Parent involvement brainstorm

5:54 pm

I believe that relationships are crucial to learning. Parent involvement can take many forms and honoring any and all contributions is key. While it is important to do all you can to improve education for your child you have an opportunity to help another child as well. Your child benefits, another child benefits, and you are modeling humanity and giving for your child. Parents bring different strengths and gifts to the table and PTA’s and parent leadership must foster an inclusive environment where all contributions matter big or small.

In most, if not all, classrooms there are children that are abused, neglected, ignored, or just plain lonely. Loneliness is something that cuts across all walks of life; we’ve all been there. Pervasive loneliness affects self-esteem, learning, and status. Heap on abuse, neglect, and being ignored and lack of self-determination is a given.

One teacher in a classroom of 25+ is going to have a hard time caring for all these kids as individuals. I respect that a teacher must have professional detachment for their own self-care; it is tragic what some children must endure and a teacher must have a thick skin to continue to do the work. The mission to reduce classroom overcrowding and reform education must run parallel to increased parent involvement. In a classroom of 25+ you only need one to a few self-starters to improve the environment and build relationships with all the kids. A parent in my daughter’s classroom shared with me how excited her son is when another parent volunteers. I would like to generate dialogue on the benefits of increased parental involvement, identify barriers, how do we make it inclusive and welcoming for all parents, and what can we do for those kids that are lonely, abused, neglected, and ignored?

I would like to increase the challenge by asking what can we do for the parents that don’t get involved? How can we inspire them and foster unconditional positive regard for them and show them how they can share? Some parents we can’t change but we can still help inspire their kids.

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Stephanie Hunter is a behavior consultant and the parent of a student at Ockley Green. She is active in local and statewide advocacy for children and adults with disabilities, which she writes about on her blog Belonging Matters.

filed under: Parental Involvement

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47 Responses

  1. Comment from Rose:

    Stephanie,

    I think the biggest thing is to show respect for parents who are struggling.

    As Nancy said on another thread, too often schools get divided into the “good mommies” who volunteer all the time, and the “bad mommies” (here I wave my hand vigorously) who are too busy with work, other kids and other pressures to volunteer often.

    IMO any efforts have to start from understanding the real-life struggles parents face. Advertise some free pizza and childcare for your PTA meeting, and wham, you just doubled your attendance.

    Also I think there needs to be a recognition that some parents give very quietly. I know one dad who volunteers to help at after-school care. He doesn’t belong to the PTA, he just does it.

    So here are my few, kooky ideas:

    1. Be conscious of how often the school sends fund-raising letters. I don’t have the $ to buy candy, flowers, cookie dough, wrapping paper, photos, more photos, all on top of field trips, sports fees, etc.

    2. Make schools physically welcoming to parents. Post signs in multiple languages. Make sure the front office staff greets parents. OFFER PARKING.

    3. Make sure school events do not come with charges. Have a free door with free food. You will attract many more families that way.

    It is important to remember many parents themselves come from backgrounds of neglect, abuse or being disenfranchised. They are insecure. They don’t think schools want or need them. We need to break down these barriers to make sure these parents are welcomed.

    Many of these parents actually have a lot to offer the schools.

  2. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Rose-Great suggestions!

    Stephanie-What does it mean to be involved? Does it mean volunteering at the school, attending events, participating in conferences? In my opinion helping children with homework, taking them to the library and reading the school newsletter are also forms of involvement. You may not see them but it doesn’t mean the parent isn’t involved.

    I would add these ideas to Rose’s list.

    1. Introduce yourself to single parents personally inviting them to school events and offering to carpool.

    2. Avoid using education jargon. It can be intimidating and create an insider/outsider feeling.

    3. Don’t make assumptions. Survey parents. Find out what parents like, dislike, want or need.

    4. Children from single parent homes are often prevented from participating in afterschool activities because of transportation, childcare or financial reasons. Again, offer to provide a ride to girl scouts, baseball practice etc.

    5. Don’t judge single parents. We know when that’s happening and we won’t return to that kind of environment.

    Adult to adult relationships are every bit as important to increasing parental involvement as the adult/child relationships. Parents can make other parents feel welcome or unwanted.

