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Teachers Must Be Included in Parent Engagement Dialogues

By Ryan M. Tracy

Crump TeachersTeachers’ opinions and wisdom can’t be left at the door when it comes to parent engagement.  Our teachers have information, expertise, and knowledge that parent engagement researchers, experts, and practitioners need in order to do the work of engaging parents. 

So when we in Memphis had dialogues with these experts on the subject of parent engagement to see and hear what they feel, what they have seen, and rework some of the myths about parent engagement and the response and actions teachers can commit in order to create success for parent engagement in their own schools, the teachers showed up.

One hundred teachers came to dialogues held at their school to discuss and take action on the subject of parent engagement. As part of our Stand UP program for Parent Engagement in schools in Memphis, we decided teachers have to be part of the discussion when it comes to engaging and interacting with the parents. 

While our Stand UP program is focused on parents to dialogue about the home environment and parent-school communication that leads to student achievement, we knew teachers had to be part of the process.  The teachers didn’t get paid to be present at the discussions and showed high interest in how to be involved when it comes to parents. 

One teacher said afterwards, “I felt that today was really about listening to my opinion but also reworking some of the myths many of us have about parents and parent engagement. I learned what I need to spend my time on that will lead to student success:  realizing that sharing data and building personal relationships is as important as spending hours on a general newsletter.  I felt I was part of the process and not just told how to engage them.” 

Another teacher said, “I am so glad we pushed each other to take action around one of three actions:  making positive phone calls to parents, how to have a better parent teacher conference, and how to share data with parents to increase student success, because unless we take action on these types of teacher-parent engagements, we are just spinning our wheels.” 

Invitations to a 3.5 hour dialogue on parent engagement were given to all teachers at our three schools and teachers bit at the opportunity to talk. I invited and co-facilitated these discussions with Katie Stanton, who is a former teacher, principal, Director of Student Services, President of both the Shelby County Education Association and President of the Tennessee Education Association, and just finished an appointed position with the Transition Planning Commission around the merger of city and county schools here in Memphis, TN. 

Katie brought wisdom and years of experience to the table and she said, “Working with the Stand UP University schools has been a great experience, especially seeing how excited the teachers have been…... I have been in public education for over 40 years and this is one of the most exciting and promising programs I have seen. “

What was not surprising to the two of us was the enthusiasm and also ingenuity teachers had, but also willingness to take old and new ideas and implement them to scale with every single parent, not just a few. We administered a survey as a method of evaluation and the results were astounding:  teachers were not only grateful, but eager to continue talking engagement at their school.

In the later part of the fall, these same groups of teachers agreed to have Katie and I come back to their school to follow up on actions they each committed to and to dive deeper into taking parent engagement to the next level.  Let's not leave our teachers out of the discussion because they have valuable knowledge and are willing to take actions that engage more parents for student success. 

Posted on August 18, 2012 by Ryan M. Tracy

Ryan is the Tennessee Family Engagement Manager for Stand for Children, a grassroots national advocacy organization. He designs and implements family engagement programs and is currently a leader in the organization's 10-week Stand UP (University for Parents) which focuses on curriculum of the home and school. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

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