Ed. Note: We think Chris Wejr, school principal in Canada, says it like it is. The following is one of his classic posts (slightly shortened), before his mini-hiatus of family-time (He and his wife recently had twins). This is one which treads upon territory which may be tricky with many schools and leaders: feedback from parents. Added: It all starts with trust and relationships. - C.J.Westerberg
'It's simple . . . .
the only thing I ask is that when I discuss my child,
I have been part of schools that have constantly told me
what to do
At Kent School we meet with a few different parent groups throughout the year and always get helpful feedback on how we can improve things at for our students.
Today we had . . . .(snip)
As with most meetings, I feel the most important part is the dialogue. I spoke about how, although I believe school-family communication is very important to student learning, this cannot be done effectively without trust. We wanted to hear from the parents about how the school can work to build trust in families so they not only feel comfortable coming to the school but also confident that they can speak about their child and feel they have
After some table talk, we asked the parents to share their thoughts.
- A father spoke up first and said, "It's simple" . . . .the only thing I ask is that when I discuss my child, LISTEN. I have been part of schools that have constantly told me what to do but never listened to what I had to say." [in my opinion, in addition to listening I think we (as educators) need to seek out voices of those who generally do not speak up]
- A mother spoke up and said, "We know what our child cannot do, we want to hear HOW he is learning and what he CAN do - we appreciate when schools do this on phone calls, meetings, report cards . . . kids also need to hear this - that they have strengths and areas they need to work on."
- A mother stated, "If the school has to tell us something concerning, it is much easier to hear when it is sandwiched between some positives."
- A mother discussed how her work affects her involvement, "I feel so disconnected with the school because I work. I know teachers work all day so I don't want to bother them in the evening. I like the idea of having other ways to communicate with teachers so we do not interrupt their time away from school . . . this would really help me. That way, I can stay connected to my daughter's school better at times that work for me and the teacher. I WANT to be connected in person, but working full time makes it tough."
- A group of parents said the like receiving the positive phone calls and comments (see post about Friday 5 Positive phone calls) so they know that just because the school number comes up on the call display, it does not mean it is a bad thing.
- There are so many reasons why some parents do not feel they have a relationship with their child's school. Policies and directives cannot build trust with parents; however, relationships can. This is where we need to start. Build relationships by LISTENING to parents and ENGAGING in dialogue around their child's learning.
Too often, the education system tells parents what to do or makes judgmental statements that further disengage parents. We all know that working WITH parents to increase involvement enhances learning in children. A few parents and families from Kent School have spoken up and provided feedback on how to build trust . . .
Are we listening?
Thank you so much to the families that provided feedback; also thank you to our passionate First Nation Support Workers who continue to work so hard in helping our school build relationships with our families.
Wejr is school principal at Kent Elementary School in British Columbia. He has spent his career working with students as a high school physical education, math, and science teacher, an intermediate teacher, an elementary vice-principal, as well as a high school volleyball, rugby, track, and basketball coach. You can find him at The Wejr Board.
Conversations that Happen in the Middle - Between Parents and Teachers - by Lorna Constantini
Technology: The Parent Connection by Kim Cofino
What is the Right Kind of Parent? by Sheila Stewart
Teachers: Don't Leave Out the Parents by Mrs. Ripp
The Parent Trapped - Do Parents Want Parental Involvement or Parent Compliance?
by Cathy Buyrn
Time to Rethink Award Ceremonies by Chris Wejr
How About a Family Awards Ceremony? by Chris Wejr