  3. Comment from Stephanie:

    Rose and Carrie – This is good stuff and I am going to find a way to capture it in a more organized fashion and to what end I am not sure yet. Carrie you asked what does it mean to be involved and that is what I am hoping to define. How do we celebrate what we all bring to the table in whatever form or fashion? At Ockley we have a PTO and I asked if I could host a PTO table at the carnival to encourage parents to get involved. Another wise parent inserted some caution into my zeal that Ockley just works and that I risk alienating parents that are involved but do not go to the PTO. Striking that balance is important to me for my individual school but the advocate in me sees an opportunity to create a framework that might be good information for other schools as well. I spoke with a past board member on this issue and she was going to get me some materials from a pilot for increased parent involvement but I need to bug her again about it.
    My other goal is to catch those kids that could use a kind, caring adult who sees their spark and nurtures it because this is not happening at home. I am still getting my feet wet as a K parent but I have memorized the name of every kid in my daughter’s class. I saw one of her classmates coming in late from the office one day and it felt good to say his name and ask if I could walk with him to class. The power of just knowing someone’s name can be underrated.
    Most of my experience in schools is with special education and while my daughter receives services she will always be in general ed. Parent involvement is not encouraged in segregated special education classrooms in my experience 99% of the time. I do welcome other opinions though because this is just my experience. A parent at a Sellwood area school told me that it is impossible to help out and they cite confidentiality as to why. This is school, these are not patients and why kids in segregated classrooms are discouraged from having parent involvement seems odd. A parent at the Pioneer School segregated institution was actually led out by the assistant principal when she came in to see her son at school and how he was doing in class. LED OUT and told she had to fill out paperwork in advance to visit the classroom. This was after the teacher had told her to drop in anytime. I did digress a bit there from the original topic but I imagine in the process of defining what parent involvement is it is important to note that students in segregation have different rules applied to them even when it comes to parent involvement.

  4. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    I have increasing parent involvement as part of an old job. What we found was as Carrie and Rose have alluded to is that parents don’t go where they feel unwelcome.

    Some parent will not join a PTO group because of the politics. But are happy to read a story, help with a car wash, etc.

    I Didn’t make judgments as to whether someone else’s child is well parented when I would volunteer. It’s just not okay. I don’t know anything aboutthat parent or that family. Some parents are judged so much by administrators and teachers that they decide to conceal how poorly a child is behaving from their parent because “they probably can’t do any better”. Kids know when you’re judging their parents. It feels bad.

    I stopped participating in a parent’s group because at one meeting the co-chair made some remarks about single parents “not knowing what their children are up to”. After taking a child to school, working all day and fighting dowtown traffic to get there .. I didn’t appreciate that. And decisions were often made by the SAHMs informally without input from other WOHMs. My experience is that no matter whether its a Title I school or not, the same type of parents run the PTO/PTA show. It’s important that administrators can engage parents who are not comfortable with PTOs.

    I don’t always play well with others so sometimes I approach teachers directly, use vacation time and help out. Some parents don’t have that luxury of paid time off.

    When I challenged a school policy at one school, suddenly I was no longer allowed to volunteer in the classroom. And was told that “union regs” required that I make a formal request to be allowed in the classroom. Never mind that I’d volunteered there for over a year as my schedule permitted.

    There are many barriers to parent participation. I need PTO members need to really approach new parents in the school community one-on-one. Welcome them! Ockley would be a great place to do that but there has been some resistance in the past to that approach.

  5. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    I’m curious about whether anyone has taken part in school improvement planning. NCLB requires schools identified for improvement to include parents in developing school improvement plans. The plans must include strategies to promote effective parent involvement in the schools. Is this happening anywhere?

  6. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Carrie … The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, of which NCLB is the most recent version, has required districts to involve parents since it was originally passed in 1965.

    You might be interested in this recent study …

    http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/.....08064b.pdf

  7. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Many minority parents have encountered closed doors when trying to come into their childrens’ schools.

    PPS parent and grandparent Sheila Warren is gathering stories and organizing parents around this issue. If you’ve experienced discrimination trying to become involved in your child’s school, please contact Sheila by e-mail: simplysheilas -at- msn -dot- com .

