Tag Archives: Home & School

Family Engagement in Middle School

middleschool

 

In the next few weeks, my oldest is finishing up his elementary school experience and moving on to middle school. Having been in the same school for 7 years, we have had plenty of time to build relationships with his teachers. Ones where I feel comfortable that any one of us can address a concern before it becomes an issue. I also had 7 years to become progressively more involved in not just my son’s class – but the school in general. In September, when he starts middle school, I anticipate my involvement will be different.

Last week, we hosted our final monthly home & school association meeting at the middle school and invited a group of our elementary alumni currently attending the middle school to sit on a panel and share their middle school experiences. We also invited the middle school home & school association’s president. The topic came up about parent involvement; we had the H&S president say they still have many similar fundraisers and volunteer opportunities as the elementary schools that need parent participation. While the home and school association was crying out for parent help, several of the students chimed in about how they were OK with their parents volunteering at the book fair or during picture day, but they didn’t want their parents chaperoning events such as the dances.

I have no idea what my role is going to be, come September. I know I cannot jump in with both feet given that I will still be in the president’s role at the elementary school and several other larger commitments – but I know that not being actively involved is simply not an option. That meeting left me wondering; how do you go about getting parents to participate? I can only imagine that by 7th grade many of the parents comfortable with diving into the parent association roles their first year are possibly burned out, and those who aren’t, may need a year or two to warm up to the idea (and at that point they are on their way out and getting ready for high school).

My opinion…

Although being personable, welcoming and putting family engagement efforts at the top of the priority list are important for all schools; I think these are crucial in settings where your families are only there for a few years. You don’t have the time to let the parents “warm up” to the idea of getting involved.

I understand these roles are volunteers, and everyone has busy family lives, but these boards/associations need to build relationships with the elementary school families BEFORE their children start middle school. A rep from the MS should attend a handful of the elementary monthly meetings and the elementary school should have a spot at the MS meetings.

I know fundraising is necessary to fill the gap between what the schools can provide and what we wish for our children to have at school – but I don’t ever believe that should be the parent association’s primary role. I would rather see one large fundraising event for the year, and all other volunteer efforts focused on supporting education. Parents don’t want to sit through a meeting with a dozen parents they either don’t really know or care to spend their limited free moments with – but they are interested in sitting to learn about topics such as tips for paying for college, how to use the technology their children are using or effective ways to communicate with their children, and seeing their children demonstrate what they have learned and worked so hard on.

Let’s provide parents with the tools and resources to better support their children’s education. Family engagement is what has been proven to provide our children with a better education. Family engagement doesn’t have to cost a dime.

Are you a middle school parent? How are you involved? What tips do you have for others? I will share how I am involved (or not involved) going forward.

image credit: baldwinpta.org


Wishes For Our PTO Next Year

dandelion wish

As this school year comes to an end, and we welcome our new parent association board members I am beginning to think about thoughts on the upcoming year I’d like to share with our new team. A year ago, I was taking on this position with zero board experience; joined by parents much in the same position as I. I simply asked that everyone give 100% to everything they do, connect with as many families as possible…and that we will try new things and know that we aren’t going to get it all right. In the end I hoped that would translate into more participation in various ways.

This past year we raised more money than expected, increased our number of families participating, introduced (with the school) several ways for families to stay in touch with and follow the learning at school through technology, and hosted the first #ParentCamp. I couldn’t be happier, but I also believe we can always do more. So…

Next year, half of our board will remain, and I will challenge them…to do more (while keeping in mind that most work full time), make a greater impact and demonstrate that PTO’s are so much more than fundraisers. Some hopes I’ll share at our first gathering before heading into the summer…

  • Continue to build on diversity in our group. We have a more diverse group this coming year coming year than last – but we are still missing several voices. We need to reflect our school community to guarantee each neighborhood and classroom has a voice in decisions made. To do that we need to continue reaching out to all families and learning more about how they want to be involved, and inviting them to share their voice.
  • Visit, learn about, and/or get to know another school or PTO. One of my highlights from this year was connecting with and seeing how other schools and PTO’s do things.
  • Inspired by Joyce Epstein’s 6 Types of Involvement, how can we improve on or provide opportunities for each of these?
    •  Parenting: Be it basics such as food bank info or sharing resources on how to provide better emotional support.
    • Communicating: Are we communicating basic information to families of all languages? How can we make it easier for families to connect with the PTO and school?
    • Volunteering: Are we providing opportunities for dads, grandparents and community members to volunteer?
    • Learning at Home: What resources can we share with families to support learning at home?
    • Decision Making: What are ways our families can have a voice in decisions made involving how our children are educated or are involved in school outside of the class?
    • Collaborating with the Community: How can we use our community and their resources for more than donation requests? What can we do together that will make our community as a whole better?

We don’t always think of how something looks from another’s perspective. My first two requests are part of that reminder that we a small piece of a larger puzzle. How do the pieces fit together? The last is important to building future parent partners and leaders. Not only will this current team not always be here – but change, fresh faces and new ideas are a good thing.

As a parent, what do you want to see at your school or learn? As a PTO, how do you plan top this year?

image credit: http://www.sxc.hu


SheilaSpeaking

A space for thinking, reflecting and sharing about education -- and the odd other thing...

Ingvi Hrannar

Icelandic educator, iPad 1:1 classroom, speaker & entrepreneur.

Penn-Finn Learnings 2013

Sharing our inquiries - March 23-30

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