Several weeks ago, I was chatting with an acquaintance about school. Our school. The one our children attend classes in each day. Our district, like all others, has a plan for the future, and everyone is adjusting to change. Sometimes, it’s hard to know how to help. It’s hard to know how to ask difficult questions, and it’s hard to know how to get good answers. There isn’t enough time and there isn’t enough space, and parents don’t often get together in any organized way to learn more about how they can help their kids better.
“I was a teacher,” my friend reminded me again that afternoon, “and I can tell you from experience that teachers just want parents to lend a hand, respect what they do, and go with the flow. I couldn’t stand parents who made my life difficult.”
I get that. I do. I was a teacher for a long time, and I’ve dealt with my fair share of unreasonable and unsupportive parents. But I’m a mom first, and I think that there has to be a way for reasonable and supportive parents to collaborate around education issues that matter most to them. We need to learn more from one another about how to help our kids, and we need to define nonthreatening ways to approach teachers and administrators in order to create real change. We only get to do this parenting thing once, and I’d hate to think that we don’t act in the best interests of our children because we’re more concerned about what others might think about us.
Parents need to know how to inform themslves best, and they need communities to share information within too. Parent-Teacher organizations are fabulous, but I’m thinking about a different sort of community. I’m thinking about a learning community for parents. In fact, I’m not just thinking about one. I’m inviting parents in my school community to start one, and I’m hosting the first very informal get-together at my house in January.
I’m volunteering to do this–it’s not about my business. It’s about using the best of what I know to give back in ways that might help locally. I think there is something potentially powerful about capitalizing on the combined expertise that parents have about kids and schools and learning. I also think that there is something potentially powerful about providing parents information that can help them act as better advocates for their children.
I’m hoping that parents from my community will find the time to come, and I’m planning to invite area teachers and adminstrators as well, to provide our little group some much needed perspective about how to help our kids while treating the great people who work in our schools with the respect that they deserve.
If you would like to come, just shoot me an email. The more the merrier! If you’ve done something similar in your own community, please share your ideas in the comments section below. Right now, this is just a seed of an idea….I’m eager to see how it may grow.
This is a concept that has not been broached in any of the communities that I have worked in.
It is unique, and powerful. One of the most difficult things for schools to do is to get many of our parents into the building. Sure, there are those who would be there daily, however we have to remember that many adults did not have a great experience with school and may not feel comfortable, much less welcome in schools.
I have read of schools having a parent room and a parent (or group) that acts as liaisons or ambassadors for the school. Some school try to help parents in a learning community by working with agencies like EPIC. DMS PTO has chosen topics to be presented at each upcoming meeting, in a similar effort to the one you propose.
As I sit here, I am trying to think of how your idea could evolve. I look forward to seeing and hearing about this “coffee” and I would love to try to adapt it to my school. Perhaps I could come and visit one of these events.
I’d love to have you there, Joe. It would be wonderful to get perspective from other area admins! We’ll talk more as the date approaches.
Angela, I so agree with you “Parents need to know how to inform themselves…” How do we help them understand they need to, let alone how? A friend of mine posted this today http://www.anewadventure.org/?p=33 wherein he comments “Everyone has gone to school. The average person spends at least twelve years in the classroom. Therefore they are an expert on schools…” I think you and Joe are both onto something. First it’s about the relationships. As educators, we need to remember who we are here for, and sometimes that’s hard to do. Keep us posted!