***Post written by David Briggs, Ethics/Professional Standards Chair for WSPA***
Recent personal research regarding behavior problems in schools led me to an interesting article by Larry Ferlazzo called “Involvement or Engagement?” The premise of the article is whether parent involvement is enough, and do we really need parent engagement? Some might ask, what’s the difference, and according to Ferlazzo (2011), “A school striving for family involvement often leads with its mouth—identifying projects, needs, and goals and then telling parents how they can contribute. A school striving for parent engagement, on the other hand, tends to lead with its ears—listening to what parents think, dream, and worry about. The goal of family engagement is not to serve clients but to gain partners.” A great deal of research over the years has demonstrated the benefits of parent engagement in the schools and at home, including: higher grades and test scores, higher rates of graduating from high school and attending post-secondary education, developing self-confidence and motivation in the classroom, and having better social skills and classroom behavior. So, rather than educators and school psychologists alike working harder to make improvements in these areas by themselves, why not work smarter and get better parent engagement. Some ideas might include: giving parents your contact information and get to know them early in the school year, providing opportunities for parents to connect with the school (volunteer shifts, class activities, or parent-teacher committees), sharing your classroom goals or expectations openly with parents, and asking them to do the same, connecting with parents in-person as much as possible (use emails, texts, or apps to keep parents up-to-date on upcoming class events), and addressing common challenges that inhibit parent engagement like scheduling conflicts or an intimidating atmosphere.
-Ferlazzo, J. (2011, May). Involvement or Engagement? ASCD, pp. 10-14.
Open and honest communication with parents is the best way to solve problems and avoid conflict, especially with IEPs and SPED issues. Asking the right questions and thoughtful listening are the keys to good communication. Parents are 1 of the key members of the IEP team and it is helpful if they are understood as well as they understand the school’s point of view. It all starts with good personal connects.
The old adage continues to stand true… We have two ears and one mouth, we should use them proportionately. Lead with our ears to engage parents. Good call!