  8. Comment from sheila warren:

    steve i wanted to let you all know this is not about minority parents this is about all parents. the closed doors are sometimes done to all parents. yes
    minority parents seem to be affected the most because of stereotypes and racism. but i would like stories from anyone who has had a bad experience. it is time for us to form a parent union. this is my email:
    On Thu, Apr 09, 2009 at 02:05:36PM -0700, sheila warren wrote:
    > >
    > > PLEASE FORWARD THIS ON TO ANY GROUPS OR OTHERS THAT MIGHT BE
    > > INTERESTED.
    > >
    > > IS THERE ANY PARENT OR FAMILIES OUT THERE WHO HAVE BEEN TREATED BAD
    > > (PUSHED OUT, MINIMIZED, DEMONIZED, NOT-SUPPORTED, TAKEN FOR GRANTED
    > > AND UNWELCOMED) BY THEIR SCHOOL (TEACHERS/PRINCIPALS), PPS
    > > ADMINISTRATON OR ANY GROUP THAT HAS AFFLIATIONS WITH PPS LOCATED IN
    > > THE SCHOOLS. PLEASE CONTACT ME
    > >
    > > WE AS PARENTS/FAMILIES HAVE NO RECOURSE WHEN WE ARE BEING TREATED
    > > BADLY. TEACHERS HAVE THEIR UNIONS, PRINCIPALS HAVE THEIR AREA
    > > DIRECTORS, AND THE STUDENTS HAVE THEIR PARENTS, TO BE ADVOCATES. WHO
    > > DO PARENTS HAVE? NO ONE
    > >
    > > PLEASE EMAIL ME AND TELL ME YOUR STORIES. I AM DETERMIND TO FORM A
    > > PARENT UNION. WE NEED TO HAVE A STRONG FORCE TO COME AGAINST THE
    > > POWERS THAT BE THAT CONTINUE TO MINIMIZE OUR POWER AS PARENTS. THESE
    > > ARE OUR KIDS THEY ARE TEACHING. IF IT WASN’T FOR OUR KIDS THEY WOULD
    > > NOT HAVE JOBS. DON’T TELL ME WHAT IS BEST FOR MY KIDS AND ME. I WILL
    > > TELL YOU WHAT IS BEST.
    > >
    > >
    > > SHEILA WARREN A MAD PARENT/GRANDPARENT
    > > 503-284-1481
    > > _________________________________________________________________

  9. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Thanks, Sheila, you’re absolutely right, it’s not just minority parents.

    It almost seems like teachers and principals use the lack of a standard policy to pick and choose who gets in and who doesn’t.

  10. Comment from eric:

    It almost seems like teachers and principals use the lack of a standard policy to pick and choose who gets in and who doesn’t.

    Should a disruptive parent be allowed in the classroom?


    DON’T TELL ME WHAT IS BEST FOR MY KIDS AND ME. I WILL
    > > TELL YOU WHAT IS BEST

    You know what is best for your child, but do you know what is best for mine?

  11. Comment from Stephanie:

    Sounds like you might have a story to share Eric that might give a new perspective on this discussion?

  12. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    All the more reason for standard, published policies and procedures, eh Eric?

    Without standards, those refused entry are virtually guaranteed to be disproportionately poor and/or non-white.

    This is why I like Sheila’s concept of a parent union… demand some standards so each situation isn’t one parent against the whole, looming system.

