Why should we empower parents?
Now, we know that parental support starts decreasing through upper elementary and middle school years. Some educators will attest that by high school, it’s almost non-existent. However, no matter what challenges we face, we can still do whatever is in our power to increase parent partnerships, knowing it will pay back in student achievement and growth. Here are three ideas to form healthy parent partnerships.
Use EdTech That Uses Multiple Languages
Carly Spina, who is now the Education Specialist for the Illinois Resource Center, has been advocating, speaking, and writing about linguistic diversity from her background as an ESL Educator, who works with multilingual families daily. Here is what she has this to say about her favorite edtech tool:
Talking Points is amazing because it comes in many languages. It’s a tech-translation so it’s not perfect, but it’s a start and it gives families an entry point into conversations! I’d also say that I always tended to give out communication surveys at the beginning of the school year to find out how families prefer to communicate. Some do e-mails, but many do not and they prefer text messages. For families who have factory jobs or restaurant jobs, they’re not able to answer the phone during their job and don’t always have designated breaks to take calls or make calls, so text messages are perfect for them!
Teachers can also use the search bar of their favorite edtech tool and check to see if the parent welcome pages that many have, to help parents understand the tool, can be translated into non-English languages. A quick search using “engage non-English speaking families” on Flipgrid showed me these ideas which are great for ALL families, including non-English speaking:
Whenever You Can, Speak Life into Parents
For some educators, this idea comes naturally. But we have created this us v. them mentality, and at any point, you can find social media using the teacher v. parents (or vice versa) memes. While the memes are funny, and at times true, they are also very stereotypical and bring more division with parents. I’ve always kept the mentality that no matter how I judge a situation involving my students, parents are the experts on their children. No matter how I judge a situation involving my students, parents love their children more than I do (and I really care about my students). When I keep these ideas in the forefront, I don’t use my “expertise” as a weapon to keep parents in their places. It becomes a tool to remind me to listen to parents and find solutions that work from home to school. As a parent myself, I know how often I second-guess my parental decisions and wish I had the perfect answer in all ways when raising my children. When someone notices something I am doing that is a good thing and then shares that with me, it heals my heart. When I speak to my students’ parents, I listen first, and always find something they are doing well to encourage them in their roles as humans and parents. Even with my most hard-hearted parents, this has eventually won them over. The key is that this has to come from an honest place, otherwise it will sound patronizing.
Share Parent Resources like ParentCamp
You’re an amazing educator, but you probably aren’t a social worker. You probably aren’t a licenced therapist, either. And chances are likely, there are limits to your expertise, no matter how long you’ve been a teacher or in an education role. Healthy boundaries are good for you and your own family. Before you take over and think it’s your job to be a savior, get help. The school counselor or social worker has a list of resources for families in need. The counselors I have worked with even had a time of sharing this info at the beginning of the year and were available when needs arose. Keep that in mind when you are facilitating necessary help to your students’ families. School Counselors and Social Workers are also able to help families in a way that is not based on saviorism.
And check out ParentCamp!! This amazing organization is here to empower parents (think EdCamp for parents). They hold virtual meetings every week with topics that are extremely relatable for parents of students K-12. They even help parents find or strengthen their voices as advocates for their children. I’ve attended a couple virtual sessions myself and know the President, Julie Pile, and Vice President, Laura Gilchrist. This organization embraces parents, without any judgement, and all are invited!
Empowering Parents, Empowers Students
Do you have favorite resources on this topic? Please share and tag me @mjmcalliwrites! Connecting communities is my favorite part of being an educator. It improves the quality of school for teachers, students, and parents.
About The Author
Melody McAllister is a wife, mother of five, educator, and author. She and her family relocated to Alaska from the Dallas area in 2019. McAllister is 2017 Garland NAACP Educator of the Year and author of the I’m Sorry Story. She is also the Logistics Manager for EduMatch Publishing and Alice Keeler, LLC. McAllister has spoken at ISTE and ASTE about equity issues in education, and writes about her journey in her blog, HeGaveMeAMelody.com. If you would like to schedule an author read with your class, please contact her on Twitter or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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