Engaging Parents is a Good Idea

Interesting blog post from The Fischbowl about getting parents involved. He’s following up on a post he saw on Will Richardson’s blog where a superintendent talks about needing to engage parents in the conversations.

I have to say that that my experience at my kids’ schools has been the opposite: I’ve been kept at arms length. I’ve been trying hard to respectfully engage school leaders in conversation about 21st century skills, including integrating technology, allowing students more flexibility in assignments and learning opportunities, empowering students using the tools they use 18/7 (outside the school day),etc. I have never been rudely shut out, but I certainly haven’t been taken seriously or given more than cursory answers. Usually, I am treated as one more complaining parent with smiles, but that vacant look that tells me they are really thinking about something else while we’re talking. I’m not sure what I’m doing that is getting the door gently shut in my face.

It is a totally different story when I approach schools as a part of my work. I have talked to school superintendents, technology directors, teachers, curriculum directors. I have been welcomed into their schools, classrooms, conferences and conversations. We have engaged in serious, thoughtful conversation about the same topics: 21st century skills, technology integration, digital literacy and responsibility, flexibility, testing (amazing how they universally dislike testing!). The conversations have been energetic (watch for flying coffee!), passionate, and invigorating for all involved. We mutually bemoan the fact that there is little quantitative data about success, yet the observed and anecdotal data is overwhelming. Not that this is about me, but in those settings, I am treated professionally; my thoughts, opinions and work is treated professionally and taken seriously. We are partners.

Why aren’t I taken seriously when I approach the schools as a parent? Am I a threat? Am I complaining? I admit I am complaining when my daughter can’t use her iPhone graphing calculator. I only want what’s best for the kids — and not just my kids. I see such overwhelming success in the schools I visit that are ahead of the curve: those that incorporate 21st century skills, those that have thoughtfully integrated technology into all classes. I started out just asking what the schools are doing about these topics. It is no secret I think they need to do more, but I have tried to offer support for whatever steps they are taking. My offers to help have for the most part (with a few notable exceptions) been ignored.

To get back to my main point: I’d like to be engaged by my child’s schools. I will be your strongest advocate and supporter. I know this is a big step, and I applaud and support all the steps you’re taking. I’ve got your back. I’ll do whatever I can to help, and I do know what I’m doing — even if I’m not currently teaching in a classroom. Please don’t shut me out.

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