  13. Comment from sheila warren:

    YES I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR YOUR STORY ALSO. A DISRUPTIVE PARENT IS NOT WHAT THIS IS ABOUT. THIS IS ABOUT PARENTS WHO ARE NOT TREATED EQUAL WHEN IT COMES TO MAKING DECISIONS FOR THEIR CHILD. OFTEN THEY ARE PUSHED OUT AND NOT ALLOWED IN THE CLASSROOM TO VOLUNTEER AND IF THEY ARE THE TEACHERS RESENT IT. TO MANY TIMES THERE ARE NEW STAFF, NEW PRINCIPALS AND NEW DISTRICT ADMINISTRATORS. TO MANY TIMES WE SIT AT THE TABLE WITH SCHOOL FOLKS TO COME TO CONCENSUAL DECISION MAKING ONLY TO FIND THAT SOMETIMES IT BECOMES LIP SERVICE. WE WAIT FOR ACTION AND IT IS BUSINESS AS USUAL.TO MANY TIMES PARENTS ARE LABELED AND DISMISSED. TEACHERS, BECAUSE THEY HAVE THE UNION BACKING THEM UP, CAN GET AWAY WITH NOT BEING THE BEST THEY CAN BE FOR OUR CHILDREN. NOWHERE DID I MENTION THE NAME ERIC AND HIS CHILD ON MY EMAIL. THIS WAS ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE WITH MY CHILDREN. THIS WAS A CALL FOR OTHER PEOPLE TO SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCE ALSO. IT IS IMPERTIVE THAT WE AS PARENTS BACK EACH OTHER. I WOULD ASK YOU TO BE CAREFUL HOW YOU SAY DISRUPTIVE PARENT. THAT’S A LABEL I TAKE OFFENSE TO. TO MANY TIMES A PARENT OF COLOR IS LABELED AS A DISRUPTIVE PARENT! ERIC YOU JUST LABELED ME AND YOU DON’T KNOW ME. DO YOU SEE HOW EASY THIS CAN HAPPEN. LETS GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER BY TELLING OUR STORIES.

  14. Comment from eric:

    Well, before we start union building, perhaps we should look for some common ground on which to build our classroom admission policies.

    We could start by creating an unambiguous definition of a disruptive parent. I’m listening.

  15. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    I’d like us to focus on what works to get parents involved. I have less than no interest in this thread being derailed by some personal ax-grinding and inferred name calling (define disruptive parent? WTH? seriously??? okay, how about someone who derails a thread).

    Anyway, exchange emails and take it private. We all have axes to grind with individuals . .. I would love to call out every person that’s wronged me. . . but I think that’s what livejournal is for.

    back to our discussion. . . .

  16. Comment from Stephanie Hunter:

    I think a parent union is a great idea and Sheila I will be in touch this week. Let’s do this!

  17. Comment from eric:

    It’s a shame my point was missed. I’ll be direct then.

    In my 6 years of volunteering in the elementary classrooms, I’ve watched how difficult it is to keep 25-30 young children focused. Any distraction means less learning-time.

    Some examples:
    * Messages over the intercom
    * Other teachers/staff interruptions
    * principal interruptions
    * Disruptive students
    * Entire periods lost to assemblies
    * Fire drills
    * sick kids

    Now throw a parent into the mix.

    In order to not be disruptive, a parent must:
    * be on-time
    * be a regular volunteer so as to understand the dynamics of the particular classroom
    * understand the lesson immediately, with minimal teacher assistance
    * be willing to spend time with the kids the teacher needs help with
    * not hover over their own child
    * know how to motivate and engage students to promote learning.
    * not engage in a lot of chit chat with the teacher
    * be a listener and learner.

    Failure to do these things creates disruptions and makes it even more difficult for the teacher to do his/her job.

    It’s my experience that not every parent is good at the above things. They may be brilliant orators, writers, researchers or plumbers. But classrooms are different. It takes a person willing to humble themselves to be effective as a classroom volunteer.

    So my question again, rephrased, if we’re going to write policies about classroom involvement, in order to help teachers be effective, could we define what a disruptive parent is?

  18. Comment from sheila warren:

    i am sorry i have no axe to grind, no policies to write and am not interested in distrupting a thread. stephanie, rose, carrie, ppsexpatriate and pps parent. you all have wonderful ideas and thanks for your compassions around making sure all kids are included and understanding that there are all kinds of parent involvement. parent involvement is my passion. i work hard to make that happen. all that you say is not new but needs to be said over and over again. once you talk about it and come up with the ideas it is important you take action. i am a grandmother in this fight and it seems to me we were having the same conversations when my kids were in school- in the eighties. the difference nclb was not in place. ppsexpatriate you say you don’t always play well with others. your story sounds like my story. i have had similar experiences. eric i am looking for a common ground on how we can make sure all parents are empowered. maybe you should use your knowledge to have a workshop for parents on the dos and donts when volunteering in the classrooms. all on this thread i appologize for disrupting your flow. Stephanie i will look forward to talking to you. pps parent i can update you on the parent involvement directive that is being implemented and what is going on in the school improvement plans these days. thanks all for your passions around parent involvement.

