Education Canada Magazine Winter Issue

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School Community

Opening the Doors

I’ve had three kids go through the public school system. That’s a lot of school. And looking back over all those encounters, here’s the incident that stands out – among many very positive experiences – as the thing that made me feel devalued as a parent:

It was the night of the annual fun fair, an event that, incidentally, depended on parents to both help organize and attend with their kids. It was late fall, so it was dark and cold by dinnertime. And as we dutifully arrived at the school a few minutes before the official event time of 7 p.m., the heavens opened and it began to pour rain.

And the doors were all locked. There was a new principal that year who had decreed that no one would be let inside the school until the stroke of seven. We huddled outside, soaked and cold, locked out of our own school. To this day I clearly recall the resentment I felt towards the principal who treated his students’ parents like a bunch of potential shoplifters who couldn’t be trusted to wander in unsupervised.

In her article, Debbie Pushor observes there are less obvious, and more damaging, ways that schools can make parents feel locked out. But she also describes schools that are making real efforts to welcome all parents – even those who “don’t have the right words” – into the school community.

For children with special needs, a strong parent-teacher partnership takes on extra importance, and Jeffrey MacCormack offers an insider’s view on working with these parents. Gail Prasad shares how welcoming and incorporating home languages into the classroom recasts parents and students whose first language is not the language of instruction as valuable experts. And on a bigger scale, David Price reminds us that parent support is often the overlooked missing link in effecting educational change.

Partnering with parents is a messy, complex undertaking. Parents may have language barriers or a personal history that makes communication challenging. Some may be difficult, demanding or indifferent. But they all play a crucially important role in their children’s lives,and are therefore key players in their children’s education. In this issue, we rethink educators’ relationships with parents and parents’ role in education. How can we build better communication, understanding, trust and teamwork with our students’ parents – and work together for positive change?

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Photo: Dave Donald

First published in Education Canada, December 2017

 

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holly bennett

Holly Bennett

Holly Bennett is the English Editor of Education Canada.

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