Growing Engagement

growing-engagementAs a parent, I was surprised to find my relationship with my 2nd grade son challenged by a poster at the mall. Composed of stark white text on a black background, the poster simply asked readers to name three NFL quarterbacks and three of their child’s teachers. My brain stumbled through the short list of staff I knew, which consisted of a short woman with glasses and a young teacher from New York.

Suddenly, I was a statistic. And even as I began making excuses, I couldn’t shake the creeping notion that I was ignoring a huge opportunity.

In his book, Bowling Alone, author and Harvard professor Robert Putnam writes that given a choice between a 10% increase in school budgets and a 10% increase in parent involvement, he would invest in parent involvement.

Research clearly shows that instructional improvements can be successful only when family and community engagement align with genuine efforts to improve a school’s learning climate. Children flourish when parents, community members and school staff are fully partnered.

But do districts know how to mount effective programs that increase parent involvement? There are some encouraging signs. New, aspirational bills such as Illinois’s Bring Your Parents to School Day, Florida’s Parent Report Card and Tennessee’s Parental Involvement Contract all seek to forge a sense of shared responsibility among all stakeholders in order to build partnerships that support student learning.

Leaving the mall, I committed to driving my son to school each morning. The daily commute allows us to have conversations that provide me with important information I can use to engage in informed discussions with his teachers.

How involved are you with your child’s education?

Although I’ve only taken a few baby steps, the seed I planted is beginning to blossom. And if I continue nurturing these nascent partnerships with teachers and staff at my son’s school, he will have the resources and support he needs to be successful in school.

I encourage you to plant your own seed. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how fast it grows.

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