  19. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Sheila, you’re not disrupting anything here! (I say this as publisher of this blog, so it ought to carry some weight. :) )

    I really appreciate how you’re reaching out. A lot of folks just give up. I also really appreciate the multi-generational perspective.

  20. Comment from Nancy R.:

    Sheila, I appreciate all of your hard work and good energy, it does not go unnoticed, believe me. Thank you. You’re not disrupting anything.

  21. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    Eric:

    Many of your reqiuirements disqualify many parents from volunteering, which seems contrary to what schools SAY they want. Please define “regular volunteer” and define how the parent would know how the class works. Whose responsibility would it be to inform the parent of that? How would the parent be qualified in your eyes as knowing the subject matter and/or knowing how to promote encourage learning. The foregoing can very easily be used subjectively to make certain kinds of parents (minority, low-income, w/o college degrees) feel unwelcome. I understand being on time and not hovering over their own child as well as working with children who need help.

    The best teachers I have worked (or just been friends) with have been able to incorporate parents pretty seamlessly into the classroom w/o regard to the subjective qualifiers you have laid out, Eric.

    I really think that teachers and adminstrators who seem to contempt (and/or see them through a weaknesses lens rather than strengths one) for parents and caregivers have limited effectiveness with their children.

    As a non-profit worker who works with very difficult populations, it is not only my job to perform the service that my clients come in for. More often than not my job is to engage the client, so they will engage in the process. My younger brother does them same with his students and their families.

    I apologize for jumping on the two of you but it seemed that there was some behind-the-scenes drama that was about to erupt here. And we can generate drama better than a middle school girls lunch table ’round here.

  22. Comment from Rita:

    Eric, thanks for the clarifiction. Personally, I much prefer directness to cryptic comments. You make some good points and now we have something concrete to work with.

  23. Comment from Susan:

    Shelia,
    Is the parent union a project that CPPS-Portland is working toward?

    Eric,
    Your concrete examples of a non-disruptive parent have merit, but they seem to describe a teacher’s assistant as opposed to a parent volunteer. I do think that many parents do/could fulfill all of your requirements, but there are other useful ways for parents to volunteer in productive ways both inside and outside the classroom that don’t require anything except a desire to help.

    A general question to all: Isn’t the only requirement to being a volunteer within the school building that the parent have a background check done?

  24. Comment from eric:

    I’ll respond individually in separate posts as I get time.

    Rita: Long, rambling posts trouble me, so I try to be brief where I can. Obviously my first attempt failed.

    The important thing, IMHO, in classroom volunteering is that parents help the kids learn and the teachers teach.

  25. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    Sadly, I have volunteered at many schools (some that my kid never attended) and been asked to do fingerprints/background check at only one of them. If you’re under the supervision of paid staff, most schools don’t require it.

  26. Comment from sheila warren:

    this thread shows me one thing we are business as usual. i came on this thread for a specific request and that is the only reason. i am not interested in debating, taking sides or anything else. it makes me sad that those who commented did not see the hurt and anger that came out of my email request.there are lots of parents being treated badly. please don’t ignore that. i was offended by what Eric commented on “disruptive parents”. did anyone jump on that. inferences big time! i would caution that it can’t be business as usual. we all can speak from our own personal experiences and passions. we can debate for hours.we can make suggestions all day long as to how things should be done. our rights as parents need to be protected. lets come together and make sure all parents have a say and are not treated badly. do you know who i am? i am that parent who wants equality for all parents. this is imperative if all kids are going to succeed.

  27. Comment from sheila warren:

    susan this project is not cpps portland working on this. this is sheila warren commiunity activist working on this. be careful when you are making assumptions. this is why it is imperative that we tell our stories.

  28. Comment from sheila warren:

    susan sorry i saw later you are just asking a question. if i am speaking for cpps you will see sheila warren cpps. when i speak for myself i will address sheila warren parent/grandparent. cpps’s issues are not the only issues i work on in my community.

  29. Comment from eric:

    i was offended by what Eric commented on “disruptive parents”. did anyone jump on that. inferences big time!

