Communication For Good and For Bad

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There will be times when schools have no choice but to share less than positive news with families; such communication is better received when schools communicate the good as well as the bad. When the negative is balanced with the positive, families are more receptive to problem-solving and less productive decisions can be viewed as opportunities to learn and grow; everyone benefits as children, youth, families, and schools come to understand that they are all on the same page. Continue reading

How Do I Share Information? Let Me Count the Ways

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Sometimes, communication with families is just about sharing information – details about school community events, policies, fundraisers, etc. Today, there are so many communication strategies to choose from. Why not apply the principle of differentiation in order to ensure that school/class messages are received in a timely and balanced way by the greatest number of families possible?

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Partnership, Engagement, Involvement: Is It Really Just Semantics?

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Whether we are members of the school, community, or family, the goal is always the same – for families and schools to engage with children in a meaningful partnership, regardless of the descriptive term. When defining what is understood by engagement, involvement, or partnership, there must first be “a profound recognition that parents are the first teachers and that education begins before formal schooling and is deeply rooted in the values, traditions, and norms of family and culture” (Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot). Further, both schools and families must be clear on each other’s expectations for involvement and engagement in order to avoid misperception or misunderstanding. But what does it really mean to be partners in children’s learning? Continue reading

Special Forks, Broken Lamps, and Lullabies: Engaging Families Through Story

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Family stories allow school communities to connect with families in ways they had not thought possible – with those who have come before, those who are here, and those who are yet to be.

Stories . . . provide all the vital instruction we need to live a useful, necessary, and unbounded life – a life of meaning, a life worth      remembering. ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés

We all have family stories. Some long, some short; some happy, some sad; some full of struggle, some full of success; some outrageously unbelievable and some extraordinarily funny. What better way to connect with families than to share a story or two? Continue reading

Empowering Families to Communicate with Confidence

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Not all families feel the same level of comfort talking and communicating with schools. Most can easily and willingly share their children’s strengths, needs, successes, struggles, interests, hopes, and dreams. Many struggle with how to ask questions, what to ask, and how often to ask. Some are uncertain how often to contact the school and when. Yet others wonder how to be active and engaged, without overdoing it.

The reality is that children, youth, and families learn what they live: If they hear and see effective and productive communication, they will strive to communicate confidently, become empowered on the landscape of school, and develop self-advocacy skills that will serve them for a lifetime. Such skills are particularly important as youth transition from secondary to post-secondary. Continue reading

The Youth Connection: At the Heart of Secondary Family Engagement

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The Spirit of Youth (St. Dominic’s High School,  Bracebridge, ON)

Engaging families of youth can often be challenging. Factors such as multiple teachers, increasingly complex homework assignments, out-of-school activities, prior experiences, even the growing independence and autonomy of youth may present a landscape in which families feel out of their comfort zone. School communities, in collaboration with youth and families, can promote family engagement both in and out of school, repositioning all as equally invested in student well-being, academic achievement, and lifelong success. Continue reading

One More Marble in the Jar: What Does Trust Have to Do With It?

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trustspockEach day, parents and families send schools the very best that they can. They entrust their little ones (and their big ones) to school communities they may not know, hoping that all will be well on the landscape of school. Families need to know that their efforts are valued and they need to trust that they will not be judged for what they do or don’t do.

Trust grows over time, much like a marble collection. Continue reading

Learning to Do School. . . This Time as Parent

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Children and families arrive at the school doors, full of possibility. As children learn to do school, parents and families learn to do school all over again, this time with a much different purpose.

The role of parents and families is discussed at length in research publications, curriculum and policy documents, even the media where families are charged, as consumers, with providing just the right school supplies, clothing, even snacks to help their children fit in, belong, and be successful.

There are so many decisions to make, so many bits of advice, and so many ways of being in school and society. Where do we begin? Continue reading