At our most recent Saturday Gathering, parents, educators, administrators, and citizens gathered to collaborate around the topic of Parent Engagement, facilitated by Lani Shapiro, in a session titled "Whose Agenda Is It? Mapping the Terrain of Parent Engagement from Multiple Perspectives."
We framed our discussion around the following questions . . .
- What do we, as educators, mean when we promote 'parent involvement'?
- What do families have in mind when we seek to be 'engaged' in our children's education?
- How do communities understand 'being involved'?
We will discuss these questions, as parents, educators, administrators and citizens, framed by ideas from Reggio Emilia.
- What are the possibilities?
- Where are the boundaries?
- How do we construct shared agendas?
“Participation, in fact, is based on the idea that reality is not objective, that culture is a constantly evolving product of society, that individual knowledge is only partial; and that in order to construct a project, especially an educational project, everyone’s point of view is relevant in dialogue with those of others, within a framework of shared values. The idea of participation is founded on these concepts; and in our opinion, so, too, is democracy itself. Therefore, if we want to have a school based on participation, we must create spaces, contexts, and times when all subjects—children, teachers, and parents—can find opportunities to speak and be listened to.”
Paola Cagliari, Angela Barozzi and Claudia Giudici
We discussed Loris Malaguzzi's "A Bill of Three Rights," expressing Reggio Emilia's view of the essential participation of each of the protaganists in their educational project; children, teachers and parents.
Here is the link: A Bill of Three Rights
Our discussion generated a spirited dialogue which raised new questions and considerations . . .
· There is a difference between “getting parents involved” and “inviting families to participate." Which way leads to a feeling of “belonging”?
· Sometimes we have to persist in our efforts to encourage families to participate. One way to approach families that do not respond to our initial invitation to participate might be, "I know you have something to offer, and I’m genuinely interested in that.” How can we let families know that we genuinely value them and see them as equal participants?
· We have to remember that not all families have positive memories or associations with school. How can we reframe parents’ perceptions about school by developing positive relationships with both children and parents and persisting in our invitations to partnership?
· “I cannot assume the way I bring myself into a community is the same for everyone else.” How can we clearly communicate that we value everyone’s unique qualities? How do I check myself to ensure that I AM valuing everyone’s unique qualities?
· Do we offer a variety of opportunities for families to participate in the life of a school in ways that work for them? How can parents share the responsibility for educating their children once they arrive at our schools? How can schools make room for them?
· Some ideas that may work: Invite parents to stay and eat breakfast with their child at drop off time, come in and eat lunch with them, or have “brown bag dinners” at pick up time. Invite parents to co-teach with you. Read a story or tell a story, sing a song, bring in a CD for us to listen to, lead an activity, play a game, share a talent or skill with us. The possibilities are endless. How can we include everyone in ways that make them feel valued and competent?
What are your ideas for creating schools of participation, schools that include spaces, contexts and times so that all children, parents and teachers can speak and be listened to?