    I believe I clearly stated, to the best of my ability, that disruptions in the classroom can be caused by many things. And parents need to be careful, so that their classroom volunteering helps make the teacher more effective, not less. And that if this thread is going to talk about a policy to govern volunteers in the classroom, it needs to take that into account.

    My apologies if there were unintended inferences.

  30. Comment from eric:

    PPSexpatriate:
    Please define “regular volunteer” and define how the parent would know how the class works.
    Regular – often enough to know how not to disrupt the flow of the work. My own feeling is, at minimum, weekly.
    Kids, like adults, often learn best when routines are established. If a parent comes in to a working classroom, he/she needs to blend in so as to not disrupt that routine. That kind of skill only comes with consistent, regular participation.


    Whose responsibility would it be to inform the parent of that?

    * The teacher’s because each classroom is unique.
    * Administration could add other criteria.
    * Ultimately though, the parent volunteer has to be observant and learn for themselves how best to conduct themselves to maximize their usefulness.

    How would the parent be qualified in your eyes as knowing the subject matter and/or knowing how to promote encourage learning.
    *By being an observer first and foremost.
    *Reading about primary education in the subject of interest.
    *Asking the teachers outside of classroom time, what is expected.
    *Asking administration what is expected.
    *Talking to other parent volunteers.

    Yes, these are highly subjective things. But, I believe, that this is why classroom volunteer policies are so vague.

    If, as it was suggested earlier, we make clear policies, we have to make the above subjective things, objective. That is difficult.

  31. Comment from eric:

    Susan:

    Eric,
    Your concrete examples of a non-disruptive parent have merit, but they seem to describe a teacher’s assistant as opposed to a parent volunteer. I do think that many parents do/could fulfill all of your requirements, but there are other useful ways for parents to volunteer in productive ways both inside and outside the classroom that don’t require anything except a desire to help.

    Yes, a school volunteer never need set foot in a classroom. But it is my feeling that if a volunteer wants to help in a classroom (and I do really want to see much more of that) they need to understand how to be effective. The model of an assistant would server students and teachers best, IMHO.


    A general question to all: Isn’t the only requirement to being a volunteer within the school building that the parent have a background check done?

    I believe that its more complex than that.

  32. Comment from eric:

    Susan, I think I misread your question. If the question is, what is the general policy is *today*, then I think you’re right.

  33. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    Sheila:

    Many of us saw the word “disruptive” and had a knee-jerk reaction to it. I know what “disruptive” is often code for, which is why I have tried in vain to describe how that word is applied discriminatorily to poorer students of color when compared to their richer, whiter peers on another thread. I know I am very weary of explaining repeatedly the same thing about the -isms inherent in the labelling that’s thrown around here. So, please Sheila don’t think that we’re all about business as usual.

    Rather than jumping in on that I decided to let Eric define what he thinks is disruptive.

    Eric:
    I am not looking for rules to “govern” classroom volunteers, and I am hard pressed to find where anyone else on the thread was either. I am looking for ways to get more parents in the classroom, not less. So it seems that we are at cross-purposes. As I am seeking ways to be inclusive not exclusive. If you don’t see how your criteria can be used to exclude the parents that I described in my first response to you, then I don’t see a purpose in continuing on THIS thread which is about how to get more parents in the door.

    Maybe you can start a thread about volunteer governance and requirements and the like. “How to be a great classroom volunteer” …one educator’s view or something like that.

  34. Comment from Stephanie Hunter:

    As the person who started this thread my intention was a brainstorm about schools being inclusive communities for all. Standards and practices certainly have a place in the discussion because ideally these will actually protect us when schools attempt to shut us out when we question the policies they have in place.
    Eric: Disruptive is a code word and you might not have known that but it is. I was actually surprised by your response of what disruptive is because I am so used to it being a code word so I was humbled in some ways in my own prejudgement of you using that word. I sincerely apologize for that.
    I would just like to see any and all contributions honored. Weekly volunteering is something that is really difficult/impossible but perhaps giving the teacher a few extra dollars of field trip money when you know she is paying out of her own pocket for the kids that have parents that can’t pay it is just as valid but rarely celebrated. As someone else said, doing that extra stuff at home to prepare your kid or inviting another kid from class over and doing it with both of them. Listening to people’s stories can be so powerful and finding common ground.
    I am with Sheila on the action piece but let’s keep talking too. Eric I think it would be fabulous if you would work out some ideas for standards and practices because that is the type of thing that I am not strong in. I am the work horse, stay up all night researching my next move type whereas the rest of you all probably sleep. That is the key to parent involvement; What do we bring to the table and how can we make it part of the whole to improve things for our kids.

