Creating and Sustaining Meaningful Family Engagement

Family partnerships that are engaged and participating in their child’s growth and development are imperative (according to the research) in order to improve schools and learning. Big surprise, I know…

Parent engagement has been a major part of our work at Keeler School, as we know that the more engaged our parents and community are, the better the outcomes for students. Often, our parents are unsure of how they can be involved. I have done a lot of work over the past years in enabling parents to be advocates for their child, often especially if they have any type of identified different needs, but how else can parents become engaged?

To be honest, as an educator and parent, I don’t even always understand how to be the best advocate for my children within the education system…

Families can be engaged as:

  • Supporters of their children’s learning
  • Encouragers of an achievement identity, a positive self-image, and a can-do spirit
  • Monitors of their children’s time, behaviour, boundaries and resources
  • Models of lifelong learning and enthusiasm for education
  • Advocates for improved learning opportunities for their children and at their schools
  • Decision Makers/Choosers of educational options for their child, school, and community
  • Collaborators with school staff and members of the community

The following is from American research by Dr. Karen Mapp of the Harvard Graduate School of Education in her book Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships.

The Impact of Family Engagement

  • Faster literacy acquisition (from reading or talking with your child)
  • Earn higher grades and test scores
  • Enroll in higher level programs
  • Are promoted more and earn more credits
  • Adapt better to school and attend more regularly
  • Have better social skills and behaviour
  • Graduate and go on to higher education

This tells me that parents MUST BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION for many of the issues we are facing in education.

What do I believe about all parents?

  1. They all want the best possible for their kids…
  2. All parents can be supporters and advocates for their kids…
  3. The accountability for building and enhancing positive relationships between home and school is on the staff and leadership of the school…

Parent engagement has changed at Keeler School, and we are already seeing the benefits work into how students are learning. Parents feel welcome just coming into the school, and most know my name and have met me in person. The very first 2 minutes a parent spends in the school are critical. Did they feel welcomed and were they treated positively? If not, we could spend years trying to fix two minutes of time…

Many of our parents did not have positive school experiences when they were young and much of emotional ramifications still carry with them as they come to Keeler. I believe it is my and my staff’s job to get past that, and we have to do it fast! Back to building positive relationships folks! We need to respect our parents and find out what they know about their kids already.

Parents have reasonably easy access to the leadership team and me when they need it. Five minutes early on may save hours of meeting and fixing later…

All parent activities are connected to improving and enhancing student learning, but I see a lot of potential in working with families around whole school goals, but as well making sure they are part of developing and meeting their child’s goals as well. I think that we cannot assume all of our parents know how to support their children’s learning goals, and we need to help them practice in order to learn and develop their own skills as parents.

I am nowhere near a perfect parent, and have made mistake after mistake after mistake… For me to come off as a “high and mighty educator” would be so detrimental to developing parental capacities, so I try to joke and share about some of those mistakes and tie them into our discussions in order to promote comfort and enable us to move forward as a Student Learning Team.

In the end, it is all about the student and the learning. If developing and engaging our parents will help that, why would we not do this work? There is our biggest commonality. We are all here for YOUR child(ren)…

Remember, as a parent YOU are your child’s first and best teacher. Your job as a parent is to educate… And we are here to work with you!

Work hard and learn tons!


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