Archive for the 'home/school relations' Category

Parental involvement

October 10, 2011

There’s a very thoughtful rumination on parental involvement in the lives and school lives of eighth-graders.  It concludes that the children change, the parents don’t.  Then there’s a question about what would encourage parent involvement.

First, my hat’s off to someone who teaches eighth-graders — I think that takes special talent and skills.

I guess my response to the question about parental involvement is maybe more listening by the school, less reaching for the easy answer (as in, “It’s got to be someone’s fault here, we just need to identify who that someone is”).  Inviting parents to gang up unfairly on a child isn’t a particularly fruitful approach, for instance.  Blaming an absent family member isn’t very constructive, either.  Identifying particular strategies that might help the particular child and that are within the reach of the family — that might be helpful.  Getting it out there that the school is genuinely interested in what parents might be able to contribute to the understanding of the child without jeopardizing the child’s positive regard by the  school might also help.  I think overall maybe recognizing how complicated the network and interaction of contributing factors to the struggles of a child and/or their family are would be helpful — the “one size fits all” approach isn’t very helpful — if we accept families may be unhappy in very different ways, why not entertain the notion that their struggles may also vary?


Graduation coaches

September 29, 2011

I was reading in my local paper (I can’t find the article in that paper on line, but the same article seems to be here) about a state legislative proposal to have high schools hire graduation coaches to help students in danger of dropping out stay in school.  Other suggestions include revisiting the use of detention and expulsion as punishments to enforce discipline.

I don’t doubt that not having a high school diploma is correlated with serious negative outcomes in the job market, etc., and I’m not against what’s being proposed (in fact, not using tools like suspensions and expulsions that make it harder for students to keep up with school work and feel part of the community makes a lot of sense to me), but it strikes me that the dropping out and the lack of diploma are symptoms of a more primary driver, namely the student’s having become marginalized in the high school community.  While grad coaches probably help ameliorate this issue, maybe examining how kids get marginalized in school, by fellow students, teachers, and administrators, to begin with, should also be addressed.

In the same paper, I read how the interim high school principal told parents, in response to an incident involving some students abusing cold medicine, that such issues can involve not only “‘bad kids.'”  Maybe I’ve misunderstood what thinking lies behind how she couched her point, but to me the use of that kind of nomenclature in and of itself reflects that some kids are marginalized.  I would speculate that kids who are thought of as  “bad kids,” are more likely not to finish school.  Maybe the grad coaches can work with the school administrators, too.

Parental role

September 16, 2011

The NYTimes article “What if the Secret to Success is Failure?” got me thinking about the mixed message parents sometimes get from schools about their role in their children’s public lives.  (My comment had nothing to do with that topic, but it’s here.)

There’s a piece in the article about parents trying to protect their kids from negative consequences at school in a way that impedes growth from learning to master challenges and to learn from failure and to deal with failure.  And I don’t disagree with that point.  But I think the picture is more complicated than that.

First, it presumes, I think, that the system at school is implemented fairly.  And second, it is at odds with the way schools hold parents responsible for other aspects of their children’s lives, like attendance, behavior, eating choices, even keeping up in class.

I can see how these different attitudes towards parental involvement can be harmonized in theory, but in practice, it can come across as, “When we want you to be involved we’ll demand it, and when we don’t, we’ll demand that instead.”  Sometimes the choice by the school personnel about whether parental involvement is required or rejected seems to come down to convenience, their own limitations, and idiosyncratic uses of power.  In a more perfect world, I think parents might entrust their children more wholeheartedly to the ministrations of their teachers, principals, and other school personnel.

I finally saw some humor in this inconsistent approach after my younger son had graduated from high school and a school staff member wanted me to get involved with why Jordan hadn’t replied to an email she had sent him over the summer (which turned out to include discussion of a dream she had had about him running away from home to her, I think it was).  Not having to go along with their version of themselves any more made it so much easier to politely decline to play whatever this game was.