  35. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    PPSexpatriate – I agree that Eric should start a new thread.

    The reality is that some schools encourage and welcome parent involvement while others do not. In my experience, the schools that create barriers to parent involvement are the schools that most need it.

    For everyone who has expressed having different experiences in parent involvment activities, you are not alone.

    A team from the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Student Achievement and School Accountability Programs (SASA) office monitored the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) the week of November 3-7, 2008. Audit findings include “A major concern is in the area of school-level parental involvement policies. There is a significant disparity in the policies reviewed in PPS with policies varying from a single paragraph that does not meet statutory requirements to others that are very detailed. Although the ODE has provided a template for writing school-level parental involvement policies, it was not evident that the template, when used by an LEA, is being used consistently by all Title I schools within an LEA.” http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/...../orrpt.doc.

    The 2008 audit covers several areas concerning parent involvement. For example, ODE has once again (2006 and 2008) been found in noncompliance around parental notification regarding NCLB status.

  36. Comment from eric:

    For those wondering about the relevance of my classroom volunteer thread, here’s why identifying what makes a good classroom volunteer is important to getting more parents in the classroom.

    Teachers value excellent help. They will seek those sources out. They will also break down barriers for those sources.

    If excellent help comes in the form of a parent, the teacher will help overcome the administrative barriers to volunteering. They will then also openly call for and assist volunteers.

    That’s the real secret. Create that demand and doors will fly open.

  37. Comment from Nancy R.:

    “Create that demand and doors will fly open.”

    Not necessarily. Doors fly open for me all the time, cuz I’m a white girl who lives with a white guy and they know I’ve got my checkbook on me. (I quip to my friends, “Welcome to PPS, hope you brought your checkbook!” That goes for parents, volunteers, staff and teachers alike, unfortunately.) Also it helps that I grew up here (well, Northeast Portland, not North where we are now) and I know a lot of people.

    Eric, all due respect, I don’t think you know who Ms. Warren is and you need to educate yourself a little bit. She has taught me a lot and you could learn a lot from her, not the other way around.

    Now here is a little story: My daughter’s kinder year, I knew a lot of the parents from pre-k, and I speak a tiny bit of Spanish and their English is way better than my Spanish so we knew each other’s names and kids’ names. We all got along fine, had volunteered together the year before, went on field trips, did some service projects, etc.

    Then one of the moms, second month of school, asks me, How come they let you volunteer and not me? And I’m all, What are you talking about?

    Yes. The white teacher told the brown lady No you are not allowed in your child’s class. (Even though she is bilingual and much more helpful than I, who only recently learned to skillfully laminate.)

    The white moms were told, C’mon in.

    So I introduced her to the volunteer coordinator and we filled out the volunteer form together (a handy way to shut out parents who don’t have the proper ID. Not all of us have the proper ID, whatever. My mom, who is older and white, has never been asked to fill out the form, by the way. She volunteers all the time).

    Then we walked back to the class together. On the way I told her what a room parent is. (I knew the class needed one.) You interested? Sure. Then I introduced her to the teacher, This is… she is your room parent. You didn’t know that?

    Teacher: Ahhh, c’mon in!

    Hahahaha. Victory is ours.

    She worked nights, this mom. And the only time she had with her kid was from between 7-11 a.m. She was the room parent all year.

    I’m thinking probably you haven’t had a similar experience.

  38. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    WHAT?!?!?!?!?! Nancy, that must’ve been a long time ago, cause we’re in a post-racial society now.

    /sarcasm

    Do we need a thread with articles folx should read about unlearning their own isms before they post? I think it would save time with this piece.

