A benefit for all. A benefit for you.
I am writing to you this week from Bloomington, Indiana where I have spent the weekend working and learning with some amazing educators at Solution Tree. I still wanted to keep my consecutive weeks of writing streak alive so this is going to be a short, but still a really important “interesting idea” for you to consider.
As a school administrator consider inviting a student or students to your School Council meetings. Whatever the set up and/or name for your parent organization, be certain to find a way to invite a student to attend the beginning of the meeting.
Let me explain.
I had the pleasure of working in a terrific school that also had a very strong, vocal and active parent organization. In Ontario this is called the School Council. Along the way they had lost sight of why they existed as an organization and while they still did amazing things for the students and the community they also spent lots of time on political issues that were outside their mandate. They ceased to be an advisory council and instead focused on broad system content that had little to do with the school.
I started inviting students to the council meeting in order to do a little presentation or performance to remind all of us why we all connect to the school. At first they did not want to give up time on their agenda, but I persisted. The students would be invited and I would contact families to brag about the wonderful things their child was doing and asked if their child could share the news with others. I asked parents to bring their child to the school in the evening for the beginning of the meeting and then leave when their section was complete. Students were always first on the agenda.
This exercise had so many benefits.
Parents of the invited students were able to stay and see the beginning of the meeting and would sometimes become interested in returning to future meetings or get involved in council positions for the following year. Often they were not aware of the council, its role or that they were invited to every meeting. Our parent involvement increased through these new parents.
For our students it was an opportunity to share their good work, or highlight an aspect of the school. Students felt really proud if they were asked by the administration to attend because of something they were contributing to the school. Sometimes our staff would invite a group of students to come into the meeting to demonstrate something that was happening with our learning. Council went on a ‘field trip’ in the school and were able to travel to parts of the school they may have never seen. Parents of young students were able to see the science lab, the application room or music room and realize the resources that were available to students in our school and would one day be used by their child as they aged into the program. We were able to share some of our specialized programming we offered in our school so parents could see for themselves the care, support and learning that occurred for some of our high needs students. It broke down barriers and answered questions that they may have had about some of the impressions they may have formed about sections of our student population. Teams were celebrated, clubs were able to highlight extra curricular opportunities, the arts’ program were given an additional opportunity to perform after all their long hours of practice. All great things.
And, the parents on council were reminded of the work we do at the school. A gentle nudge about what our agendas should be about, how we are all working together to support students. And maybe, some of the other talk would decrease in volume.
These events were always really proud moments for all and as an administrator another opportunity for you to reach out to your community to highlight the amazing work of your staff and the talents and skills of your students.
Try this interesting idea, start every parent meeting by having a presentation with students. It is a win-win-win situation.