On Inviting Parents and Students to Professional Learning Opportunities

I recently had an interview with NASSP on a myriad of topics (the whole interview will be available soon), and one of the questions I received was on “engaging parents” in education.  I advocated for having both parents and students invited and involved in professional learning days so that they can understand and have a voice in how learning opportunities are changing within our schools.  Here is one of the quotes from the interview:


“I’ve seen very few parents receive the opportunity to work directly with schools to develop an understanding of how learning is shifting within our schools and how the opportunities our kids have for learning in our schools today is so much better than what we had as kids. I think when we include parents and students in the process, they become our biggest advocates for meaningful changes in education. “

There are many things that are different in education from when I was a student, but many things are the same. Relationships are as crucial as ever, if not more so. The powerful memories that students will make in school today will look very similar to the experiences that we as adults look back on fondly.

But some things have and are changing in education, and this can be a scary process. It is even more frightening when we are not included in the process.

There is still a misconception that parents want the experience of “school” to be the way it was for them for their own children. I do not believe this to be true. Parents want what is best for their kids and many of them know nothing different than their own experience so they often assume that is the best experience. When they see and experience a better way for their kids, they will become some of the most important advocates for meaningful change in your community.  If we shut them out of the change process, not only hearing and experiencing these changes but having an input that is heard and acted upon, why would they become advocates for the process and the product of these initiatives? Whether this is how report cards and assessment are changing, how technology can be used in meaningful ways to create opportunities for learning that adults did not have as students, or any other opportunities, we need to bring in diverse viewpoints from our communities.  This is not only to “share” what we are doing but to listen and work together. People are always more prominent advocates for meaningful change when they are included in the process.

Change in schools should not feel like a surprise to those that are directly impacted, whether it is students, teachers, or parents.  It has to be a process where voices are included, heard, and acted upon.  When we slow down that process to include all those voices, the change process will not only become more meaningful, you will have more voices from the community as advocates. As my friend Joe Sanfelippo always says, “we are in this together.”


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