  39. Comment from Nancy R.:

    This is one place to start:

    http://wackymommy.org/blog/arc.....ut_racism/

  40. Comment from eric:

    To be candid, I didn’t know that “disruptive parent” was a derogatory term. I wouldn’t have used it if I had known. Clearly based on the responses here and the responses of others I have offended people. I am truly sorry if I have.

    I also honestly thought that I was providing some fresh insight into what it takes to get more parents into the classroom. I think enough people have responded here to show me that I was wrong.

    I don’t know any names, other than 2 on these posts. So I took what everyone wrote at face value. If I should have valued the opinions of some over others, I am sorry.

    We all come from different walks of life, and sometimes it is difficult to find time to walk in another’s shoes. If I could, I would. But, as always, I will at least continue to try to improve myself. And maybe I will have learned something here today. If I can take away a bit of a different perspective on race relations, maybe I can help the kids I work with be better citizens.

    Best of luck on your endeavors to make PPS a better place.

  41. Comment from pdxmomto2:

    Not to defend/berate anyone but I didn’t know that was a code word either. Is there somewhere a person look this stuff up on the internet?

  42. Comment from sheila warren:

    thanks eric. you are a personable person. i tip my hat to you. i myself don’t want to be right. i just want to be
    listened to. i believe this is what you were trying to accomplish on this thread also. we exchanged our opinions, our emotions, i think we finally came to a common ground.your comment(We all come from different walks of life, and sometimes it is difficult to find time to walk in another’s shoes). this is a comment i make over and over again. as you have guessed by now i am a person of color. in learning bits and pieces about your story. you have a lot of experience volunteering in classrooms. this is valuable information. sometimes i am asked to talk about parent involvement to parents of high risk kids. your info. would be tips i can give them in case they do find themselves helping in the classrooms. thanks for you persistant comments and opening up your heart to hear. we need more to hear with their hearts. thank you

  43. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    I can personally vouch for eric’s good intentions and character. I’d love it if he’d write a post on how to be an effective school volunteer.

  44. Comment from Rose:

    Sheila, I appreciate your comments.

    I don’t see why this should be so hard to admit and address.

    Here’s another piece: Historically, parent organizations in the United States were the kind that threw rocks when black kids showed up at their schools. There is a longstanding history here of PTOs promoting racism and segregation.

    They have done this either very openly, which is now rare around here, or covertly, which is perhaps more common.

    Like Nancy, I’ve seen many examples of the covert racism, which I think is often unintentional but still very real.

    Like the recent PTO newsletter I got for the next meeting that let me know very clearly NO CHILDCARE WILL BE PROVIDED.

    Now, I thought we had a great meeting last month. There was a horde of extremely well-behaved children who read books and played quietly throughout the meeting. Come to think of it, all were black children. All had working parents like me. But with this flyer I am thinking probably I am not welcome to bring my kids to the next PTO. You know what? That means I can’t go.

    Which made me think, why not just be a little more welcoming? The kids weren’t a problem last time.

  45. Comment from sheila warren:

    Eric we need your thread.

    Thanks Rose Its ironic your description of PTO/PTA what they can do and have done. (racisim and segregation)I wish I could say more. I have some stories to tell.

  46. Comment from Cindy:

    I am fortunate enough to live in a school district with only 20 children in each classroom + aides + parents in the class. I just worked in a 3rd grade class today which allowed the teacher to work with 4 students at a time. We need to have respect for all parents and their constraints. Offering childcare definitely boosts the participation. Here are some ideas from a PTA president which have some good ideas about how to inspire participation
    http://tinyurl.com/dz74m3 Hear her thoughts on inclusion. It really helps to invite parents 1 on 1 so they don’t feel alienated. Don’t underrate how important it can be to include all of the children in the school community. I like a previous comment which suggested you know each child’s name and greet them in the playground. Another idea is to run the girl scout or boy scout meetings immediately following school dismissal and ask the principal if you can use a classroom or borrow the multi-purpose room. More will participate as it just extends the school day and parents just need to pick up at a later time. Scouts are also low cost and thus inclusive.

  47. Comment from marcia:

    Hey Eric, you can volunteer in my classroom any time. You seem to “get it.” And yes, there are other opportunities to help in schools that do not involve helping in the classroom. If you are helping in the classroom, Eric’s list is a great standard to follow.