Expert View

Strengthening Parental Involvement

GD Goenka World School

By Dr. Manisha Mehta, Head, IB Diploma Program, GD Goenka World School, Gurgaon, India

 Education is a shared commitment between dedicated teachers, motivated students, and enthusiastic parents with high expectations.  -Bob Beauprez

For over a year and a half, the World has been grappling with a Pandemic, the Covid-19 spread which is raging a war, of size & scale never seen before. Such an unprecedented situation has erased the boundaries that existed between a school and a home. Not only the offices, but schools too are functioning online, creating challenges for one and all. The new normal which will be seen in times to come, is essentially a hybrid model of education, being imparted physically partly from the confines of a school and partly online through the homes of the educators.

In such a scenario, how does one strengthen the parental involvement so that a holistic development happens in the child almost at the same level as it was happening earlier? This article discusses the aspects of involving parents under the new normal form of education. Pre-Covid school and home were two distinct domains each functioning individually with clear cut boundaries. Schools provided the much required peer interaction and involvement including the active learning environment whereas homes provided the comfort and bonding with the family and a passive learning environment. Each had the necessary monitoring systems in place, resulting in proper conduct as well as social interaction for the development of academic skill sets and emotional wellbeing of the child. Now that these boundaries have virtually thinned out, the need for parental involvement has become paramount.

It is well known that Parents are the most valuable stakeholders in the school environment. So it makes a prudent sense to engage with them for a constructive mutual relationship. It not only boosts students’ achievement but also helps build trust in the parent-teacher engagement.

This involvement can be classified into three buckets, namely

Improvement: Working with each parent for the improvement of their children. This can be done by having one-on-one meetings, working out a plan, strategizing the development and understanding

Plan frequent meetings with parents– During the online teaching any absence from class should be taken very seriously and in case of a prolonged absence a meeting should be called with the parents to understand the reason and the need for any emotional or academic support for the student.

Giving space to children– In these times when the entire family is staying together, constant reminders which may sound like nagging by the parents, can be overwhelming for the students. Gentle reminders can be given to parents through mailers emphasising that being helicopter parents can have damaging effects on their kid(s). Parents need to be observant but at the same need to trust the child to be able to handle little tasks on their own. In the long run, children need to fend for themselves realizing that the parents or teachers will not come to their rescue, every time. Intrusive parents at times, make children not able to deal with issues themselves because parents make them too dependent and as a result they fail to deal with little issues independently in school or otherwise in life. It is recommended that the faculty encourages parents to move from the role of “Monitoring” to “Mentoring”.

Strategizing and making agreements – Several schools have made considerable progress by arriving at an agreement on what, both the teacher and the parent will do to harness partnership together in developing the students. Separate Strategies for students at risk and for high achievers could be worked out. A dialogue and a plan in place will definitely help students making attaining SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals. Progress- track meetings can happen timely after the agreement has been signed to monitor the growth and change of children.

Talk to Parents about Long term solutions – Most problems with parents’ centre on this issue: they seem to be parenting for short-term rather than long-term. For example, consider when a child uses unfair means during an online assessment and the consequence for the same is zero marking for the paper. Parents, often try to patch things up instead of amending the mistakes or doing the right things. Teachers must help them see the potential damage they would do by removing consequences from the child’s actions. By doing this parents make the life difficult for them.

Proper career guidance at the right age – Adults often try to live life through their children—and the kids become the victims. For example, many a time students are persuaded by parents to make subject choices like Sciences /Engineering. A child may not like Math or Physics, but is forced to take up subjects of their parents’ choices instead of pursuing their own interest say in Music/Art/History…. It may be recalled the case in point from the Hindi classic movie, Three Idiots. Therefore, proper career advisory sessions beginning in the middle school are often helpful both for the parents and the students.

Feedback: Working with parents through for their feedback goes a long way in establishing parents’ involvement. Parents have to be involved in eliciting their responses for feedback through special conferences and regular By making them integral part of parent-teacher steering committee meetings for eliciting their inputs regarding policy matters involving students, helps get the constructive feedback. Some of the other ways to seek parents’ feedback are as below:

Three-way conference – By involving the Parents, students and teachers in a tripartite setup to have first-hand feedback about concerns and sharing inputs about what is going right or what is not & what the parents are appreciating .

Parents to be part of policy meetings – For eg to review a Library policy, parents and students can be invited for their inputs, which genre of books the students like, their access, renewal method, or books about preparation for competitive exams like SAT, IELTS and so on. This helps get a meaningful collection of books.

Customer-Surveys should be initiated through google forms on different school matters related to school which helps get quick response from the parents. Another time-tested methodology is the 360 degree feedback which when taken from all stakeholders really helps in the overall growth of the school.

Partnering: Associating with parents for support and collaboration like using their experience in knowledge sharing, through inviting them for guest-lectures under Academia-industry interface is another way of fostering parents’ This results in having a great synergy in the relationships by increasing the spectrum of exchange of human and other resources. A case in point is inviting a parent who headed the Law faculty in Goenka University for counselling secondary school students to choose Law as a career through the lecture series.

To quote another incident of partnership, wherein one of the Art and design students had taken up designing dresses as one of the medium in Art and the art teacher was not very confident, this being not his area of expertise. Instead, one of the parent, who was a textile designer, was then invited to chip in with his expertise. He, with his vast knowledge & experience into the industry, supported the student by giving her lessons of her choice. This exemplifies, the ample scope of synergy one can derive from such collaborations.

The students engage in a lot of activities involving service for the society. Sponsoring for social causes like flood relief, contribution for old age homes are some of the other areas where parents can contribute with their resources, knowledge and wisdom.

Additionally, participating and enjoying together in family meets like Coffee mornings, Diwali fair, Fireside chat with Professionals etc. also go in a long way in forging strong ties with the parents.

So it can be concluded that not only with an active involvement of parents but by strengthening the parents engagement, learning under the new normal setup for students, can be made really very effective.

“Together May we give our children the roots to grow and wings to fly”

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