During the month of September our staff has been working on our Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP). A big part of our plan is student engagement. I am a firm believer that in order to achieve student engagement, you must also achieve staff and parental engagement. All three, student, staff, and parent are interdependent of each other.
Last night we had our first School Council meeting of the year and I left it feeling excited. The reason for my excitement was the parents. The parents of Our Lady of the Assumption School truly feel engaged. Not trying to pat ourselves on the back, but I did think “how did we do this?”
One reason is that we listen and act, just not listen. We need to listen to our parents (I hope this is true of all schools), but we must act on what we hear. Last June we used a tool called ThoughtStream. With this tool we were able to gain a lot of information and strategies from parents on how we could achieve our schools goals. At our first School Council meeting we shared how we were using their ideas in our CIP. The parents that were there, just over 10% of our parent population, were pleased that we had listened and acted upon their suggestions. They did realize we could not use all their suggestions, but they were engaged that we acted.
A second reason is we asked for help. I have always believed parents to be partners in education, but often this believe was not visualized with parents in the building. Parents helped out at events, but were not active in every classroom in the learning process. This year we did a simple parent volunteer request. We were hoping for some parents to volunteer, we were sure surprised by the response. We have 150 families at our school; we had over 80 parents volunteer. A 50%+ response, wow! Now the opportunity is to use the gifts the parents have offered.
Another reason is we have asked our parents to dream. As a larger community, we are part of the education revolution. The revolution is the process of transformation that is affecting all schools. During our School Council meeting we introduced the Alberta Teachers’ Association document “A Great School for All – Transforming Education in Alberta.” We only touched upon the content, but we asked parents what they think our school should look like in five years? I cannot wait to hear their vision, their dreams, and their thoughts of the future of our school.
We will continue to strive for student engagement and we must focus on the students in this process, but one of the keys of achieving student engagement is making sure we engage our staff and our parents.