Ed Reform – What About Parents?

When I think of parents and the degree to which they understand how education is changing, I’m reminded of this quote by American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomski:

IMG_0061Earlier this week I gave a presentation on Learning Commons to parent council chairpersons at a gathering organized by our district’s School Board. We provided the presentation so that parents would better understand our district initiative to bring our school libraries into the 21st century, and by doing so provide our students with a more relevant and engaging learning experience. As I demonstrated how a Learning Commons could be used to flatten the walls of our classrooms, give students more responsibility for their own learning, and encourage creativity and innovation, the parents in attendance seemed to welcome the opportunity to learn more about the changes to their child’s daily experiences in school. I came away from the evening, however, with a sense of concern with the disconnect between what parents think we are doing in our classrooms and what we are actually doing. Most in attendance had never before heard of the ideas I shared in my presentation.

As learning begins taking on a very different look, we have to remember to bring all our stakeholders along with us – especially our parents. As the first educators of their children, we can’t leave them out of loop if we are to make any significant progress with changing the educational experience for our students. Most people resist change when they don’t understand.

Here, I believe, are some of the reasons why we need to make a conscious effort to include parents in our conversations about education reform: 

  1. Most parents can only imagine learning through the lens in which they experienced it themselves.
  2. Most parents are digital immigrants, which makes them nervous about the use of technology and innovative approaches in schools.
  3. Most parents still want to know how their children are doing in relation to everyone else – with a number.
  4. Most parents don’t have the time to be directly involved in their child’s learning.
  5. Most parents turned out just fine with their schooling experience. What was good for them must be good for their children.

…perhaps some helpful ideas:

  1. Organize parent information sessions on a regular basis.
  2. Use the power of technology to share information with parents and collect their input.
  3. Invite parents into your classroom – often.
  4. Hold student-led parent / teacher conferences.
  5. Reassure parents that safety concerns are being addressed.

What are you doing to make sure your parents know what’s happening as things start to change in your classroom?

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Community Engagement, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Ed Reform – What About Parents?

  1. paulgenge916939838

    Great post as usual, Greg! We’ve been operating under the idea that “Parents can’t pick what they haven’t seen” and try to showcase student success in more broadly defined terms than test scores.
    I believe there is reluctance among teachers to simply bring parents in and give them a chance to vent given how profound that shift in perspective is in education.
    It is hard to judge our progress. Thanks for the tips around communication. A great reminder to press forward.

  2. Greg, this post really hit a note with me being an “old” teacher (resigned to have a young family). I could never understand teachers who “shut doors” on parents. I understand fear and anxiousness with parents “watching them” but the gains far out weigh the risks in teaching. Parents are a “learning space” on their own with their own knowledge and experiences to share. Having them “on board” can only be good ! Great, great post!!

  3. Ironically enough, the generation shifts are sharper than you suggest. Young parents – most commonly parents of very young students – may well share their children’s media generation – or at least parts of it – and know the impact of smart phones, universal google, and tablets. Even they, however, won’t know what it’s like to teach “stuff” – most of which can be found within 30 seconds on google – that no longer has any shelf-life. Parents may, however, share the kind of exploration their children share, if they’re invited and welcomed.

    This is a much different experience than a “flipped classroom,” since it’s basic presumption is “social data” rather than questions appropriate to bubble tests. And yet it is quite possible to use “numbers” to “score” even issues like “collaboration.” Check this model (https://sites.google.com/site/shseportfolio/documents/verified-resume).

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