What is an involved parent? Are you one? Do you define “involved” as being at the school for all of the class parties and events, or is it providing your child with additional learning opportunities outside of school, or something more?
Helping to increase our school’s family involvement was the main reason I chose to serve on our parent association board. Recently, I have listened to feedback from school staff, been part of a parent-teacher book chat on family engagement, and spoken with parents from other schools about what they do. Early on, I associated being “engaged” with attending school events and activities. I wanted to know what we needed to do differently to get the other families that we weren’t seeing at these events to join us. I noticed we would get a very different turnout for educational related events versus fun family events, and much to my surprise, a larger attendance. Proof kids have the desire to learn and families value the importance of education and are willing to support it in anyway.
We all have differing opinions on the definition of being a “partner”. At our book chat with the parents and teachers from my children’s school we all shared our thoughts and ideas on the book Beyond the Bake Sale by Anne Henderson and Karen Mapp. A book about how to build real partnerships between home and school…beyond the bake sales. It was here that I had an eye opening experience. In my conversation with another mom, who comes from a culture different from what I know, she shared with me that some cultures are involved strictly by supporting their children learning while at home. They don’t feel that need to attend school events. They are choosing to miss the events because they don’t feel it adds anything to their child’s learning. I also had a kindergarten mom share with me how she wants to be that “bake sale” parent and nothing more just yet.
I will never be able to give up on attempting to get all of our families involved, but I have accepted the idea that not everyone is ready to dive in as I have. Their definition of involved is just different from mine at the moment, and I wouldn’t trade the time these parents are willing to join us for the world. The best we can do is to continue to provide options and reasons to attend, whether it be to enhance their child’s learning or the opportunity to learn from or teach others.