Monthly Archives: May 2015

Educators 143, Parents 7

That’s the score? Seriously? That is the best we can do? I’m stunned, and frankly, a little disappointed. With one day to go in the Bammy race, a campaign that honors all that is great in American education, we educators can find only 7 parent leaders to honor? Really?! Come on! Where would we be without our parent leaders? They defend us, support our work, fund our programs, and most importantly, they are #GameChangers for American education. They join us in telling our school stories, drowning out the all too frequent jeers from our biggest critics. They are our raving fans. I thought we were their raving fans as well, but the score 143-7 suggests otherwise. Actually, the 143 is only counting nominations for teachers and principals. If we add in all of the other categories, that score becomes even more lopsided.

I know you all love and respect your parent leaders. I’m not questioning that. I’m just trying to figure out a way to compel you to honor them with a Bammy nomination. I mean, the nomination category is there for a reason, right? Let’s try this…Let me take you on a tour of your school campus. Close your eyes…Okay – that wasn’t very smart of me – now you can’t see to read my post. Scratch that. Just suppose you have closed your eyes. Now, imagine you are standing in your school lobby. What do you see around you? Now pretend you are standing on your school playground. What do you see? What do you see at the school field day or carnival? Chances are you see several things that would not have been possible without parent support and/or fundraising lead by a hardworking and dedicated parent leader.

American education is ONLY at its greatest when we build true partnerships with parents. We preach at parent-teacher conferences “your student will soar in school and in life if you are an engaged parent”, which is true – there is plenty of research to support that. Parent leaders are sometimes more engaged in teaching and learning than we are! Do we value our parent leaders? Of course we do. But to non-educators keeping an eye on the Bammy nominations, to the naysayers keeping score, 143-7 doesn’t reflect that sentiment. Worse yet, what does that lopsided ratio say to our parent leaders, and to all of our parents for that matter?

Here’s the good news – it’s not too late. What if every teacher, principal, and superintendent nominated for a Bammy this year rallied on this last day of the campaign and nominated the parent leader they proudly call their “partner in education”? If you do the math, that would settle the score at Educators 143, Parents 150. In my mind, that better reflects the balanced family-school partnerships we value and boast. A score of 143-150 better reflects what is truly great in American education: the collaborate efforts of educators and parents. In that spirit, I challenge you, fellow educators. Nominate a parent leader for a Bammy today, here and now at the finish line. Even the score.

www.bammyawards.org

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Hey Bammy! If Anyone Can Reverse the Negative National Narrative, Parents Can!

I whole-heartedly support the concept of the Bammy Awards: “to celebrate all that is good in American education” and “to reverse the negative national narrative that dominates the education field.” The Bammy Awards weave together our collective body of work into one exhilarating story that as individual educators we often struggle to spin. This inability to counter the negativity aimed at our profession, my life’s purpose, puzzled me for years. Experience eventually taught me that the negativity was little more than a community reaction to what was misunderstood. When I was a school principal, I painfully learned that my community’s perception of me and of my school, whether accurate or not, WAS the story. Perception is reality, right? And, because the largest contingency in my school community were my students’ parents, parent perception and what they did not understand about education fueled the story they were telling.

Parents’ perceptions of school are shaped by their own education experiences, past and present. We can’t do anything to address a parent’s past experiences, but we sure can influence their current interactions with school and their relationships with teachers, those relationships that form the foundation for and strong family-school partnership. We can work to make parents raving fans of our schools and of the education field as a whole by empowering parents, by sharing with them the edu-jargon and edu-knowledge we live for, and by including them in decision-making for real issues. We can invite parents to be our true partners in education. As partners, they too will soon become compelled to reverse any negative perception of American education. In a school of 600 students, there are likely more than 1,000 parents ready to engage in the national narrative. That is a small army. If we don’t reach out and offer our knowledge and our partnership, that army may join the ranks of the negative national narrative. However, make each of them a parent leader and school partner, and watch that negative national narrative fall apart!

My school district has embraced dispositional hiring for finding the most effective teachers to lead our classrooms and to build meaningful relationships with parents. We intentionally look for teachers who genuinely want to draw parents into the education process as partners in education. Schools who hire these teachers empower parents by sharing teaching and learning knowledge and by including parents regularly in the school decision-making process.

One of my favorite dispositional interview questions to ask teacher candidates is: “Will the parents of students in your classroom be involved, engaged, or empowered, and what is your role in getting them there?” Of course, there is no “right” answer to this question. However, if the hiring committee listens closely to HOW the candidate responds, they can get a pretty clear picture to what extent the candidate values parent-teacher partnerships. For example, an answer such as, “I will ensure that my parents are involved by providing them opportunities to make photo copies and to help when I need it,” does not likely indicate a disposition for fostering true parent-teacher partnerships. On the other hand, a candidate who responds with, “My students’ parents will be empowered to join my class at any time during the day so that they might learn along with us and share their experiences with us,” is likely a teacher who values school-home partnerships.

A colleague recently lost her mind (we all do from time to time) and, while venting, complained to me, “Parents just don’t want to be engaged in their children’s education.” I could tell by the look on her face she immediately remembered my position on this topic and wished she could take back those words. “Hogwash!” I replied. (For real… I said that. I love that word.) “Of course they want to be engaged. But, we have to provide parents with the opportunities, entrust them with the knowledge, and likely give up a portion of the control to which we have grown accustomed.” We all learned from Schoolhouse Rock that “Knowledge is power!” In schooling, we educators are the keepers of that knowledge. Hiring teachers who will empower parents and who embrace school-home partnerships is essential for all students to find school success. The more we empower parents in the decision-making process, the more engaged parents will become in their children’s learning and in the school community. They will become raving fans of American education and they will take over the national narrative. I believe that.

I suspect that the one-hundred-plus educators nominated for a Bammy Award this year possess the disposition for building effective parent-school partnerships. I also suspect the four (yes, four) parents nominated as of 11:00 pm on 5/7/15 share that disposition, too. I also suspect that if you are reading this blog post, you know of a parent or 1,000 parents who share that disposition. I encourage you to acknowledge those parent voices. Lift them up and honor them with a Bammy nomination so that they are noticed. Join me in celebrating all that is good in American education by nominating a parent leader for a Bammy Award at http://www.bammyawards.org/.