Teaching the Need and Importance of Parent Engagement

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Having worked in urban school environments for close to 10 years and work force development programs prior to that, the work that I am doing as a Community Activist Fellow is very important to me. In every situation I find myself working with students and parents who society has written off. Parents who are ill-equipped to provide the necessary support needed to help their child(ren) succeed academically. It is often assumed that parents don’t care because they are not always available or they fail to communicate with school staff. When in fact, more than not, urban, low income families want the same thing as all parents - to raise happy, healthy, and successful children.  

I have witnessed parents come to school with concerns about grades, discipline or school communication and because of their presentation, their appearance and more importantly their words and delivery, they are not heard. Not because their concerns are not valid, but because their message delivery causes them to be written off.  

I want to teach parents how to communicate with schools during conflict. I want to help them to appreciate that parent engagement is an important part of their child’s education. For those parents who feel as if they don’t have a voice, I will host parent cafes in various schools within our school district so that they can connect with other parents and see that they are not alone.  This is important to me as not only am I a parent, but I work in schools and I have seen first-hand that teachers and administrators can be dismissive.  

This will also be a great opportunity to conduct professional development programs for teachers and show them that they have a huge role in whether parents feel comfortable volunteering in the school or contacting them with concerns based on how welcome the teachers make parents feel.  The work that I have done thus far on the school level has shown me that when parents have an advocate to help them with school issues as well as socioeconomic issues, they can thrive.  Students who see that their parent and teacher are working together as partners or allies and are not two opposing forces, are more likely to perform well in the classroom as they are less likely to have opportunities to play the parent and teacher against one another.  

I used to think that I wanted to be a principal in a school, but over the last year as a Parent Advocate and Director of Parent and Community Engagement, I have formed relationships with parents and students that I know that I would only be able to do in this role.  At some point, I would love to run my own consulting firm that focuses on creating parent leaders and helping schools to see the importance of parent engagement.