Some of you who read this blog may know that I’m passionate about the vital role that parents must play as stakeholders in the process of transforming education. Last night I co-facilitated a humble little workshop for my school community entitled 21st Century Learning: Parents as Partners. I won’t bore you with the details of the entire hour and a half, but I do want to share with you some quick takeaways that have been sprinting through my mind ever since.
Parents are insecure about their levels of competency with new and emerging technologies. They are afraid that their children know more than them (where have we heard that before?), and wish that they could learn more, develop their own skills.
Parents are mystified as to what their children are doing online and with their gadgets.
Parents know that the world is different than when they were young. They know that their children’s paths, especially in regards to their careers, will not resemble their fathers’ and their fathers’ fathers’. Parents understand that we live in exponential times, and that, in our current era, a fancy $700 gadget feels old in a year. They know that you may be an expert today, but a dummie tomorrow. Parents know all this because they themselves are living it too. They just aren’t sure what this all means for learning and education.
Parents are confused by the mixed messages we send as educators: grades are important, but, no, they’re not; competition is healthy, but we need collaboration; technology is needed, and it’s a menace and a distraction; etc.
Parents want their kids to become resilient, patient, self-actualizing, passion-driven, mentally and physically healthy grown ups in a complex world in which they themselves are struggling to do the same.
Parents are terribly unsure about what role(s) they should play in their ‘Facebooky-Tumblr world’ (a parent’s awesome term). To end this post, I wanted to share with you an analogy I used for which I received wonderful feedback.
Think of the world online as a massive, completely public, seemingly unending forest full of amazing, and sometimes scary, surprises. You would not send your child into these woods alone when they, and perhaps even you, are unfamiliar with its terrain. Should you then watch surreptitiously, behind trees, and pounce when bad things occur? No, because that’s not how you build trust, and, besides, you’re almost contributing to the idea of unseen, mythical dangers lurking. So you walk alongside him/her. You hold hands. You don’t pretend to be an expert of all the plants, animals, and weather you encounter, but you do ask good questions and model a sense of wonder. You help each other when knees get scraped, and branches get tripped over. You use tools to navigate this forest, some of which you have brought with you, others that you will find, and still more that you will literally construct using materials and resources found on your way. Ultimately, your goal is to release that responsibility gradually onto your child. Soon, they will be able to traverse the woods by themselves, with friends, and – gulp – even strangers. If the internet is a forest, then you need to walk it together.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We need to build real partnerships with parents in our school communities. A truly great education system won’t exist in its absence.