Family Engagement In Education (commentary from Dr. Deborah M. Vereen)

For New Pittsburgh Courier

Family engagement is a critical issue in education today. It refers to the mutual dedication, cooperation, and support that educators and parents as well as other caregivers share as students are being educated. Regardless of the type of school students attend, parents and educators must be determined to work together as a team to support the growth and development of learners.

Building genuine parent and school relationships requires effort. Educators need to take the lead in developing partnerships with parents and other family members who are caregivers. Families must also play an active role building a strong alliance with school personnel.

There is specific information that both educators and parents need to know to build robust levels of family engagement.

Information for Educators

Educators need to realize that events organized to bring families to school are typically examples of parental involvement and participation. Sharing school news, discussing student progress, and celebrating student success during performances does not embrace the meaning of family engagement.

Relationships will only be established with parents when educators accept them unconditionally. Teachers and other school staff also need to hold parents in high esteem by respecting them. This fails to happen to some African American parents because some educators lack cultural sensitivity. Many racially diverse parents are tolerated and disrespected by some school employees.

The best way for school staff to develop authentic partnerships with parents is by getting to know them and becoming familiar with their culture. School leaders must establish this as a priority so that improvements are made. According to research, one of the best ways to build powerful authentic relationships with parents is by going into the communities where students reside to establish interpersonal connections with them. Popular examples includes making home visits and meeting with the parents in the community where they most comfortable. It may also include educators and families worshipping together. Some educators may even get invited to student homes for a meal for the sake of relationship building.

Once the spirit of collaboration is established, schools must develop parent training programs. As family engagement increases, students will perform at higher levels. Students will also make better behavioral choices because parents and teachers communicate more openly. While some schools that educate a high percentage of diverse students periodically provide cultural competency training, more school districts need to do so. This will enable educators to interact with all parents appropriately.

Information for Parents

In order for parents to be able to partner with their child’s educators, they must be engaged in their child’s educational development from birth on. Parents should expose their youngsters to learning each day. They should not wait until their children enroll in school so that a teacher assumes this responsibility. Additionally, parents must be a positive example in their child’s life. This includes teaching them appropriate behavior. Doing so will make a positive difference for the child when they begin school. Disruptions in student learning will decrease, too.

It is important for parents to be open when educators connect with them by getting to know them. Parents must be willing to participate in training opportunities held at school so they help their children become strong learner. This will also build their capacity to advocate for their children.

Parents must respect school personnel. Trust grows when mutual respect is established between teachers and educators.

When concerns are presented to the parents by the school, conflict is reduced when a collaborative relationship exists. Through team work, parents will seek to understand the problem and will work cooperatively to find solutions.

It’s Time to Take Action

Increasing family engagement in education is a significant issue that must be addressed in all schools. School personnel and parents must advocate for greater accountability within schools to prepare educators to build genuine partnerships with parents. It is time to ignite family engagement in education.

(Dr. Deborah M. Vereen is the CEO of Families With Us, LLC and has been an educator for more than 35 years.)

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