Schools and Parents: A Kabuki Dance?

CJ Westerberg, January 9, 2013 11:58 AM

A TDR Classic

by C.J. Westerberg

As parents, we know we cannot depend entirely on the school for our child's learning, motivation and overall well-being.  Educators know that parental involvement is a hugely important factor contributing to student success - study-after-study continue to prove it.

We asked then, why do some schools still do a kabuki dance when it comes to parental/family engagement?  There are those who are challenging (Chris Wejr, George Couros, Sheila Stewart, Joe Bower, to name a few notables making a difference - is there something in the Canuck water?) the roadblocks and double-speak found at certain schools, because parental involvement essentially ends up as a term defined and communicated by educators and schools, usually resulting with a parental "to-do" list with volunteering, fund-raising and insuring home-work completion as the main-stays.   No wonder why some parents run for the hills - especially those who do not have the job flexibility to participate in those in-school activities often enough to feel a part of that "involved group"of parents.  

Why is this so?  How can this change?

P.S. A few recommended reads.  Let us know about yours - we'd like to know: 

"Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships" by Anne T. Henderson, Karen L. Mapp, Vivian R. Johnson, and Don Davies

"Unequal Childhoods" Annette Lareau

"Parental Involvement and Academic Success"  William H. Jeynes

Originally published The Daily Riff September 24, 2011.

Conversations That Happen in the Middle by Lorna Constantini

  • No big surprise why a few folks keep running for the slopes - particularly the individuals who don't have the occupation adaptability to partake in those in-school exercises regularly enough to feel a piece of that of folks ..

  • Sheila Stewart

    I enjoyed Stephen Hurley's post reflecting on Ontario's performance and context here:

    See what you think....

  • Didn't find the original article about Canadian education (Ontario specifically) but wanted to give the link to an article we tweeted when it broke a few days ago (Canada finally gets its due - the next darling in the education press over Finland?)

    Via The Economist:

  • I've had much feedback to your recent point about parent groups. I'm not against parent groups, but just not focusing on them since they may become the default go-to in the sense that "someone else" will take care of it. Hear your point and am also do not want to short-change the impact - there is a quote that someone told me recently that addresses your POV - I'll definitely tweet you when I find and use it in an upcoming post. Thanks for comment.

    To be continued . . . .

  • Hi - Finally back as I promised you! Your response above did make sense! We are on similar wave lengths! I used the organized parent group as an example, but I do recognize the many other aspects of parent participation in education - and value all. But I did want to come back to the parent group part because of your insightful comments, and hope that it adds to our reflecting here.

    In Ontario, the organized and mandated parent committees at school and board level have a lot of legislation that outlines their function and membership. The structure and function is also clear that these committees were set up to outreach to their associated school's/area's community/parents. The whole framework was intended to be a broader, inclusive outreach, and was never intended to have something come into place where only the vocal parents, or the ones at the table, or the ones who can spend more time at the school would have the bigger say in school operation or goverance, etc.

    However, what I see has happened a fair bit, is that is what has been allowed to happen. If the groups aren't supported and empowered by staff to reach out and have more voices represented, it is hard to do. I am hearing struggles with such attempts to do so all the time -- so as volunteers trying to lead this, it is not the best position to always be in. Sometimes it is that approach that is simply not wanted.

    So if that continues to be the case, it puts into question the effectiveness and representation of the organized structure of involvement. But if we go with trying to foster what works on the individual, one-to-one level then who does that fall on to facilitate effectively? And where can trust and relationships flourish?

    I recognize all the short-comings that there may be with parent groups (believe me :)), but yet I have seen such value in them as a parent go-to kind of thing for a solution to a problem. Just like much in education, not all is perfect, but we have to find those good stories to keep us going, if not build on them. There are no easy answers for sure.

    Thanks for all the dialogue you have encouraged!

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It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
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