The course EDAD 6589 Engaging Communities gave me a new found appreciation for the leadership roles that principals have within a school. This course provided me with several new learnings that made me totally rethink strong mindsets that were once instilled regarding parent involvement and parent engagement. Throughout this course and the completion of its assignments, I gained a much more realistic idea of the work and collaboration it takes with not only parents but the surrounding community of a school to make it successful. The first day of class, our cohort brainstormed the different stakeholders that were involved in a school community and more importantly, had a large effect on a school’s community. My understanding of the term stakeholders grew significantly when our brainstormed list became much larger than I ever would have imagined. Places and groups such as, daycares, churches, businesses etc. are all affected by a school and the school is affected by these places as well. During this course we spent a lot of time reading case studies that provided real examples of schools and their success as well as failures in regards to parent and community involvement and engagement.
One of my biggest take-aways this quarter was a statement that my professor made, he said, “Rather than asking, Why are some families so hard to reach?” we should instead need to ask, “What am I doing that makes my school and/or classroom hard to reach?” This was a statement that our entire cohort took to heart and had a large discussion about. It truly changed the way we began to look at our building. It changed our entire perspective of what we had control over and how we could better our school and classroom environment to be more welcoming and reachable.
This leads into another large take-away from this course was that there is a large difference between parent involvement and parent engagement. This concept was also supported by two different lectures I was able to listen to about family, school and community engagement. Melanie Strey and Brad Brown led these fabulous Saturday workshops. At first, I was certain that my classroom obtained parent engagement because I had several parent volunteers and helpers each week. What I quickly came to realize is, I had a lot of parent involvement, not engagement. I have parents in my room helping with projects, prep, some working with students, but mainly, it is a one-way conversation. Engagement requires a two-way communication system where parents feel like they have a role in the school and child’s education. I have a lot of parent involvement, where parents are talked to and told how they can participate in the school. I know I spend a large amount of time during conferences a two way conversation where I am asking parents for input and inside ideas and knowledge about their kiddo. What I quickly realized is that I needed to work on making those conversations happen on a more regular basis, not just during scheduled conference times. “Traditional definitions of parental involvement require investments of time and money from parents, and those who may not be able to provide these resources are deemed uninvolved (Bower & Griffin).” This quote really stuck with me because several teachers, including myself have probably agreed with this at one point. The parents that don’t to help out in our classroom, or return permission slips right away with a check to attend we might find ourselves feeling like those parents are uninvolved. However, parent involvement can take many forms.
A Harvard Family Research Project titled, Data Collection Instruments for Evaluating Family Involvement serves as a tool that provides several avenues to help teachers and administrators collect data to continue improvements in family involvement. There are multiple surveys that cater to different types of demographics. These surveys allow you to measure and assess family involvement which then allows the schools to take steps towards improving community engagement levels.
There were a few different data collection models that I felt could be used in my building. The ones that I was able to connect the most with from my teaching experience were: Parent and School Survey (PASS) as well as Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the 2003 National Household Education Surveys Program.
One of the major assignments during this quarter was a Community Involvement Plan. We were asked to research and look deep into how our principal of our building and staff reach out and engage with the school’s community. We were asked to interview our administrator to get more inside information on what her job truly entails.
During this course we were also asked to conduct an interview with a teacher that currently teaches in a school with opposite demographics that I currently teach in. I picked a Title 1 school that was within the same district that I taught in. I was able to ask this teacher several questions about how her school works with the surrounding community to help their students reach a higher success rate in the population that they currently serve. The teacher was able to speak with me about several different programs and things that their principal does and reaches out to in order to better serve their demographics and population. In my Engaging Community Reflection you can read more about it.
As a teacher leader and a potential future principal, this course and standard has really helped me understand just how important it is to have a positive, working relationship with not only the parents at your school but the community too. I have always had several parent volunteers each year. However, as I mentioned earlier, there is a difference between parent involvement and parent engagement. In the future, I would like to strength my parent involvement in my classroom and school by making sure there is a safe and welcoming environment. It is critical for parents and students to feel like they’re voice is heard not only within my classroom but in the school as well.
Agbo, S. (2007). Addressing School-Community Relations in a Cross-Cultural Context: A Collaborative Action to Bridge the Gap Between First Nations and the School. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 22(8), 1-14.
Bower, H., & Griffin, D. (2011). Can the Epstein Model of Parental Involvement Work in a High-Minority, High-Poverty Elementary School? A Case Study. Professional School Counseling, 15(2), 77-87.
Elias, M., & Buzelli, C. (2013). The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Policies and Practices That Favor Incarceration Over Education Do Us All a Grave Injustice. Teaching Tolerance, 39-43.
Ferguson, C. (2005). Reaching out to diverse populations: What can schools do to foster family-school connections? National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools, Retrieved May 10, 2015 from http//www.sedl.org/connections/resources/bibsearch.html
Robbins, C., & Searby, L. (2013). Exploring Parental Involvement Strategies Utilized by Middle School Interdisciplinary Teams. School Community Journal, 23(2), 113-136.
Westmoreland, H., Bouffard, S., O’Carroll, K., & Rosenberg, H. (2009, May 1). Data Collection Instruments for Evaluating Family Involvement. Retrieved May 10, 2015, from http://www.hfrp.org/family-involvement/publications-resources/data-collection-instruments-for-evaluating-family-involvement