Does Parent, Family and Community Engagement have to be Elusive?

It’s no secret what the research says about the correlation between parent/family engagement and student achievement. We often ask, why aren’t more parents/guardians involved. Most times we attribute things beyond our control as the reasons and rarely think about our locus of control. Covid-19 has shined a glaring light on several inequities that exist in schools, while others remain obscured to our collective vision.

How do we define parent/family engagement? What does it look like? Whose voice is at the table when the parameters for engagement are determined? What are parents/guardians saying about why they do or do not engage? Asking ourselves questions like these are important in countering the biases that we have and the narratives that we tell ourselves when parents/guardians fail to participate.  These biases continue the inequities that our parents & families experience.

Many of us do not live in the communities where we work. No judgement! It is important to be in tune with what is happening in the community you serve. Creating relevant learning experiences where students feel safe and validated grows from connecting with the community.

In Teaching Tolerance’s, Critical Guide to Anti-Bias Education they reference five critical practices for family and community engagement:

  • Culturally Sensitive Communication:
    • Assume good intentions and approach all families as partners who want the best for their children.
    • Invite parents or guardians to share knowledge about their students’ lives, interests, hopes, and struggles.
    • Invite parents or guardians to share information about family cultures and traditions.
    • Recognize and respect differences in family structures.
    • Recognize the role that identity and background may play in shaping relationships between teachers and families.
    • Bring a sense of self-reflectiveness and cultural humility to all conversations and interactions.
    • View linguistic, cultural, and family diversity as strengths.
  • Inclusion of Family and Community Wisdom:

Include the voices of families and the community into the curriculum to enhance student learning. Hear the lived and living experiences from families to provide a variety of perspectives about issues relating to a student’s identity, culture and history.

  • Increased Connection Among Families:

Find ways to connect families to help in nurturing a student’s identity and values. These connections can foster strong relationships with parents as they learn alongside their child.

  • Use of Local Resources:

Use the resources that are in your school’s community, such as local events, people, places and organizations, to enhance students’ learning experience. Community connections are important in making curriculum relevant to students.

  • Engagement with Community Issues and Problems:

Create opportunities for students to engage in projects within their communities (local & school) to eradicate discrimination, prejudice, and exclusion.   This empowers students with the ability to critically think and make sense of the world around them.

We must continue to effectively communicate, garner family and community voices, create opportunities for our families to connect, and engage with our school’s local community.

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