Informed parents are engaged parents

Andy Gordon – Deputy Principal, Head of Junior School

Andy Gordon - Deputy Principal, Head of Junior School

Andy Gordon - Deputy Principal, Head of Junior School

By Andy Gordon - Deputy Principal, Head of Junior School

I’m leading this bulletin article with the premise that one of the most wonderful gifts a parent gives a child is to be connected to their child’s learning - not in a traumatising return to pandemic related schooling kind of way. ‘Connected’ as in informed, understanding, conscious of the growing, maturing and transformational change that comes with learning. You’re not ‘all in it together’, as it isn’t your learning, it is your child’s journey. It is a journey towards independence, and to take away the wrestle would be to undermine the development of confidence. 

We need to hold in tension being informed while not being invasive or, dare I say, abusive.

One of the challenges in 21st century education is in getting communication between the home and school right. Some parents think there is too much, while others think not enough. We are always considering how to improve our communication. To be ‘informed’ should mean so much more than information. We know every learner brings more than their books and lunch in their school bag. Backpacks hold values, beliefs, assumptions, experiences… social, cultural, spiritual, emotional. They also hold fears, hopes, friendships, love and expectancy. It’s much more difficult for a parent to own or take these ineffable parts of the backpack, unlike an assignment or home learning task. We know that our learners are engaging with learning at the deepest levels of humanness, longing and connection. 

School systems worldwide are embracing digital ways to connect and help parents be informed and insiders to the learning process. As teachers, we do this from a practical perspective, as well as accountability in a college like ours where our parents invest with both their pre-tax and post-tax dollars. Our Australian Professional Standards for Teachers highlights this in Focus area 7.3: 

Understand strategies for working effectively, sensitively and confidentially with parents/carers. Establish and maintain respectful collaborative relationships with parents/carers regarding their children’s learning and wellbeing. Demonstrate responsiveness in all communications with parents/carers about their children’s learning and wellbeing. Identify, initiate and build on opportunities that engage parents/carers in both the progress of their children’s learning and in the educational priorities of the school. (AITSL, 2017, pg. 22).

The quote above should be the very minimum that you hold us accountable to. This is what our profession holds as non-negotiable for highly effective and professional teachers. Our specific Radford College Parent Communication Policy refers to both types of information the College will share, as well as the expectations for school and home engagement, whether by phone, email or favourite messaging service. 

Extract from Parent Communication Policy (2020) 

Radford College's teachers and staff endeavour to be courteous and respectful with our students, parents/caregivers and our wider community. We also expect students, parents/caregivers and others to be courteous and respectful with our staff, especially to set an example for their children. 

Parents are expected to abide by the College’s Parent Code of Conduct at all times and all communications with teachers and College staff should be approached in a calm and non-aggressive manner. 

If a parent/caregiver is dissatisfied with the conduct or outcome of their communications with a teacher, Year Group Coordinator, Head of Department or other member of the College’s staff, they may lodge a formal complaint which will be dealt with in accordance with our College Community Grievances and Complaints Policy which is available on our public website. 

One of my favourite parenting authors, Rachel Macy Stafford, in her recent New York Times bestselling book, Live Love Now, outlines areas for being informed without being invasive, avoiding being abusive or being a rescuer (2020). 

Rachel’s advice is to encourage parents to be informed about: 

  • Your own parental expectations – are they helpful or unhelpful?
  • Academic pressure
  • Best ways your child learns
  • Technoference
  • Isolation and Loneliness
  • Fear of missing out (FOMO) anxiety
  • Sleep patterns
  • Love or care languages – how they give and receive love and care.

 
Rachel shares the following strategies: 

  • Be a truth-teller, not a taskmaster
  • Be an encourager, not an enforcer
  • Be a guide, not a half-listener.

 

Rachel also shares the following paragraph that I want to leave with you at the conclusion of this article, regarding being informed and engaged in powerful and helpful ways. 

Of all the offerings you can give your kids today, give acceptance. Be the place where they are known, seen, heard and celebrated. Over time, that unconditional acceptance will serve as inner armour, protecting their sense of self when the lesser parts of the human experience (sic) tries to negate it. (Stafford, pg. 32).

 
References:

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). (2017). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Retrieved from: https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/national-policy-framework/australian-professional-standards-for-teachers.pdf?sfvrsn=5800f33c_64 

Radford College. (2020). Parent Communication Policy. 

Stafford, Rachel Macy. (2020). Live Love Now: Relieve the Pressure and Find Real Connection with Our Kids. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.

 

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