This conversation comes up over and over. Are parents involved or engaged in their child’s education? But does that label matter?
Looking at these pictures can you tell which parent is engaged vs involved? Neither can I. Why? Because a word doesn’t (and shouldn’t) define them. Actions do; and unless we looked at what these individuals do at school AND home with their children…we cannot tell. So as a parent, how do I define involvement and engagement? First, neither is defined by how much or how little one is physically present at school, the events and/or activities.
Parent Involvement: In my opinion, it’s participation that has a start and finish time. For example, signing off that a child has read 20 minutes, attending a classroom activity, volunteering at a concession stand for a few hours. It is participation that doesn’t require digging deep to have background knowledge in order to participate. I can honestly say, I have no issues with parents that are at this level. I get that some people do not have the time, or energy to exert, to do anything more than that…and I know that their child is happy to have any little time they are able to contribute.
Parent Engagement: This is that next step. I see engagement as requiring one to ask more questions, provide additional learning opportunities outside of school. These parents are finding resources, engaging in conversations and/or reading how they can better, advocate for, and support their child’s education. They are part of the decision-making conversations that impact the student, school and/or district.
So now that I have defined them, what does this label accomplish? It isn’t a motivator to change behaviors, nor does it provide opportunities for engagement. Engagement is a product of actions. One is not an engaged parent, nor an educator opening the doors for engagement by simply using a label. So I’m not saying a difference doesn’t exist, but I don’t think the label is worth spending more time on then the actions you’re doing to make it possible. The label isn’t going to provide a child with a superior education. What we do will.
So I say, take the time you are spending putting a label on the parent, and use it to plan how to move involvement to engagement. Educators, what are you doing to set the stage for parents to be engaged? Parents, what are you doing to take responsibility for, and partnering to help educate and advocate for your child? It is these actions that will make a difference.