I am a parent as well as a parent coordinator, so I understand when parents say they can’t come to the PTA meeting or the luncheon our school holds. It’s impossible to make it to everything. Still, that’s no excuse not to be involved. Part of my mission is to redefine parental involvement so more parents can connect to their schools — in a way that works for them.
There are plenty of parents at my school, for example, who are connected and involved but who I never see.
This year I created a “Virtual Parent Team” for my school, a group of parents I know I can contact via email or text. So far, the response to my emails have been positive. I email parents a copy of our monthly newsletter as well as the calendar of events and I may send out even more information soon.
With technology changing the way we communicate, the notion of only measuring involvement of parents by physically “seeing” them seems antiquated. What about these parents who are readily available via email, or text? How about parents who are savvy enough to use social media to communicate with their child’s school on a daily basis? They count too, and we need to find more ways to reach them.
As it happens, this is “Parents as Partners Week” which means the Department of Education is holding events in each borough. But that’s not enough. I’d like to see the department develop a social media tool for parents, and push more information out to parents. I have never seen a television commercial, for example, informing parents to go into their child’s school and meet the parent coordinator.
I thought ARIS would be a good communication tool but its functions are limited. Most parents don’t use it. I also think for data purposes it is easier for me to use my own technology to track parent communication.
As with everything, changing the way we engage parents will take time. Parents need information, but they also need training. We have elementary school students using technology every day; their parents need to learn the basics too. I helped a parent last year update her resume. It turned out she didn’t have an email address so I set one up for her and showed her how to use Google’s program for documents. One by one we have to help parents catch up, and connect.
Still, meeting face to face in the school plays a large role in connecting parents to their child’s education. For me, one of the biggest challenges is finding a time that works with parents’ hectic schedules. This year, I am planning my first Saturday meeting. I hope I meet some of the parents I’ve only met online.