Tuesday, June 2, 2009

An Interview with Parent Liaison Vanessa Hamlet of Clinton Grove ES

Q. How do you define parental engagement as it relates to education?
A. Parental engagement as it relates to education is simply a parent or guardian’s involvement in what their child is being taught and how they are learning. Parental Engagement also is being an integral part of the decision making process as it relates to the goals for heir child, which we believe is to successfully graduate from high school.

Q. What are some of the major barriers to parental engagement today versus years ago as it relates to education?
A. As it relates to education, the major barrier to parental engagement today versus years ago is the lack of a true nurturing partnership between home, school, and the community. Parents have difficulties developing trusting relationships with staff and leadership that change often. Teachers and staff easily become frustrated with families that do not comprehend specific ways in which they can support their child’s educational advancement. And besides making financial contributions to the school, community businesses and organizations struggle with their idea of a mutually beneficial relationship in this triad. Developing and maintaining long-lasting bonds between these three domains have a very low probability compared to years ago without a definitive and purposeful plan.

Q. What are some of ways parents can become more engaged with their children around school?
A. There is an enormous amount of opportunities for parents to become more engaged with their children around school issues. The core opportunities are visiting their child’s classroom, having frequent correspondence with their child’s teacher(s) via phone, meetings, or on-line communication, and participating in parent workshops. The workshops focus on the most prevalent information for parents, provides a forum that allows for questions and feedback, as well as teach skills for application.

Q. What do you believe the school system has to do in order increase parental engagement?
A. The school system currently has exceptional programs to promote and increase parental engagement. The Parent Assisting Teacher program, Parent Visitation Program, Parent Volunteer Program, formal parent-teacher organizations, parental involvement with the School Improvement Plan, and the assignment of school-based parent liaison personnel with duties and responsibilities tailored to meet the needs of parents all have impact on the lives of children and the overall progress of schools. Data collected within the past 2 ½ years from the Department of Family and Community Outreach is demonstrative of this fact. The school system needs only to be patient in the process of a naturally occurring culture shift for caregivers.

Q. In your opinion, do you believe active parental engagement has an impact on the persistence of students at the secondary and/or postsecondary level?
A. Absolutely! In my opinion, for children to be ready to receive the knowledge acquired at school, there needs to be structure. Of course, provision of the basic food, shelter, clothing, and love is a given. However, structure determines how fluent the process of learning will be. Structure occurs where there are identified rules to be followed, consistency in enforcing the rules, and accountability when the rules are not adhered to. Parents provide the accountability for structure. Children at the secondary and/or postsecondary level experience significant physical and developmental changes. Parental engagement through a child’s journey of growth will be the key ingredient to their survival and success of these changes. Therefore, parental engagement in my opinion, would motivate, guide, and serve as a model of perseverance for children.

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