Parent Engagement: What’s On Your Mind…Literally

Recently, we wrote about the DOL’s new engagement initiative. When we asked our email subscribers to give us their specific feedback on parent engagement, we got some fantastic, thoughtful responses. Here are some of them (all anonymous to preserve folks’ privacy):

From a parent: 

My challenge is getting the school my children attend become more family friendly without offending or seem too controlling on my part…I don’t feel welcomed at the school. As a parent, I’m not sure I’m in a position to “launch” an initiative but I certainly would like to share with the school staff in a way they would find receptive.

The office staff are less than friendly…The parent liasion will smile at you but doesn’t make an effort to get to know parents…On a personal and individual level, my children’s teachers have always been generous and welcoming. It seems the school is welcoming but only on their terms, which doesn’t always work.

From a learning specialist:

[A recent family event I held] was a great success – fun, active, and educational.

From a preschool director & lead teacher:

Your recent theme on family engagement reminded me of what I found in my own research concerning family engagement. What I learned about student success is that it is not so much that families are engaged in the school, but that the families are engaged in their children. All the volunteering and bake sales in the world will not help a child if the parents are not engaged with them.

It’s a minor point – and certainly families that are engaged in school typically are there because they are engaged with their children as well. In my demographic, however, there are parents that are commendable in their support of the school, but their children are figuratively orphaned while the parents are busy with school duties. Those children struggle.

Interesting stuff, don’t you think? While we all seem to agree that family engagement is crucially important, there are so many different ways to look at the issue (and, as the first comment illustrates, so many ways to go astray – note the telling comment above that “the school is welcoming but only on their terms”).

It’s so important to remember that engagement is not something that just “happens” at schools and homes – it is a process that develops over time, and it takes work and commitment to meet parents where they are.

Your Parent Engagement Plans for 2015?

As always, we love hearing about your successes – and challenges – with parent engagement at your school. We’ve also got a brand-new resource coming at you next year about how to create an effective school communication plan, so stay tuned here for details. Communication is an essential part of the engagement puzzle, as you can’t engage parents you aren’t effectively in touch with!

We wish you all a joyous Christmas and holiday season next week! We’ll be back here with some parting thoughts for 2014 in a couple of weeks.

Click here to download your copy of our exclusive free eBook, 9 Effective Strategies for Parent Engagement at Your School.