The benefits of enhanced parent engagement

February 7th 2016

This week as schools have gone back there has been debate in the media about parental engagement and helicopter parents, as an owner of a business that works to support teachers school and parents to better engage to increase student wellbeing, you can imagine that I had something to say about this.

We have two evidence based professional learning, BOSTES accredited courses that we developed last year to support teachers and schools, meet ongoing accreditation for the Australian Professional Teaching Standards of 7.3.2 and 3.7.2, with the business plan to expand as we grow, being a self funded start up company.

I am a mum of four, two of whom still are at school, one newly in a support class that was formed this year at his high school. I am I think that horrible mix of helicopter parent and neglectful at the same time, and what I know is kids do better when schools and home work respectfully together.

Our year at school has started with some ups and downs, like any school year, there is the excitement of seeing friends after the break, covering books, finding out which teacher you might have.

Now the article that upset me was shared by a respected teacher and principal about those horrible parents that stalk teachers and over indulge their children, nice lot of parent bashing to start the year off, I think it replaced the what to do about nits article or just which school managed to have the most number of twins starting kindy.

My anecdotal research from ten years at state parent group, three of them as the media spokesperson is like everything, there are some great parents and some who need support to engage, just like there are some great teachers and some who leave you thinking oh next year I hope for a different one.

As a parent the good teachers would make you consider moving towns to have, shout out to some of ours here, Miss Burrows, Mr Cooper, Ms Endacott, Mrs Beard, Mr Williams, Miss Gow, Miss Pearson, Mr Myers, Miss Mansell, Mr Merrick Mr Ryan and Miss Armstrong and now Mr Valentine too. There are others- you can imagine with four children and five schools they have attended, but there have also been some who have been there and all I can say is they taught my kids resilience.

I have also had the privilege of being able to engage with some fantastic teachers and principals in my roles, ones who you wish to bottle and share with the rest of the education community.

But what I have learnt most is rather than hitting each other in the media, or slamming them at the dinner table that respectfully working together helps the outcomes for our kids, and isn't that what it's all meant to be about? You don't always have to agree with the choices made by either community but you have to do so in a respectful and meaningful way, that helps your child, my child our communities children to grow and learn.

Two great examples of this came about for me this week, we had a meeting with the new teacher teaching our son, the school learning support teacher and one of the best principals for engagement I have seen... And maybe we can bottle him because I don't want to have to move to follow him, anyway this is the forth child at the school, each an individual, each have made me go to the principals office, in trouble, each has been nurtured as best they can to reach there potential and sometimes I was sure that the relationship built as parents with the school was the last thread keeping it together. The principal piped in when needed about certain classes for our child and which ones he could be in mainstream for, he knows our child after only having had him for a year at the school, he cares about our child and his educational and social needs and well being and the class teacher is the same, he met with us after being appointed on a school development day last year, to make sure we knew him for this year, he texted us on the day before school, to allay some of our school refusers fears about first day back and new class etc. The learning support teachers was late to the meeting because she was printing out a timetable for our son that he could understand and follow- have you seen a high school timetable? My word it's complicated and if you have low levels of literacy omg. And then the new teacher also rang me to let me know about the homework, which because of the engagement we have done, with the minimum of fuss, it reminded me that it can happen.

The other was at the supermarket on Saturday where we saw the local head teacher from our school, miss year 10 said how much she had missed her last year while she was on exchange, we discussed her adventure how teaching in other countries really is compared to what some of the perceptions are. She and her husband stopped and chatted for about ten minutes, we talked about how the system she had seen had informed the teaching of her replacement who my daughter had had, my girl later in the car home commented oh so that's why she taught that way, wish I known at the time. This level of trust to have a conversation and let each other in is what helps the engagement.

It's what I love about being engaged, it's not just about parent teacher nights, fundraising or cooking a swimming carnival bbq, all very important opportunities but also about deeper respect based on trust.