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How can we better engage parents/carers in their child/ren's Middle School learning?

The parent- teacher relationship is a complex partnership that can create a harmonious and positive learning experience for students or negatively impact students learning. Both parents and teachers alike, aim to provide their child/ student with the best possible education and guidance. It is important that the relationship is built on mutual trust and respect with the understanding that the job of a parent and a teacher are very different. As suggested in Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot article (as cited: Willard Waller) the tension that is provoked between parents and teachers is often because of their differing roles in the lives of children. He explains that the role of a parent is often "particularistic," their focus is on their particular child. Teachers however, have a "universalistic" relationship with students regarding them as a member of the class (and balancing individual time between all students.) Given the differing roles and responsibilities we have for children (outlined in figure 1) it is vital that we build relationships with parents based on respect and understanding. Communication Communication is vital to building positive teacher-parent relationship. Communication can and must take place in many forms. Each must be carefully thought through. Some examples are as follows: Parent/ Teacher Interview Parent/ teacher interviews are an important part of teaching which allows you to provide face to face feedback about a student’s progress and resolve any problems. • Have a clear purpose and understanding of the outcomes. • Make notes on student’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as any other special information you would like to share. • Use everyday language and not educational jargon. • Convey attitude that child is priority. • Always start with students’ positives. • Make sure you complete notes on what was discussed throughout the interview and any agreed upon decisions so you can refer to them later. Phone Call Phone calls are an efficient and often necessary way to communicate with a parent. Things to consider: • Plan what you are going to say. • Make sure you are phoning from somewhere you won’t be interrupted. • Have pen and paper on hand. • Begin call by ensuring the parent has time to talk. For example they are not in the middle of work. • Be specific about the problem and get to the point. • Explain the actions you have taken and how the parent can help. • End by showing appreciation that the problem has been resolved. Class Newsletter This can be a great tool that can serve many purposes, such as keeping parents informed about what is happening or notifying them of upcoming events. Engaging Parents through the use of electronic technologies . It is obviously important to engage families in their child’s education. The vast majority of parents want to participate on some level and they are an important factor in their child’s experience and success at school. Modern life can bring with it barriers for parents to be able to engage. Some may be time poor, others work away or are difficult to contact, many are single parents and some parents do not feel comfortable or confident communicating with teachers. As another option to traditional methods of communication, technology allows us to keep parents in the loop about their child’s development and schooling. However, good communication needs to be accessible and there are still some parents who do not have internet access, or are not computer savvy. The latter may need support on how to access and use technologies. This creates an opportunity for schools and teachers to hold information sessions/workshops, or create user friendly printed guides on how use these technologies. There is not a one-size fits all solution and schools will each have their own policy around technologies that must be adhered to. The following are examples of electronic technologies that may effectively engage parents in their child’s education and improve


communication between school and home: email, text messaging, school websites, class blog, class website, social media, Twitter, Skype. Parents as Resources Parents make great resources to the school community as they have many unique skills and assets to offer. To get parents involved in their children’s education it is important to accommodate parents and outline all possible volunteering options within the school. Along with this it is important to have a brief outline of what is expected of each role (time, commitment, knowledge, accreditations). Here are just some of the many ways parents are able to assist with the educative • Parents in certain professions o Nutritionists – healthy living and eating. o Policeman/woman – drugs and alcohol, driving safety o Journalist – writing and creating stories o IT / Web Designer – develop ICT skills, cyber safety o Parents with hobbies or interests Green thumb – gardening and planting o Sports nut – coaches, officiating o Top chef – cooking classes o Muso – playing and creating music o Parents with cultural diversity Indigenous parents – dream time stories, art work, rituals, etc. o Worldly parents – cultural appreciation, recognising customs and beliefs. Extra circular activities o School  excursions,  plays,  sporting   events  etc.   o Parent’s  representatives  and  councils  –   PTA’s  (Parent/Teacher  Ass.),  school   canteen  etc.   o Mentor  or  Teaching  Assistant    –   working  with  difficult,  talented  or   disadvantaged  students  

• Develops relationships between parent and child • Parents become more involved with the school • Help the development/learning of children • Parents offer expertise in certain areas that the school cannot • Building the community • Builds friendships between parents and their children • Builds relationships between the school and businesses that the parents might work for and be involved with Disadvantages of Parent Involvement in Extra Curricular activities • Isolation of particular children/child • Some children can be favored over others from parents • Children feel left out if their parents are never able to participate • Negative relationships between parents • Reputation of the school could be affected if parents are abusive or inappropriate As many students in all schools are participating in extra curricular activities, parents are a critical area in which the school can use to the benefit of the school and the child. As Westwood states, “The experiences a student has while learning will shape, for better or worse, that student’s confidence, motivation, and perceptions of his or her own capabilities” (Westwood 2008). This is crucial, as teachers can indicate to parents that with their involvement simply by being a basketball coach can greatly benefit student’s development and learning.

Parents can be a great asset to any classroom if positive relationships are built and opportunities are given. Parents will have differing availability and skills but should all have opportunities to engage with, and be a part of their child’s education.
      Reference:  Lawrence  -­‐  Lightfoot,  Sara,  Building  bridges  from   school  to  home:  meeting  the  challenge  of  the  positive,   productive  parent-­‐teacher  relationship,  Cengage  Learning,   Inc,  volume  114  (1),  p.24  (4),  2004    

Engaging parents is just one area that educators such as ourselves can use to benefit the school and learning environment Outside of the classroom is an opportunity to allow parents and careers to participate with their child’s learning and engagement with the school curriculum. Parents involvement in extra curricular activities Advantages of Parent Involvement in Extra Curricular activities