussion with parents about the most important characteristics needed to facilitate the creation of strong partnerships at my school, we came up with our top three.
  1. Communication – without clear and open dialogue, forward movement and success is unlikely. 
  2. Respect – nothing can replace mutual respect and the understanding that all of the stakeholders in education want the same thing – student success. 
  3. Perseverance – successful partnerships don’t just happen. Like any relationship, they require persistence and perseverance. Something important to note is that this list was a result of working together on a conference presentation on parent engagement. 

Thank you to Rebecca Lyon, Denise Ronsky and Karen Cuthbertson for your communication, respect and perseverance in helping to make our school a more engaging one for parents, teachers and students.


Maria Chesley Fisk, @ThinkParenting said...

I want to share what I am thinking: Wow--an online professional journal and open, forward-facing work on your school's parent engagement practices. Very impressive!

Garry McKinnon said...

Tanya, through your action research and blogs you have highlighted the tremendous potential for parental involvement and engagement in student learning and the work of the school. You have shared some great exemplars and significant insights relating to partnerships with parents. As you point out successful partnerships just don't happen. We need to be intentional and purposeful in promoting the involvement and engagement of parents, and as you have demonstrated, the benefits are huge.

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