Involving parents in life-long learning
Parents want to work in partnership with their child(ren)'s educators to ensure that everyone has a positive experience. That is often easier said than done.
In compliance with a mandate from the Ontario Ministry of Education, the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) formed a Parent Involvement Committee (PIC). A recently established goal of the committee is to engage parents through a series of articles in local newspapers, digital, and social media. These articles, written by the recently hired Writer-in-Residence, will raise awareness of the UCDSB and its PIC in the region to help foster a more positive community relationship.
Information could come from events that are held by the UCDSB-PIC or other committees, school councils or school boards. They might include summaries of documents from the Ministry of Education website (www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng), or other sources that deal with issues of concern for parents. Those issues will be wide-ranging: everything from technology use in the schools to dealing with child and youth mental health issues, including addiction, to providing a safe graduation experience. There will also be "lighter" subjects such as learning to communicate with your child through technology, kind of an "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach.
"Our committee has set out four main priorities: Parents as partners; Creating a welcoming district school board and school environment for all parents; Skill building opportunities for parents; and Enhancing communications between school and parents," said Ross Button, a member of the UCDSB-PIC. "We will be providing the information in both print and digital form by including links to a number of different resources parents can access, such as our Facebook page, (www.facebook.com/UCDSB.PIC). The information will be in English, and, where it is appropriate, we aim to have articles published in French, Mohawk and perhaps other languages."
What does parent involvement mean? Button said that "parents are leading the [Writer-in-Residence] project; parents have been consulted in developing the project; parents will have a role in implementing the project; and parents will be participants in the project."
Parents often get involved with their child(ren)'s education through workshops or special presentations by speakers. Yet, only a small percentage of parents attend, which may not be a reflection of their commitment to their child(ren)'s education, but rather a lack of time or other resources to attend these events. Bringing the information to the parents via print and digital media will give them the tools they need to make more informed choices with their child(ren) about learning opportunities in this new, often technologically-driven era. That's what the project aims to do; make it easier for parents to become involved.
After reading an article, checking out a website or other online information, parents may want to engage with teachers and other school personnel. They will want to know what resources are available to help their child(ren) be the best they can be. In the UCDSB Education does not start at Junior Kindergarten and end at Grade 12. By taking the initiative to become more involved and perhaps learn some new skills, parents show children that learning is life-long.
**Christine Peets is the Writer-in-Residence for the Parent Involvement Committee, Upper Canada District School Board.