Parent Engagement vs. Parent Involvement In Our Schools
Without parents, schools would not exist. Parents send their children to school for a variety of reasons, and all parents want what is best for their children.
They want their children to learn and to thrive, to grow and develop, to become independent and productive people in society. It is clear, though, that parents of school-age children come from a variety of backgrounds, and are diverse in terms of their thinking of how children should be educated, the role of the school and teachers, their own role in the education of their child, as well as their own experiences with schooling, the school system, and their cultural and linguistic heritage.
Every educator is aware of students whose parents are highly involved in the school; these parents may have checked in and met with the teacher before school even started or on the first day, regularly attends events and volunteers to help in the classroom, or regularly communicates via email or telephone. Similarly, we can easily think of students whose parents have not been to the school as far as we know, or whose involvement has only come when their child has misbehaved or has had a disciplinary problem.
Are Parents Engaged In Our Schools?
It is critical to explicitly note the following semantics for this article, by parent engagement, we are actually referring to family engagement. Given that some students are not being raised by their parents the term “parents”, in this article, really refers to the caregiver and person(s) raising the child during their school-aged years.
“What is parent engagement?” – We define it as the participation of parents in regular, two-way, and meaningful communication involving student academic learning and other school activities. Parents should be full partners in their child’s education, play a key role in assisting in their child’s learning, and be encouraged to be actively involved at school. Phrases in this definition such as two-way, key role, and full partners reinforce the notion that parents are entitled to participate with the school in their children’s education and that they should.
In addition, let’s discuss the difference between parent engagement and parent involvement in schools.
When schools involve parents they are leading with their institutional self-interest and desires — school staff are leading with their mouths. When schools engage parents they are leading with the parents’ self-interests (their wants and dreams) in an effort to develop a genuine partnership. In this instance, school staff is leading with their ears.
When we’re involving parents, the parent is generally directed towards completing tasks selected by the school staff — or the parent may be a client who receives services and information.
When we’re engaging parents, the parent is considered a leader or a potential leader who is integral to identifying a vision and goals. He/she encourages others to contribute their own vision to that big picture and helps perform the tasks that need to be achieved in order to reach those goals.
Of course, parent involvement is not bad. It’s just that sometimes engagement is better. And as with everything in education, this is not an “either/or” — all districts/schools/teachers/parents can do and emphasize both at different times. Our main focus in this course is to help you in providing strategies for you and your school to become more focused on engaging parents not just involving them in pre-determined tasks.
Teach n’ Kids Learn (TKL) is proud to offers the following online course for teachers and schools: “Engaging Parents In Support of Student Learning, Grades K-12”
This course will provide participants with a variety of strategies and resources designed to increase parent engagement at the school and classroom level. The course provides an opportunity for participants to analyze how the school environment welcomes parents, including considering the current effectiveness of activities designed to bring parents into the school environment, potential barriers to parent involvement, and ways to strengthen the current opportunities and minimize or eliminate the barriers that keep parents from being involved in the educational process.