One of my main goals this year was to find better ways to establish and maintain close connections with whanau (families) in order to create a supportive environment for students.
Home-school connections are strong in primary school, but significantly weaker in senior high school. As a parent myself, I know how important the home-school link is and how parents often feel left out of the loop. I wanted to connect with the parent/carer of every child that I teach and get them on board.
As a parent, I know what it feels like to be patronised and ignored by teachers. Many parents feel that the only time schools seek their help is when their child has misbehaved or is failing academically. However, parents want to be more involved than this. They are allowed this opportunity at primary school, but feel disempowered at high school. I personally feel that I could have played a more significant role in my children’s education, but was kept at arm’s length. I was placed in the difficult position of wanting to do more, but worried that I might undermine my children’s teachers by doing so. I know that I am not the only parent to feel this way.
As a teacher, I wanted to give the parents of the children in all of my classes a voice. I wanted to listen to them and empower them to play a part in the success of their child. It is a clear no-brainer: evidence shows that parental influence is massive and has a significant impact on student success.
WHAT DID I LEARN FROM THIS INQUIRY?
One surprising thing I learned from this inquiry is that not all parents want to get involved. Some parents just wanted me to get on with my job and stop bothering them. One even said that. Approximately half of parents simply ignored my communications. At the other extreme, it also became clear that by releasing parents onto the heads of pupils I was, in some cases, adding to student anxiety. There is interesting research on the significant mental-health issues impacting on students as a result of excessive parental scrutiny. However, on a more positve note, a significant number of parents (although a minority) wanted to help and were extremely good at doing so once they were shown how. In many cases, the simple act of empowering parents to talk in an informed manner with their child about their school performance, made a considerable difference to the student’s achievement. Many students who, left alone would happily have underachieved, performed well with parental support.
When opening up the channels of communication I did worry that I might be risking a deluge from parents requiring information and reassurance, but this was not the case. The balance between workload and benefits made the exercise worthwhile. Parents commented that the mechanisms for getting in touch with teachers in a large secondary school are not very obvious and the fact that I had initiated the connection made things easier for them. Parents were grateful for the contact that I had made and for the opportunity it gave them to get involved in the education of their child.
WHAT DID STUDENTS MAKE OF IT ALL?
Getting parents on board, was a worthwhile exercise from the parental point of view, but moving forward it is clear that I need to find the balance between involving them whilst avoiding unecessary student stress. The burning question is what did the students think about it? For an answer to that, you’ll need to read: Narking on Students.
Olsen, G., & Fuller, M. L. (2010, July 20). The benefits of parent involvement: What research has to say | Education.com. Retrieved from https://www.education.com/reference/article/benefits-parent-involvement-research/
Paul, A. M. (2012, October 24). How Parents Can Influence Academic Performance Simply by Talking | TIME.com. Retrieved from http://ideas.time.com/2012/10/24/the-single-largest-advantage-parents-can-give-their-kids/
Wills, R. (2013). Inquiry into engaging parents in the education of their children: submission by the children’s commissioner to the education and science select committee. Retrieved from http://www.occ.org.nz/assets/Publications/ParentalEngagementsub.pdf
Young, J. L. (2017, January 25). The Effects of ‘Helicopter Parenting’ | Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201701/the-effects-helicopter-parenting