Earlier this week I wrote about the importance of family and community engagement as it relates to school improvement. The post was not without direction, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on WHAT I wanted to say about WHY and HOW educators should engage with families and communities in ways that are meaningful, respectful, and inclusive of the concerns and perspectives of the people being served. Something about the way I approached the problem felt very “status quo.” So, I re-read the Educolor guiding principles and came across the following language:
“Providing a seat at decision-making tables or in forums where the people we work to serve can express their own lived experiences specifically for educators, activists, community leaders, parents, and students in underserved communities.”
THIS is what I want family and community engagement to look like. I want parents, community leaders, and students to be an integral part of the decision making process of re-making schools so that they not only serve students’ academic needs, but also the communities’ needs for liberation from systems that oppress them. This addresses the WHAT of the problem.
We should embrace families and community members as true partners in education because doing so communicates that the school values the lived experiences and home cultures of the people we serve. This act of inclusion can make school welcoming and meaningful to our students and their families. This is WHY we should adopt this approach.
Now, HOW to accomplish this is where I am stuck. In what aspects of school operations should parents, students, and community members have influence? Logistically, what does this look like? Are parents and community members on the school leadership team? Do parents and community members provide suggestions or ideas about theme-based units? How do we create structures and processes that are inclusive of parents and community members from the beginning? How do we codify that work so that when it is effective it can be replicated and scaled up or down to serve schools and districts of all sizes? HOW do we do it?
I think I’ll stop here for now because I’ve come up against a problem that requires some study, some conversation, and some sketching out of plans before I can continue.
As always, thanks for reading, pardon the typos, and the comments section is always open.