Friday, April 7, 2017

Parents Just Don't Understand

"You know parents are the same. No matter time nor place. They don't understand that us kids are going to make some mistakes. So to you, all the kids all across the land there's no need to argue, parents just don't understand!" - Fresh Prince of Bel Air - Will Smith 

Being a part of a team that changed the game in how we engaged communities and families in Atlanta has been simply amazing. There have been many lessons learned along the way that I believe truly helps parents and students find their voices and reaffirms the community's role in helping students find success. 

Parenting is such a critical aspect of life. Parents influence how we learn, live, play, process things, interact with others, develop, grow and ultimately succeed in life. So you can image how much more difficult these critical things become for children who experience the death, separation of or absence of their parent(s). 

Students, teachers, school leaders, advocates, communities, even elected officials are asking where are the parents? It's true. Recent meetings about stopping school closings have been heavily attended by Atlanta residents, alumni, community organizations, students but very few parents. In fact, many would argue that the common denominator between failing schools, the school to prison pipeline, defiant behaviors in schools and communities are parents. Everyone is asking, where are the parents?

Most would agree that parents are our children’s first educator. In fact, major influences after parents are our families and communities. The role of parents and adults raising school aged children is critical. Parent and family engagement is a nationwide dilemma, causing us to ask why more parents aren’t actively present and engaged in schools. The overarching focus has been the search for the masses of parents that represent the numbers of children being suspended, expelled, labeled as failing, being pushed in special education or remedial programs and ultimately being failed in schools. I would like to challenge educational leaders, advocates and stakeholders to consider the ways that parents are connecting to the academic success of their students and how can we empower them where they are to help build more effective successful pathways for all students.

What are some ways that parents are involved?

1.     Registering children for school
2.     Getting children to school
3.     Ensuring students have uniforms
4.     Completing paperwork
5.    Signing off on homework/projects
6.  Volunteering

These areas may seem small for those who don't struggle with shelter and homelessness, economic
      challenges but getting your child(ren) to school safely is one of the most intimate times between children and parents, especially for those parents who battle extreme circumstances effecting livelihood, safety and security of their family. 

How can school Districts be more intentional about engaging and empowering parents?
By hearing and helping parents find their voices
. By supporting parents and families Pre K - 12 
. Providing communication in a timely manner 
. Providing transportation to school and District family engagement events 
. Providing child care at APTT, parent teacher conference days, enrollment days and report card/curriculum nights

One thing that would help parents become more engaged is the school's intentional family engagement program design that helps all families find success. Engagement is not a cookie cutter program designed for just happy and positive moments. Intentional engagement of families causes us to look at what does success look like for all families and the barriers that prevent it? How can schools and school Districts help the parents they serve find success so that the students we serve are successful? Too often success is tied to a standardized test, the number of parents who attend a workshop or the amount of monies donated or fund-raised for the school. It's not that parents just don't understand, it may be that we don't quite understand parenting and families the way that we think we do. 

Engagement is a two way street! 

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