When I walked onto the tarmac at our local public school yesterday morning I was immediately drawn into that beautiful sense of chaos that is The-First-Day-of-School. Close to 1100 children and the parents, grandparents and caregivers responsible for getting them there. Nearly 100 staff members making sure that everyone knew where they were going. Comings and goings, hellos and goodbyes, delights in the recognition of long-lost friends (lost for two months) and the quiet assurances offered by adults to those experiencing a little bit of first day jitters. All of this held close in the stifling early morning air.
But then something wonderful and mysterious happened. The morning bell rang and this beautiful mess was very quickly transformed into a sense of order as our children once again became students. The transition from summer vacation to another school year was happening before our eyes. And happen it did! Students were gathered together into their respective classes and led, line by line, into the school building, while the adults that brought them there left (some reluctantly) to continue on with their days.
It’s a scene that will be played out every day from now until the end of June and, although the intensity of that first day can never be replicated, there is something very important that occurs in those daily exchanges when we say goodbye to our children, and their teacher says good morning. When you think about it, there is a deep sense of trust that makes these daily moments of separation and connection liveable. As parents, we trust that the school staff is going to have the best interests of our children at heart and that they will be looked after, protected and nurtured in their growth. In the same way, our educators trust in the support of families to come alongside them as partners in their child’s learning and education.
As I stood in the schoolyard yesterday morning, it struck me that these daily moments of trust are really the starting point for our conversations about parent engagement. It’s in the space created by this relationship of trust that we can find new ways of working together, new ways of drawing the talents and energies of parents and others into the school and new ways for families and educators to look out into the community with a shared purpose and commitment.
The start of every school year invites us to look differently at so many things. As Chair of the School Council at my own kids’ school, I’m hoping to make parent engagement one of the dimensions that we choose to actively explore a little more deeply, with a little more imagination and creativity.
I know that there are many of you who have done a whole lot more thinking about this over the years, and I hope to hear some of your stories.
What does parent engagement mean to you? As a teacher, an administrator or a parent, what ideas are you imagining that might bring even more life and vitality to your school community? How does that daily exchange between parent/family and school inspire your thinking about engagement?
Let’s get curious about that space for parent engagement and how we might hold it open for exploration, conversation and innovative ideas.